Regeneration of human articular cartilage is inherently limited and extensive efforts have focused on engineering the cartilage tissue. Various cellular sources have been studied for cartilage tissue engineering including adult chondrocytes, and embryonic or adult stem cells. Juvenile chondrocytes (from donors below 13 years of age) have recently been reported to be a promising cell source for cartilage regeneration. Previous studies have compared the potential of adult and juvenile chondrocytes or adult and osteoarthritic (OA) chondrocytes. To comprehensively characterize the comparative potential of young, old, and diseased chondrocytes, here we examined cartilage formation by juvenile, adult, and OA chondrocytes in three-dimensional (3D) biomimetic hydrogels composed of poly(ethylene glycol) and chondroitin sulfate. All three human articular chondrocytes were encapsulated in the 3D biomimetic hydrogels and cultured for 3 or 6 weeks to allow maturation and extracellular matrix formation. Outcomes were analyzed using quantitative gene expression, immunofluorescence staining, biochemical assays, and mechanical testing. After 3 and 6 weeks, juvenile chondrocytes showed a greater upregulation of chondrogenic gene expression than adult chondrocytes, while OA chondrocytes showed a downregulation. Aggrecan and type II collagen deposition and glycosaminoglycan accumulation were high for juvenile and adult chondrocytes but not for OA chondrocytes. Similar trend was observed in the compressive moduli of the cartilage constructs generated by the three different chondrocytes. In conclusion, the juvenile, adult and OA chondrocytes showed differential responses in the 3D biomimetic hydrogels. The 3D culture model described here may also provide a useful tool to further study the molecular differences among chondrocytes from different stages, which can help elucidate the mechanisms for age-related decline in the intrinsic capacity for cartilage repair.