1936 the game starts with a cutscene that shows a hit on the father of the main character (who, for the sake of reference, is called Aldo Trapani here, according to the default set name) and blowing up of his bakery by the Barzinis, the Corleones' rivals in New York City. In the aftermath, Don Vito Corleone comforts the child, telling him that when he is old enough and the time is right he will take his revenge. The story then fast-forwards with the 1945 wedding scene in the opening of the film, wherein Aldo's mother asks Don Corleone to look after her son, who has been hanging with the wrong crowd. Luca Brasi is sent to recruit Aldo and teach him the ways of the Mafia. From this point forward, Aldo is taken under the Corleone Family's wing and works his way up in the organization.
Essentially, there are two stories in the game that intertwine, the first involving the major events of the film (with the character making central contributions) and a personal story arc. In the former, Aldo witnesses Luca Brasi's murder, plants the gun for Michael Corleone to kill Sollozzo and the police captain McCluskey, helps Rocco put the horse head in Woltz's bed, guards Don Vito Corleone at the hospital,witnesses the death of Sonny, kills significant Corleone rivals duringthe baptism, and appears at the meeting of the five families. In the latter storyline, Aldo befriends and later kills Corleone associate"Monk" Malone, because he turns out to be a traitor, romances his sister Frances "Frankie" Malone and takes revenge for her death, and kills Don Barzini in revenge for killing his father, as well as assisting in the murder of the heads of the other three Families.
After the story missions have been completed, the character becomes an underboss. After he takes out the rival families' compounds he becomes the Don of the family.
Alongside the story missions, the player continues to participate in the business of taking over control of New York from the rival families. This includes extorting businesses and buying out rackets, seizing control of warehouses, performing contract hits, and fighting mob wars when the vendetta level between the Corleones and a rival family gets high enough. Completion of a series of prerequisites to reach 100% enables Aldo to become Don of New York in 1955.
Plus many more mobsters that try to stop you on your rise to the top.
There are five families in the game. They are identified by wearing different colored coats and with the family's shield, which has the family's first initial and it's color.
- The Barzini Family - The most powerful and richest family in the game, they control the Midtown area.
- The Cuneo Family - They control Hells Kitchen.
- The Tattaglia Family - The family that dominates Brooklyn.
- The Stracci Family - They control New Jersey.
- The Corleone Family - Based out of Little Italy and the family that the story is about.
The player is able to use a variety of weapons. These include firearms which can be upgraded in exchange for money. Upgrades for the weapons increase the damage they do, their ammo capacity and the rate of fire.
.38 Snub Nose ---> .38 Special ---> Saturday Night Special
Magnum ---> Extended Barrel Magnum ---> Python
Pistol ---> Extended Clip Pistol ---> Assassin's Pistol
Tommy Gun ---> Modified Tommy Gun ---> Dilinger
Long Barrel Shotgun ---> Double Barrel Shotgun ---> Street Sweeper
The player can also use melee weapons (e.g. baseball bats) and can throw projectiles. These include dynamite, molotov cocktails and bombs. There is also a garrote wire which can be used for stealth kills if the player manages to sneak up behind an enemy. If the player is close to an enemy who doesn't have a lot of health left he is able to perform an execution. Executions can be done with firearms and melee weapons and their animations vary depending on the position from which you attack the enemy.
The Godfather received generally good reviews. But Francis Ford Coppola, the director of the film trilogy, did not approve the game. He felt that they were just profiteering from his work.
The things that were criticized was that on the ports to the Xbox 360 and the PS3, the graphics were very dated and did not look very good. Another thing was that the handling of the cars was not good and since the game involves a lot of driving it did bring the gameplay down a bit.