In Paperboy the player controls a paperboy on a bicycle delivering newspapers along a suburban street which is displayed in a cabinet perspective (or oblique projection) view. The player attempts to deliver a week of daily newspapers to subscribing customers, attempts to vandalize non-subscribers’ homes and must avoid hazards along the street. Subscribers are lost by missing a delivery or damaging a subscriber’s house.
The game begins with a choice of difficulty levels: Easy Street, Middle Road and Hard Way. The object of the game is to perfectly deliver papers to subscribers for an entire week and avoid crashing (which counts as one of the player’s lives) before the week ends. The game lasts for seven in-game days, Monday through Sunday.
Each day begins by showing an overview of the street indicating subscribers and non-subscribers. Subscribers and non-subscribers’ homes are also easy to discern in the level itself, with subscribers living in brightly colored houses, and non-subscribers living in dark houses