Yep. That's right. It's a game related post.
It's also biased.
The games in question are Mafia (also known as Mafia: City of Lost Heaven), Grand Theft Auto III: San Andreas (because it's the newest one that you can get on PC), and The Godfather: The Game.
All the games are similar in style, except that unlike the other two games Mafia's storyline is not the same sandbox style as the others. It's also got the lowest minimum (or even recommended) system requirements.
To start though, the games are set chronologically, Mafia, 1930 - 1938 (with an epilogue around the 50's), The Godfather 1945 - 50 (with a prologue in 1936), and GTA:SA in 1992.
GTA:SA would be by far the largest (by perception) of the three games, with Godfather, being set in New York and part of New Jersey (obviously) and Mafia in the fictional city of Lost Heaven and surrounds (or New Chicago, or Chicagork, it's something of a mix of the two) and GTA:SA set in the fictional state of San Andreas, which contains three major cities and 12 towns.
There was one problem with the size and layout of the map. It was somewhat annoying to go from Las Venturas to Los Santos and by crossing over a bridge go from desert to green countryside. You just didn't get the feeling that you were in such a big place.
The Godfather has the best character design, with a program called "Mobface" which allows you to make your own character. And this character is called 'X' because you can name him. Take that CJ, or Tommy Angelo (GTA:SA and Mafia respectively). The skill upgrades are a little worse then GTA:SA, because instead of you working out, or practising various skills, you select them from a "upgrade your skills" page. Mafia doesn't even give you this option for reasons to be explained later.
Moving on to vehicles. GTA:SA lets you use cars, motorcycles, planes, boats, helicopters, and a few odd and outrageous items. Mafia and The Godfather don't. It's cars or walking, or in the case of Mafia public transport. Yep, you can go onto a train, or a trolley bus and not have to worry about driving or getting a car. Although it's more of a pleasure to drive around in Mafia, because even with the "lower" graphics (actually the correct answer is "superior") the cars are rendered beautifully, and move as a car in that era would, from 1920's cars that look like Model T's to powerful V12's in the later stage of the game. GTA:SA cars are ok, but I was rather disappointed by the driving in The Godfather, the cars were not as nice as in Mafia and they drove like the cars in GTA:SA. The Car damage is the best in Mafia, with bullet holes and dents, and the other two were mediocre at best considering the requirement for better graphics cards.
The fighting systems are all over the place. Mafia and GTA:SA are very similar, aim and shoot (or lock on and shoot in the case of GTA:SA), but The Godfather, that was something. There was a lock-on system (which you could disable and aim normally) but the lock on system was called "Black Hand" (they love their mob related names) (which I believe they improved on in the Wii version) which allowed you to grab your opponent, slam them into things, use powerful punches or quick ones, and there was an execute function as well, perfect for the violence lovers.
As a side note one that I liked was the most common one I encountered, where 'X' puts his opponent in a headlock and throws the guys legs around, snapping his neck. The Godfather offers something like 22 different execution styles including a pistol execution, garrotting, choking, throwing a person off a bridge, throwing people into furnaces, the hit list missions give you more respect if you do away with the person in the specific method.
The only real plus that I can think of for Mafia was that the guns were programmed to shoot as they would in real life, the most interesting is the 1928 Thompson (Tommy Gun) which they correctly showed its major initial flaw, it would rise up as you fired it. The Godfather had a system where you could target non-major body parts (hands, feet, knees, shoulders) so you could disable opponents, or intimidate business owners.
Now we come to the most important bits, storyline and music. The music is rather easy to discuss, Mafia, had period style music playing in the city regardless of you being in a vehicle or not (no radios in cars then folks), The Godfather would have music from the film playing whenever you got into a car. GTA:SA had radio stations playing music from the late 80's early 90's on most of the stations, a talk radio station (which was my favourite) and some earlier stuff on the other ones.
The storylines are the most interesting. Mafia could have been a movie. Honestly. They wrote a script and stuck with it. It even has morals and you may even empathise with Tommy. The lack of a sandbox in story mode is because the story is basically told in flashbacks, so things like boats causing the drawbridge to go up and actions of characters are programmed into the levels, which gives you a much better feeling of being in a big city. GTA:SA centres on the return of CJ to San Andreas, and what he does to make his gang control Los Santos, while starting up business ventures in Las Venturas and San Fierro. The Godfather is about revenge and taking control of New York.
Overall, (and this is where the bias plays into it) the best game is Mafia,
the The Godfather, and the GTA:SA. The reasoning behind it is that when I played Mafia, I got a taste of something different to the GTA series. You had to think more, you didn't have the demi-god invincibility (sometimes it was one shot that would make it game over) and you had to watch out for the cops for small things like speeding or running red lights. The other games didn't have such things and made the games far easier to play.