It can be played at two bowling alleys owned by Memory Lanes. Bowling is introduced to the player during the mission First Date but the player can bowl anytime while not on a mission before that. The player gets a choice of playing a half game or a full game. A win in bowling is required for 100% completion. The achievement Gobble Gobble is given if the player scores a "turkey" (three strikes in a row). Non playable characters can be seen bowling in the bowling alleys. The player can still bowl in The Lost and the Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony, but it is no longer available as a friend activity, seemingly replaced by Air Hockey.
A full game of bowling, where each player gets ten turns each, costs $10. A half game, where each player gets five turns, costs $5. The price does not vary whether Niko is playing alone or with a friend.
The player (either playing with a buddy or alone) must roll the bowling ball to the end of the lane to knock down as many pins as possible. Before doing so, the player must mark his starting position for the best trajectory. Once the ball is released, the placement may be adjusted until the bowling ball passes the red markings on the center of the lane. After that, it's just luck. All of the instructions for the buttons are displayed on the top of the screen.
- Guttered – The bowling ball fell into one of the two gutters, or channels, knocking no pins down
- Perfect – Throwing 12 strikes in a row, achieving the best score possible in bowling: 300 points
- Pins – The ten white targets of bowling to be knocked down
- Spare – All remaining pins knocked down with the second ball, denoted by a "/" on the scoreboard
- Split – Pins remain on both sides of the lane but none in the middle.
- Strike – All ten pins are knocked down with the first ball, denoted by an "X" on the scoreboard
- Turkey – Three strikes in a row
- Sometimes, if you knock all but 1 pin down, it will still count as a strike.
- It's possible to make the NPCs bowl a gutter-ball by standing on the lane in front of the ball, and the NPCs will react like it is their fault and won't become hostile to the player.
- While the NPCs are lining up their shot, it's possible for the player to walk straight through them as if they were not there. However, Niko will still sometimes push them, but they won't react.
- It is possible to destroy the bowling pins in each lane by shooting or blowing them up. They will disappear all at once as if they were one object.
- A bowling pin can be seen inside the Esperanto that is meant to explode in the mission I Need Your Clothes, Your Boots, and Your Motorcycle.
- The addition of bowling combined with the friendship system has been responsible for many memes about GTA IV as well as a full length song.
- Bringing out your phone to check for messages won't work while bowling or with any other activity like pool, darts or LC Cage Fighters.
- The player won't be able to play bowling while on a mission.
- Bowling was originally going to be in Grand Theft Auto V, but it was cut before release.