There’s something awfully satisfying about pulling the strings to the underbelly of a crime syndicate, isn’t there? I mean, just being able to have some level of say in the development of a racket is enough to satisfy our hunger for power. To be fair, that’s why we adore the Mafia franchise and all of its gangster-themed quirks. It’s there that we’re able to mould our empire and climb the ranks from initiate to made man and beyond.
Of course, that got me thinking about the alternative titles in the gangster category. Besides 2K’s phenomenal portrayal of the 1930s and its crime-riddled underworld, there really are quite a few other noteworthy companions out there. And, when I say companions I don’t mean strictly 1930s New York and nothing past the boundaries of polka dots and trench coats. Instead, I’m talking about gangster-themed video games in general — from all corners of the globe. So, are you ready, recruit?
5. Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate
If you’ve ever fancied yourself as the leader of an 1860s London-based gang, then fear not — because Syndicate has you covered. Through its charming yet bleak steampunk setting, this Assassin’s Creed entry puts you at the centre of corruption as you wheedle your way out through the nooks and crannies of society. As sibling assassins Jacob and Evie Frye, you are tasked with conquering London and all of its templar-based boroughs by any means necessary.
Take your hideout on the run with you as you set up home on the rails around the city. Abolish child labour by disbanding the factories and removing the greedy figureheads that breathe fear into the streets. Rekindle friendships with some of the most influential people in all of London and enlist them as associates to the Creed. Build your gang, upgrade their talents and take back the map one corner at a time. Reclaim your home, destroy the Order — and return peace to the people.
First and foremost, it’s crucial that we don’t get intimidated by the chunky library of Yakuza games. While there are a lot of chapters in the timeline, it’s worth pointing out that there are, in fact, several sagas that branch between the main structure of the game. That’s sort of why I couldn’t quite assemble just one or two specific titles for the purpose of this list. The truth is you just have to tuck in and play a handful — if not all of them. Just be prepared to lose about a thousand hours of your life along the way.
Yakuza takes street fighting and gang-related material to a whole other level with its exaggerated entries to the gangster-themed universe. Sure, it’s bonkers in terms of ludicrous side-quests and subplots, but it’s also incredibly rich in lore and fantasy. It’s addictive for all the right reasons, and an incredible way to immerse into the underworld of the Japanese syndicate. It’s daring, it’s wholesome, and it’s unbelievably generous in content.
3. Red Dead Redemption 2
Chances are you haven’t sunken fifty-plus hours into Rockstar’s award-winning Red Dead Redemption 2 just yet. If that’s the case, then we can only urge you to pick up the Western sequel at your earliest convenience — especially with it currently being on offer for both Xbox and PlayStation. Of course, there’s a reason why this title in specific went on to win well over a hundred awards last year. Not only is it strong in its narrative — but it’s also sensational in gameplay, too. And then, of course, there are a million other reasons that we lack the space to list.
Red Dead Redemption 2 does something truly incredible with its lengthy campaign, that’s for sure. It’s unique in its own ways and has this charming power to immerse us without so much as spilling a single word of dialogue. Everything from the faraway ashen mountaintops to the dusty and quaint mining towns speaks volumes for the breathtaking setting tenfold. And then, of course, we have this gang of warming characters and a motive so intriguing that we never want to lose track of the tale. All in all, Red Dead Redemption 2 rests as one of the best in not only Western flicks — but also gangster-themed games.
2. Sleeping Dogs
If you’re getting a little tired of firearms and cover-to-cover shootouts, then you could always pick up something a little more hand-to-hand oriented. Of course, I’m talking about Sleeping Dogs, the True Crime spin-off that revolves around Hong Kong. That’s where you’ll be able to begin a brand new adventure that draws attention away from Americanized gangster fantasies and focuses more on traditional details.
Sleeping Dogs puts you in the shoes of Wei Shen, an undercover police officer who has been inducted into the Triads as an enforcer to try and dismantle the gang. However, with several members of the gang being long-term friends from the olden days, Shen must balance both emotions and work-life as he aims to disband the faction. As Wei, you’ll have to work alongside the KHPD as well as the Sun On Yee — maintaining your cover as an officer as well as ascending the ranks as a Triad. Just remember to play both sides if you plan on making it out alive.
1. The Godfather
If you’re after a story-rich game with enough room for open-world exploration, then you’re going to want to sink some funds into The Godfather. Although to be fair, you’re probably only going to need to invest a little on this one, considering it released on PlayStation 2 back in 2006. But that’s not to say that The Godfather isn’t a bad game. Oh no, it’s actually considered to be one of the best gangster-themed titles of all time — and it still very much holds up today.
Embark on a journey as Aldo Trapani as he ascends the ranks of the Corleone family. Extort local businesses and enrol the authorities into your back pocket as you make a name for yourself in New York. Fend off rival families and destroy the opposing compounds. Reclaim Little Italy and become the crime boss that every soul in the city cowers before. Just don’t forget that every action has a consequence.