- Gangster-themed video games are perfect for experiencing the criminal lifestyle without real-world consequences.
- These games often feature satirical elements, larger-than-life characters, and intense action, making them household names or cult favorites.
- From Saints Row 2 to Red Dead Redemption 2, there’s something for everyone when it comes to gangster games.
Some of the most popular video games ever released have been gangster-themed games. These titles allow players the opportunity to live out all the mayhem and anti-social behavior of the criminal lifestyle with none of the dangers. Often set in large open worlds, these games present fully realized backdrops for players to explore and become immersed in.
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Often satirizing the image of the gangsters they portray, these games will employ razor-sharp humor, larger-than-life characters, heart-pumping action, and white-knuckle getaways. Some of these titles have become household names and are played by millions of gamers worldwide, while some have become cult favorites for their die-hard fans.
9 The Getaway
- January 19, 2003
- Team Soho
The Getaway is an open-world crime game set in the gritty world of the London underworld. Highly influenced by British crime films such as Snatch, The Getaway is a fun attempt at a British Grand Theft Auto with a cinematic twist. The game follows two main characters. Ex-bank robber Mark Hammond is forced back into the criminal world after his son is kidnapped, and he is blackmailed into committing increasingly dangerous crimes. Controlling Mark, players will break into buildings, steal goods, start turf wars with other gangs, assassinate rivals, and generally cause chaos all over London.
The second plot revolves around Flying Squad Detective Constable Frank Carter, who becomes falsely accused of corruption and fights to clear his name. Through Frank, players get to see the other side of the story, as Mark and Frank’s narratives come crashing together. The game was released to mixed reviews but gained a cult following over the years. The game stands as one of the few open-world crime games set in Britain.
8 The Godfather
- March 21, 2006
- EA Redwood Shores
This immersive open-world game is based on maybe the greatest gangster film ever made. The Godfather brings players into the world of the Corleone family, as the player rises through the organization’s ranks and seeks revenge on his father’s killers.
The game intersects with the narrative of the film throughout the story, with the main character meeting various members of the Corleone family and receiving missions from them. The game portrays a street-level story that isn’t portrayed in the film, with the player acting as a soldier for the Corleones, collecting money, following targets, and killing rivals. The gritty world of late 1940s New York is excellently re-created. Players can drive classic cars, fire Tommy guns, and get decked out in the swanky fashion of the era. The Godfather was a rare movie game done well, with a sequel following in 2009.
7 Sleeping Dogs
- August 14, 2012
- United Front Games
This open-world action-adventure game is set in modern Hong Kong and follows an undercover cop who infiltrates a triad gang to bring it down from within. Taking a lot of influence from GTA, the game focuses more on combat, with the protagonist being an expert martial artist. Players can commit various crimes, such as stealing cars, battling in underground fight clubs, and gambling in seedy dens. These can be committed while free-roaming the city or on side quests. Committing crimes will raise the character’s heat level, which dictates how strongly the police will search for the player.
Although the game had a rocky start, being canceled by Activision, Sleeping Dogs became a well-received game once it was purchased and released by Square Enix. Played in a third-person perspective, Sleeping Dogs takes players into the world of Chinese Triad gangs, offering a unique take on the gangster game genre. Critics were impressed with the engaging story and excellent combat mechanics.
6 Saints Row 2
Saints Row 2
- October 14, 2008
On release, Saint’s Row 2 received positive reviews, with most critics praising it for its improvements over the first game. The story follows the player’s custom-made character, waking up from a 5-year coma and finding their gang has gone and their territory taken over. The main mission of the game is for the player to rebuild their gang and take back what was lost from them, fighting off the rival gangs and corporate businesses.
Throughout the game, players will achieve Respect Points, which they will need to progress through the game and gain more notoriety on the streets, which can be used in recruiting more members. Saints Row 2 leans into a more comedic tone than the first game, which the series would continue in subsequent games. This second addition to the series stands as a high point, blending the expansive open world with fun action-based gameplay where players can live out the gangland lifestyle.
5 Mafia: Definitive Edition
Mafia: Definitive Edition
- September 25, 2020
- Hangar 13
Set in the fictional city of Lost Haven, Mafia is an open-world action game that, like many in this genre, takes much of its style of gameplay from the GTA series. On release, the game was praised for its deep storytelling and became known as a more serious Grand Theft Auto. Remade from the ground up in 2020, Mafia: Definitive Edition is the perfect way to enjoy the game on modern consoles.
The gameplay involves exploring the large open-world map where you can commit various crimes and rise through the ranks of the gang, starting as a getaway driver. Mafia puts players in control of a normal cab driver who becomes embroiled in the criminal world and is enticed by the money and power it brings. The story is presented in a cinematic way and will appeal to fans of films such as The Godfather, Donnie Brasco, and Goodfellas. For players looking to experience the iconic world of Italian-American mobsters, this game offers one of the best experiences available. While other games may have been critically higher, this is a pure gangland experience for fans of the genre.
4 Yakuza 0
- January 24, 2017
From Italian-American crime families to the underworld of Japan, the long-running Yakuza series depicts the vibrant and dangerous world of Japanese criminal gangs. With nine entries into the main series and several spin-off games, Yakuza is a major franchise in the genre.
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Yakuza 0 is the sixth entry in the series and works as a prequel, being set seventeen years before the events of the original game. The story revolves around warring gangs vying for control over parts of the city, with the protagonists getting caught up in a gang war and fighting for their place in the clan. The game presents the underworld of Japan in the 1980s and offers a different experience for players used to Western-style crime games. Recognized as one of the best in the series, Yakuza 0 helped to introduce the franchise to a wider international audience. Players can explore the world, take on criminal jobs, battle enemies with multiple fighting styles, and work their way up the ranks.
3 Grand Theft Auto 5
Grand Theft Auto 5
- September 17, 2013
- Rockstar North
The Grand Theft Auto series is one of the most successful and acclaimed video game franchises in the history of gaming. GTA 5 brought players back to the expansive open-world city of Los Santos. Controlling three different characters in an interconnected story, GTA 5 offers an immersive gameplay experience that includes intense car chases, brutal shootouts with rival gangs, and daring robberies that can be planned out beforehand. It offers the players the chance to cause absolute chaos in a free-to-roam city, switching between the different characters at will.
GTA 5 stands above other games in the genre for its razor-sharp wit and the myriad of memorable characters who inhabit the world. The game was released to critical acclaim and has subsequently been re-released several times over the years. The game still holds up today for its excellent gameplay and stunning environments.
2 Red Dead Redemption 2
Red Dead Redemption 2
- October 26, 2018
After the huge success of GTA 5, Rockstar would outdo themselves once again with what many believe to be their best game. Red Dead Redemption 2 is a prequel to the 2010 classic Red Dead Redemption and is widely considered to be one of the best games ever released.
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The stunning open world is the perfect backdrop to the engaging and emotional storytelling within the game, as players control the long-suffering Arthur Morgan, a member of the dangerous Van der Linde gang. Players can take on the role of the classic western outlaw, robbing trains, stealing cattle, and getting into shootouts with the dangerous Pinkertons. Epic in scale, the game is a delight to play, with the story and characters evolving throughout the game. All leading to an emotional conclusion that has shed more than a few tears.
1 Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
- October 26, 2004
GTA San Andreas was a landmark moment in video games. At the time, the game pushed the limits of an open world, offering players a huge map to explore, with different locations opening up as players progressed. The game is filled with all the humor, action, and memorable characters the series is known for. It also introduced several mechanics unique to San Andreas, such as controlling the main character’s size and shape by running, eating, or training.
Set in the 90s at the height of inner-city gang culture, San Andreas takes players on a gangland journey as they attempt to take over the city from rival gangs. Players will perform drive-bys, rob civilians, and get into police chases as they cause chaos around the city. When it comes to video games featuring gangsters, it’s hard to argue against GTA: San Andreas being the pinnacle of the genre. While later games came with better mechanics and far more polished gameplay, it was a defining moment that set the standard for any crime-based video games that came after.
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