I agree with the above commenter. Mafia 1 was an interesting contrast to GTA 3, going in a story heavy direction instead of focusing on the spectacle. It was fun to drive around in a recreation of the 1920’s and follow speed limits. Since the game covers a decade of time you also get to experience the evolution of cars in that era, from slow ones that can barely turn to what feels like sports cars by the end of it (including an actual racing car in a sequence that was nail bitingly hard at release but got patched to be less so after a couple of months).
The story is stock mafia stuff, but at the time (and it’s funny because we talked in another thread about what it means for a game to hold up or be good for its time) it was a pleasure to just have actual characters in a game. Don’t count on it being anything special though. Play it if you want to see an early iteration of a path that open world games could have gone down, but mostly didn’t.
Mafia 2… I can’t recommend, at all. To some extent because it shares a bit too much of the Mafia 1 structure, but not really improving upon it in a meaningful way. Since it’s set in the 50’s you also don’t get the same cool evolution of cars as in the first.
Mostly though, it stars two genuinely unlikeable characters. Vito and Joe just come across as stupid, more than anything. To the point at which I’m not sure whether or not the developers were trying to make a point about how you play as disposable cannon fodder for the mafia bosses to use. Which, to be fair, I think is an interesting theme for a genre that so easily seems to slip into romantic notions about “family”, but even if that is what the game is going for (and I’m not convinced) it doesn’t work out. It’s a boring story, with boring missions, and I wasted 17 hours hoping to like it.
As to whether any asshole gets your money, well, Dan Vavra of recent Warhorse and Kingdom Come fame headed the two projects, although I believe he left the studio before Mafia 2 was finished. I cannot tell whether he gets any money off of these sales.