by: Simon Hill
; edited by: Michael Hartman
; updated: 4/17/2012
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If you’re in the mood for a blast of violent crime then check out this list of the best PC gangster games. These titles will let you indulge your nasty side and build a criminal empire.
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PC Gangster Games
Our love affair with gangsters is well represented in film, the Godfather trilogy, Scarface and Goodfellas were all hugely successful. That taste for the criminal underworld has seeped through into the world of gaming too and there are a few PC gangster games out there. In this round up we go in search of the best gangster games covering different eras. Scour the mean streets and you’ll find plenty of victims to gun down as you carve a path to the top of your very own criminal empire.
Sadly the PC gangster games out there are pretty limited. There’s definitely a gap for a really decent gangster game, especially in the strategy genre. Some of these games are fairly old but we’ve managed to come up with a mix offering first and third-person action and a little strategy. If you are craving some gangster action on the PC these are your best options.
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Kingpin: Life of Crime
The first-person shooter, Kingpin: Life of Crime came out back in 1999. It got a fair bit of attention for being seriously violent and full of profanity. It’s a basic revenge tale, obviously heavily influenced by Pulp Fiction. It has a mixed art style with elements of the 1930s classic gangster period mixed with more modern ideas. The developers also threw in a few ideas to try and distinguish it from typical FPS games, so you can communicate with NPCs (in a very limited fashion) and buy guns or even hire bodyguards. It’s pretty dated now and it's the least worthy of the PC gangster games on offer here but it deserves a mention.
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Gangsters 2: Vendetta
Gangsters: Organized Crime was released at the end of 1998 and offered a unique blend of turn-based and real-time strategy. Set during the prohibition era in Chicago your aim was to accumulate territory and hire an army of thugs. The henchman hiring was the most fun aspect of the game as you got to choose from top trump style cards depicting various thugs with different skills for violence and crime. They improved on some aspects with the 2001 release, Gangsters 2: Vendetta, which introduced a typical revenge storyline. However, the gameplay was always awkward, your thugs would often behave idiotically unless micro-managed and the engine running the action wasn’t really up to scratch. As PC gangster games go this one deserves a reboot, an up to date version with some major improvements could do really well.
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The 2004 release, Gangland, was an ambitious mix of RPG, RTS and simulation genres. You could run the usual batch of illegal businesses from brothels to chop shops, you could hire goons and as you progressed in the game you got access to more skilled thugs to do your bidding, as well as more destructive weaponry. Like in Gangsters the AI let things down and made gun fights extremely frustrating to control. Despite some good ideas this was a tough game to play and once again it feels dated now.
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Saints Row 2
There’s no escaping the fact this is a GTA clone. The first Saints Row only got an Xbox 360 release but the sequel made it on to PC (although it wasn’t a great port - Saints Row 2 review). Set in Stilwater it’s a more modern gangster game with third-person shooter action, lots of driving and a huge gang war. You can try out all sorts of weapons from melee to explosives, not to mention loads of guns. You can also customize your character and you get the chance to jump in various vehicles in a big city setting. The open world nature meant a storyline with missions and freedom to roam in between (like GTA). It’s another Tarantino influenced effort and offers a lot of dumb, violent fun.
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It was inevitable that the most successful gangster film of all time would spawn a game. The Godfather boasted a storyline that overlapped with the original film and many of the cast reprising their roles in videogame form. It challenged you to rise up the ranks from small time hood to become the Don of New York. The huge New York setting, the authentic feel (making good use of the license) and the fun combat make this worth checking out. On the other hand the environments are repetitive and bland, the AI is dodgy and the PC frame rate is not perfect. Once again it borrows from the real Godfather of the gangster genre – the GTA series. The Godfather 2 game came next but it was seriously awful. Still with slim pickings in the PC gangster games line up you can't afford to miss this.
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Scarface: The World is Yours
Pacino didn’t take part in The Godfather game partly because he was committed to this Scarface release (although someone else voices the Montana dialogue). If you can get over the opening, which cheats and alters the film so Montana survives the epic mansion shoot out, then you’ll find yourself back at square one having to rebuild your criminal empire from scratch. The cast is pretty good and there’s a big involved storyline with loads of characters but the gameplay isn’t great. It’s another third-person GTA clone but the missions are bizarre and often dull and you can’t go crazy in the street and have a huge police shootout like you can in GTA. Sadly the PC port suffers from the typical focus on console versions. Having said all that Scarface is a classic gangster film and playing as Montana in game form can be a lot of fun.
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Hitman 2: Silent Assassin
Taking on the role of 47, an efficient hitman, you basically have to murder a number of targets in whatever way you see fit. This is third-person stealth gameplay, although you can switch to first-person in the sequels. The best of the bunch was probably Hitman 2: Silent Assassin. The challenge of sizing up a scene and working out how to gain access and despatch your prey without alerting the goons was great fun and it’s a shame this series went downhill. Although you could go for a guns blazing approach it would usually lead to a quick death. Patience was required for this one but it was very rewarding to pull off a complex hit.
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This third-person shooter came out in 2002 for the PC. It was essentially a driving and shooting game casting you as a mafia driver although you rose through the ranks as it went on. This was an attempt to make things a bit more realistic than GTA so it was a tough challenge set in a huge city. The game featured some great action with sprawling involved missions and different routes to success. Backed up by great graphics (for the time) and a good soundtrack with some memorable voice acting too, Mafia was a class act. Sadly the more recent Mafia II just didn’t have the same impact. This is still one of the best PC gangster games ever made.
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Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
Perhaps one of the reasons there aren’t that many decent PC gangster games is because the Grand Theft Auto series is so dominant. The original GTA was a top down game that offered anarchic violence blended with humour. Things got even more cartoonish with GTA 2 but it was Grand Theft Auto 3 that really fired the series to the top of the charts and it has stayed there ever since. A blend of third-person action, with plenty of driving and shooting, set in an open world - it was a revelation for gaming. The involved mission structure and storyline was there but players were free to uncover it at their own pace and with a huge city to explore and plenty of side missions you could lose days playing GTA.
The first two were PC gangster games but the third release marked a move to focussing on console, although the PC versions have generally always been pretty decent ports. The pick of the bunch on PC is Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, it improved on GTA III offering more content and a stylish setting backed by a great soundtrack and voice acting. Still, if you’re looking for PC gangster games you’d be best to play all the GTA series before looking elsewhere.
Any other PC gangster games worth mentioning? Post a comment.