The history of baseball in video games splits into two different styles. Games like MLB The Show focus on simulating the sport. I, however, grew up playing the other side of the coin. My all-time favorite baseball game is Ken Griffey Jr. Presents Major League Baseball for the Super NES console. Games like this walked the other path and strove for over-the-top baseball antics above all else. Eventually, those titles became lost to history as MLB The Show took the top spot in the industry. Smaller off-beat titles have attempted to make their way into the scene, with little to no success. MLB The Show’s continued dominance showcases why the game is essential to the industry.
Jumping to the present day, the annual release of Sony’s MLB The Show offers one of the best entries to date. Since going to a multiplatform release in 2021, The Show continues to succeed and grow, and being part of the Xbox Game Pass catalog allows people to try the game without paying the premium price. The biggest obstacle facing The Show is the repetitive nature of yearly sports releases. Will there be enough improvements and innovations to justify purchasing the new title this year?
MLB The Show 23 features the franchise’s most fluid and responsive gameplay. The swing feedback system is intuitive and easy to read. I can see why I missed the ball and what corrections to make and find success. On the defensive side, the timing of pitching and throwing feels responsive and consistent. The consistency was missing in previous years as I often performed the same analog motion throwing a pitch but experienced different results.
Visual presentation and execution are as impressive as ever. This is very noticeable on the PlayStation 5 as every team’s stadium brought out the beauty in each city. The spectators as well as players look and act more personalized than ever before. The player’s themselves have been upgraded as nearly 5,000 new animations replicate real-life reactions and help you forget you’re controlling characters in a video game.
I asked earlier what innovations and new features make it worth purchasing this year. MLB The Show 23 brings two new features: The MLB Companion App’s Face Scan and a new game mode Storylines: The Negro Leagues. The Face Scan feature allows you to take a picture of yourself, then import that photo for use in Diamond Dynasty and Road to the Show. It’s not a selling point, but a nice feature for those who appreciate a feature that has been present in other sports titles.
The Storylines: The Negro Leagues is the best addition to MLB The Show 23. The collaboration between San Diego Studios and the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum creates an unforgettable experience. Storylines focuses on eight forgotten icons from the Negro League, featuring Jackie Robinson, Satchel Paige, Rube Roster, and more. A mixture of gameplay and narration by the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum president, Bob Kendrick, provides a heartfelt and touching tribute. Gameplay consists of scripted moments bringing these campfire stories to life. It was magic striking out batters with the “Greatest Curveball Ever Seen” as Hilton Smith.
Diamond Dynasty is the title’s most popular mode and combines baseball card collecting of major league players with gameplay modes against the CPU or other players. Players can earn card packs in the game through challenges or purchase packs via Stubbs. Stubbs is MLB The Shows’ microtransaction system. I’m not a proponent of pack-opening microtransaction systems, but the game is generous with the packs you earn simply by playing the game. Captain cards are new and provide a team boost when that captain’s tier requirements are complete.
There are some missteps and concerns in MLB The Show 23. Road to the Show features no significant changes and is the one game mode glossed over. The ability to import your created player from previous years is also absent, and there aren’t noticeable changes in our path to the major leagues. Additionally, stadium creations, Stubbs, and save data aren’t transferable. It’s not a good feeling when players spend significant time and effort and aren’t able to continue into the following year. Certain card sets in Diamond Dynasty are only available for a specific season, similar to a battle pass. The competitive ranked mode will only allow select card sets to be in play, so a changing meta is now possible. However, I’m worried about the longevity of having cards become irrelevant in ranked modes after their accompanying season.
MLB The Show 23 is an easy recommendation for baseball fans, young and old. Numerous positives outweigh any negatives as San Diego Studio moves the series forward more than in previous years. The gameplay upgrades and visual presentation are itching us closer to replicating what’s on our TVs. The Negro Leagues Storyline mode is enough to warrant a purchase alone, and the continuation through future seasons is a brilliant move.
Noah is the resident weeb who spends most of his time gaming and watching anime. His goal is to expand his skills while meeting new people. You have probably seen him feeding the other team kills in Overwatch Comp or speculating Star Wars and One Piece. Follow him on twitter @RigsbyNoah.
MLB The Show 23
MLB The Show 23 moves the franchise forward in several ways. The Negro Leagues storyline shines bright as the best addition we’ve seen in the series. While San Diego Studios didn’t pitch a perfect game, they delivered a game worthy of being called The Show.