San Diego Studio’s MLB The Show series has been a yearly standout for sports titles for over a decade now, and, incredibly, the franchise not only fought off stagnation, but also improved each year. However, what’s most impressive about MLB The Show 23 is simply its love for baseball, both in the past and present, as it goes out of its way to celebrate what makes America’s pastime so great.
Storylines mode is one of the most notable new additions this year and is all about a specific portion of the Negro leagues. It focuses on eight Black baseball pioneers, including famous stars such as Jackie Robinson and Buck O’Neil, in addition to some lesser-known luminaries like Hilton Smith and Hank Thompson. It’s a unique and thrilling mode that dives into each man’s careers and the moments that made them so special, such as Leroy “Satchel” Paige making a point and striking out an opposing team with his defense all huddled around him after they had insulted him with a racist comment.
All of these moments are introduced via video packages, which are wonderfully narrated by Negro Leagues Baseball Museum President Bob Kendrick. Baseball is a sport full of history and mythology, and Kendrick has a blast recounting the more legendary myths surrounding some of the players while also breaking down the facts. The mode is a fascinating look at both baseball history and civil rights in general and introduced me to so many legendary figures I wasn’t aware of. It’s a stark reminder that things were wildly different in the world less than a century ago and being able to play through some of the league’s key moments and listen to lively commentary make for an incredibly effective way to absorb this part of history.
The mode is also just a joy to play, similar to the Moments mode, as it gives players specific tasks, such as striking out pitchers or batting in three runs in a single game. These can be challenging, but since they just follow one player and don’t make users go through a whole game, they go by rather quickly and don’t drag. It also all ties into the game’s Diamond Dynasty mode, as you’ll unlock valuable player cards of the Negro league standouts and plenty of customization options as you spend time on the field.
This is also the best Diamond Dynasty has been since it has gotten progressively further from its gross microtransaction-laden core. They’ve been chores in the past since they can artificially string out how long it takes to assemble a quality squad. But it doesn’t take long to put together a solid team since there are so many game modes in MLB The Show 23 that yield valuable experience points, which turn into valuable cards. Because of this constant supply of cards, Diamond Dynasty becomes a fun diversion of collecting some of your favorite players, both legends of the past and current stars, while having more reasons to just enjoy the great gameplay that San Diego Studio has refined over the years.
There aren’t any huge differences in terms of gameplay; it still plays like simulation baseball and there are so many options and modes that can turn it into something more arcadey. However, there have been a number of small tweaks that show San Diego Studio’s attention to detail and how it’s always trying to hone its winning blueprint, as seen in the improved swing feedback that more clearly points out late or early swings. There are plenty of other small tweaks, although players largely know what to expect by now and the formula still results in a fantastic version of baseball.
MLB The Show 23 is yet another triumph by San Diego Studio. The new Storylines mode should become a yearly staple as baseball has such a rich history to draw from and amazing players to spotlight. Choosing the Negro leagues as a starting point was a thoughtful choice as it is highly informative and highlights an important time in both sports and culture that is worth reflecting on and learning about. With a suite of modes, most of which tie into the Diamond Dynasty in one way or another, this is a deep sports title that you can easily sink hundreds of hours into.
As ComingSoon’s review policy explains, a score of 9 equates to “Excellent.” Entertainment that reaches this level is at the top of its type. The gold standard that every creator aims to reach.
Disclosure: The publisher provided a PlayStation 5 copy for our MLB The Show 23 review. Reviewed on version 1.001.000.