Compared to conventional poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid) (PLGA), previous studies have shown that NaOH-treated PLGA two-dimensional substrates enhanced functions of osteoblasts (bone-forming cells), vascular and bladder smooth muscle cells, and chondrocytes (cartilage-synthesizing cells). In this same spirit, the purpose of this in vitro study was to fabricate three-dimensional NaOH-treated PLGA scaffolds and determine their efficacy toward articular cartilage applications. To improve functions of chondrocytes including their adhesion, growth, differentiation, and extracellular matrix synthesis, PLGA scaffolds were modified via chemical etching techniques using 1N NaOH for 10 min. Results demonstrated that NaOH-treated PLGA three-dimensional scaffolds enhanced chondrocyte functions compared to non-treated scaffolds. Specifically, chondrocyte numbers, total intracellular protein content, and the amount of extracellular matrix components (such as glycosaminoglycans and collagens) were significantly greater on NaOH-treated than on non-treated PLGA scaffolds. Underlying material properties that may have enhanced chondrocyte functions include a more hydrophilic surface (due to hydrolytic degradation of PLGA by NaOH), increased surface area, altered porosity (both percent and diameter of individual pores), and a greater degree of nanometer roughness. For these reasons, this study adds a novel tissue-engineering scaffold to the cartilage biomaterial community: NaOH-treated PLGA. Clearly, such modifications to PLGA may ultimately enhance the efficacy of tissue-engineering scaffolds for articular cartilage repair.