The player controls a yellow tank with the joystick, and fires a bullet with the button. The player is required to shoot 20 blue tanks (similar to the company's Warp & Warp, released in 1981) to complete each round. The player (and tanks) can destroy the brick walls littering the playing field, but can't destroy the green-checkerboard wall around the screen. The player also has to protect the base (marked as an eagle on the playing field) at the bottom of the screen. The player receives a game over if the tanks destroy the base, no matter how many lives the player has left (humorously, the player can also destroy the base, also resulting a game over). The game is also over if the player runs out of lives.
In 1985, Namco released an improved version of Tank Battalion named Battle City. It had different levels, improved graphics and sounds, a level editor and co-op play. It was released for the Famicom and Gameboy. The Gameboy version was included with Gameboy ports of Galaga, Mappy, and Namco Classic in Namco Gallery Vol.1. Battle City was re-released into arcades by Nintendo for their V.S System, titled V.S Battle City.
A sequel was released in 1991 under Tank Force which had new elements of gameplay and co-op (much like Battle City). It is sometimes called Tank Battalion Arrangement, as it is very similar to the Arrangement games (mostly with the new elements and better sound and graphics).
In 2014, a programmer named "Beamrider" created a homebrew port of the original Tank Battalion for the Commodore Vic-20.