Mafia III vs. Mafia II: Which Is Better?


The Mafia franchise saw widespread commercial success and was critically acclaimed for its gameplay, atmosphere and storylines. But given that we are up to three releases under the Mafia name, which is better out of Mafia III versus Mafia II?

Mafia II is by far the better game, with better gameplay, a better story and the quintessential mafia experience. Mafia III doesn’t have much to do with the actual Mafia, so it is more just an action adventure open-world game with the mafia in it.

Let’s consider the differences between the two games, which one boasts the overall better experience and whether the two games are linked in any significant way.

Mafia III vs. Mafia II: Differences

Mafia III certainly introduced many more mechanics and gameplay options than Mafia II, but given that the Mafia series was never supposed to be like Grand Theft Auto, this is not the direction the game should take if it wants to play off its strengths and goodwill.

In the end, Mafia II executes the core mission of the game series and thematically is much more interesting than the 1960s version of Mafia III. 


Mafia II is set in post World War II Empire Bay, an amalgamation of New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston, and Detroit, Whereas Mafia III is set in the fictional city of New Bordeaux which is based on New Orleans.

Mafia III is set in 1968, meaning the vehicles, buildings, music, clothing style and even setup of the cities are completely different.


The story follows Vito Scaletta, a veteran who gets involved in the politics and power struggles among the city’s Mafia crime families all while trying to repay a family debt.

Lincoln Clay is also a veteran but this time from the Vietnam war, but he is not Italian or involved with the Mafia until they kill his family. Clay is also heavily involved in racial politics.


Mafia III brings in many more interesting gameplay mechanics, missions and changes than is present in Mafia II. 

Mafia III uses a variety of the Nemesis system seen in the Shadow of Morder series, where you work your way up a criminal hierarchy by turning or killing the lower members until eventually the head honcho makes an appearance.

By manipulating this system you can get big rewards, especially if you hold off killing people as soon as you meet them.

Mafia III also allows you to take over regions or districts that the mafia control, and then fill them with your own guys.

The fighting mechanic that enabled you to brawl with anyone in Mafia II has been completely removed in Mafia III.

Mafia III also removed the cop bribe function, which is just another reason why this game shouldn’t carry the mafia name because it has almost nothing to do with the mafia except that they are the enemy.

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While the music and storyline of Mafia III is interesting, it doesn’t have much to do with the Mafia aesthetic that was present in the first two games. Mafia and Mafia II are focused around rising up the ranks of the mafia and the power struggles that ensure.

Mafia III is more about a sandbox, open world game where you drive around and do missions backgrounded against a quest for revenge, which is much more like a Grand Theft Auto clone than the unique identity that the first two titles possessed.

Mafia III can be thought of as a soft reboot;  it doesn’t try to make you feel like a bootlegging gangster blazing away with Tommy guns or the awesome sounds and feel of an early 19th century America.

Mafia III vs Mafia II: Which Is Better?

Mafia II is a much better game than Mafia III. The Mafia franchise has always tried to make an immersive, realistic experience and is why the first installment was so popular.

Mafia never tried to be a Grand Theft Auto clone and was heavy on storylines, atmosphere and trying to make you feel like you were the protagonist.

This was successfully achieved for both Mafia and Mafia II, but Mafia III feels hollow in comparison. There is not much to be done around Mafia III apart from the main and side missions, so despite being an open world game, it feels very formulaic.

Mafia II also continued the story from the first Mafia in a sense, and also employed the story arc of rising up through the Mafia ranks as you gained respect, completed missions and did what you were told.

Mafia III also did not improve on visuals much, and is still plagued with some buggy mechanics and general poor performance. That’s not to say that Mafia II is much better in this regard, but it shows faults with both of these games.

Can You Play Mafia III Without Playing Mafia II? 

The games don’t need to be played in order; it is fine to just play Mafia III without playing the other two. This is probably preferable as if you have played either Mafia or Mafia II, you will be very disappointed in Mafia III.

It would be better to play Mafia III first, then go back and play Mafia and Mafia II. But if you can only choose one to play, I would recommend Mafia or Mafia II over Mafia III any day.

  • Ashley Kendall

    Ashley has fallen in love with computers and technology ever since playing a Super Nintendo at his friend's house. After building his own computer and learning how to fix it when it broke, he started doing a variety of tech-related jobs to get paid for his knowledge. He learned J...