Once upon a time, all crime-centric video games lived in the shadow of Grand Theft Auto. It’s understandable, considering how long of a shadow that game series cast, and how unprecedented the gameplay was when the series was revitalized on the PlayStation 2. However, times have changed, and the Mafia series of games has taken up its own place in the genre. It’s edgy, violent, immersive, and always manages to convey a great story through an interesting (if not familiar) environment. Mafia 3 has received high marks across the board in quite a few reviews, which has left many fans wondering about Mafia 4. Does it have a release date? Do we know what sort of features are going to be added to the already polished gameplay of the Mafia series?
Read on, for answers to those questions, and more!
More so than the Grand Theft Auto series, the Mafia franchise has been about story. The games have made trade-offs to achieve this, of course, but these trade-offs have allowed the Mafia developers to craft more elaborate stories that feature richly immersive environments and memorable characters. That isn’t to say that they’re the only crime-centric games that feature a strong story, but they are among few to pull it off spectacularly well.
No matter how you feel about the story and characters of Mafia games–love them or hate them–you’re certainly going to feel. The stories told in these titles tend to be exceptionally dark, and they’re populated by similarly dark characters. Along with those themes come some of the best trademarks of the crime genre as a whole–unique twists, double-crosses, police corruption, and more.
Mafia 3 has made a particularly large impact in the current gaming generation, not because of how well it embraces open-world game design, but because of how unabashedly honest it is with the themes that it portrays. This is something that the Mafia franchise has become known for, and when we eventually see Mafia 4 (let’s hope so!), that trend is only likely to continue.
There’s the kicker, though. We probably won’t see Mafia 4 for quite a while, if we eventually do. There’s a reason that no mention has been made of it from any video game producer, developer, or distributor, and that’s because Mafia 3 only released in 2016! With the third game in the series only several months old, it’s far more likely that we’ll see additional content for this new title, as opposed to the announcement of an entirely different one.
With that understanding, let’s take a look at the Mafia franchise as a whole, and explore the particular aspects of the series that help to set it apart from similar trappings in modern gaming.
The Mafia Series
The types of stories being told in the Mafia games are far older than the medium of video games. They’re pulpy, hard-boiled crime thriller stuff. Dark, gritty, violent, and full of twists and turns that players will never see coming. These games are somewhat of a departure from the brightly-lit, neon worlds of Grand Theft Auto, and instead, adopt a sense of realism and dedication to particular times and settings.
This isn’t a knock against the Grand Theft Auto series–it’s a great alternative that shares the genre with the Mafia games–but it’s important to distinguish the two. Where “outrageous” seems to be the predominant way to describe Grand Theft Auto, “immersive” might be a better word for Mafia.
While the cities and landscapes that players will explore in these games are entirely fictional, every facet of them is based on a real-world locale, and set during an identifiable point in history. The first was built upon the misery of the United States great depression, while the third, and most recent, is set in the U.S. south following the Vietnam war era. The characters that populate these worlds reflect the time that they’re living in and the game’s writers don’t pull any punches.
As prevalent as gaming has come to be as an entertainment medium, big-budget video games almost always steer clear of addressing major social issues. The Grand Theft Auto series gets surprisingly close but, usually, masks itself in trademark cynicism and humor. The Mafia series, on the other hand, uses historic social issues to paint a believable setting.
The most recent game in the series, Mafia 3, is set in a fictional region of Louisiana immediately following the Vietnam war. Anyone who was alive at the time can tell you about the tempestuous social tensions that followed those years, but it’s easy enough to read about. What you’ll find is a world rife with discontent at the tail-end of a war with no clear victory. Racism and economic disparity ran rampant, especially in parts of the country where it was deeply rooted in culture.
Mafia 3 tackles this racism with aplomb, forcing players to confront it head-on through the experience of the game’s protagonist. Lincoln Clay is a mixed-race man who has to find his way through all of these social tensions, while at the same time courting the illicit lifestyles of organized crime. The open-world gameplay and the action are both compelling, fun, but the things that truly help Mafia 3 to stand apart are its story and setting.
New Bordeaux is a beautiful, fictional recreation of New Orleans. The city’s inhabitants are accurate portrayals of an environment that once existed in U.S. history, which only helps to make the story being told that much more immersive.
Almost all aspects of the Mafia series were improved in Mafia 3. The action is more fluid, fast-paced, and suited to current-gen gaming. There’s a cover system that’s reminiscent of other third-person shooters, and the entire movement system is far more realistic and responsive than we’ve seen in past games.
One of the things that we can continue looking forward to, now that Mafia 3 has been released, is downloadable content. It’s a common release strategy for a majority of large-budget games, anymore, and this title isn’t going to be any exception. A recent preview of upcoming content has revealed quite a lot of free content that will help players to shake up their gameplay and customization.
Three other major patches are planned for the game as well, titled “Faster, Baby,” “Sign of the Times,” and “Stones Unturned.” Each one promises to add more compelling storytelling to an already rich game. It’s also a sign of a game’s longevity and support! It allows us to know that Mafia 3 was fairly well-received (as can be evidenced by decent critical feedback.)
So, if Mafia 3 was an astounding success, when can we expect to see its inevitable sequel? That’s what happens to successful video games, right? They get hit with a sequel as soon as possible?
Well, the truth is that there’s no clear answer for this. When we say that Mafia 3 was just released, we mean just released. As in, within the past handful of months. Since video games of this size and caliber–especially the open-world variety–take years to develop, it may very well be another year or two before we even hear about Mafia 4, if it ever comes to fruition.
That “if” is dependent on a lot more than prior games’ successes, too. The development studio responsible for the game is almost sure to have other projects in development than another Mafia entry. Thus, whether or not we’re going to see Mafia 4 anytime soon is going to depend on demand, timeliness, and the overarching landscape of the video game industry.
Similar Games to the Mafia Series
Of course, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t other games that you can dabble in, once you’ve completed Mafia 3. Open-world games, in particular, are becoming extremely popular among gamers. Therefore, studios are putting open-world elements in a lot of their games.
What do you like about the Mafia series? If it’s the open-world elements, you owe it to yourself to play the Grand Theft Auto series. The settings, characters, and themes aren’t quite so “deadly serious” as they are in Mafia games. However, it’s one of the most popular game series being played, and Grand Theft Auto 5 has some surprisingly robust multiplayer!
If you’re not afraid of all things wild and crazy, check out the Saints Row series. It’s similarly themed around illicit, illegal lifestyles, but features zany characters and hyper-realistic scenarios. As an example, one recent expansion pack takes you to the depths of Hell. Yes, that degree of crazy.
Sleeping Dogs is another often-overlooked game in the crime thriller genre. Though it didn’t receive the highest critical marks from games critics, it’s nevertheless a unique experience that provides an immersive story and setting. It takes place in an open-world, fictionalized rendition of Hong Kong, in which you play an undercover police officer.
Any of the games mentioned above could easily serve to scratch that “Mafia itch” until we get word of another sequel. If we had to bet, right now, we’d be willing to guess that Mafia 4 will see the light of day, but not until the most recently released Mafia game has enjoyed a long life. Fans of the series are still looking forward to downloadable content, so if you enjoyed Mafia 3, you should as well!