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GTA vs Mafia: 5 major differences between the games

(image credits: epic games store)
(image credits: epic games store)
Rahul Bhushan
ANALYST
Modified 08 Sep 2020, 13:12 IST
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With Mafia: Definitive Edition looming close, fans are excited to jump back into the world of mobsters in Lost Heaven. Obvious but unfair comparisons to the GTA franchise have been drawn several times over with the Mafia series, but the games couldn't be further apart.

While the games follow a similar structure of gameplay, their approaches differ wildly, and their execution is decidedly distinct. The GTA franchise has been able to achieve massive success over the years, which has led to many games being unfairly dubbed "GTA Clones".

However, that tag has never stuck on Mafia due to the game's original identity and ideas. The Mafia franchise has been able to build considerable goodwill amongst the fanbase, and here we look at what makes it so unique.

GTA vs Mafia: 5 major differences between the games

1) Approach to the open-world

(image credits: pcgamesn)
(image credits: pcgamesn)

Prior to Mafia III, which opted for a more traditional open-world, the franchise's approach to the game structure was different. While GTA looks to provide massive open-world maps with a tonne of things to do, Mafia likes to put more emphasis on story and character.

This is why more often than not, Mafia has a more linear feel to it than GTA. The game's open-world exists simply to immerse the player in the story of the protagonist and not to encourage open-world exploration.

However, the open-world is crafted extremely well in Mafia as cities such as Lost Heaven and Empire Bay are some of the most well-realized locations in gaming.

2) The protagonist

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(image credits: pcgamesn)
(image credits: pcgamesn)

The protagonists of the GTA franchise have been largely larger-than-life characters capable of superhero/villain levels of violence (save for Niko Belic). Whereas the Mafia franchise, save for Lincoln Clay, has been known to build more realistic, relatable protagonists.

Mafia's Tommy Angelo is a cabbie, who is recruited into the Mafia and Vito Scaletta is a former soldier merely looking to help out his friend. The protagonists are much more grounded with some degree of reliability.

3) Setting

(image credits: everyday games)
(image credits: everyday games)

The Mafia franchise has reveled in its periodic settings, and it has become the series' signature. No game in the trilogy has been set in modern times, with the closest one being Mafia III in the 60s.

The GTA franchise is also dabbled with a retro setting, but only going so far back as the 80s. The period, the atmosphere of both games couldn't be further apart.

Mafia often feels more melancholic and methodical than its more loudmouthed, satirical counterpart in GTA.

4) Tone

(image credits: pcgamer)
(image credits: pcgamer)

Mafia, first and foremost, is a franchise that aims to tell very human stories of characters players can even relate to at some level. The scale of the games (except Mafia III) are much more contained than the epic nature of the GTA games.

The stories in Mafia are much more contained affairs and aim to tell powerful stories. However, that does not mean that the games lack that explosive quality, as the narrative is filled with memorable moments from start to end.

The GTA games are far more satirical and cynical in their tone than Mafia and always run the risk of being snarky.

5) Gameplay

(image credits: pcgamer)
(image credits: pcgamer)

The gameplay in the Mafia franchise has been pretty standard. Functional and to the point, there are hardly any unnecessary and complicated bells-and-whistles.

The Mafia franchise has clarity on what the game's primary objective is: to tell an exciting narrative with functional gameplay. The game's strength comes from not its gameplay, but its story.

The GTA franchise also attempts to tell stories, albeit, the gameplay has more depth than Mafia's. By no means is GTA the most in-depth RPG game or a combat-focused sim, but it certainly has more depth than Mafia's approach to gameplay.

Published 08 Sep 2020, 13:02 IST
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