A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this game.
The new Storylines mode brings new light to players from the Negro Leagues, a chapter in baseball history that rarely gets enough credit. The gameplay promotes competition, teamwork, and the sport of baseball as both an American and global sport as well. Many challenges presented in the Diamond Dynasty modes and programs promote meeting or exceeding achievements of the athletes in real life. The Road to the Show mode promotes persevering towards a goal.
Positive Role Models
The game features professional players, so if they're a role model in real life, it can be argued that they're a role model in the game. Created players in the Road to the Show mode try to make a major league team from the minor leagues, which is aspirational. The Negro League chapters presents a new set of legendary players for people to become interested In and learn about.
The game includes Latin American, Asian, and North American baseball players. Video and audio clips include a range of male and female perspectives from people associated with baseball, as well as hall of fame players giving their wisdom. The Negro League section includes documentary footage and stories of legends that had a massive impact on the sport without the same fanfare thanks to racism and segregation.
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Ease of Play
Players get one of three overall gameplay styles controlling the nature of the game experience along with multiple difficulty levels, including a dynamic scale that adjusts automatically based on your play success. The game also offers multiple control options for offensive and defensive gameplay. Switch players will want to rely on Pro Controllers instead of Joy-Con thumbsticks, particularly for pitching, stealing attempts, and baserunning. Even still, baseball is a game of failure, and you will lose or miss more than you hit and succeed.
Violence & Scariness
Pitchers and batters can get hit by balls, but they're never shown injured or bloody. Some collisions occur during baserunning as players slide into bases while opponents try to tag them out or make double plays.
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Online play isn't monitored, potentially exposing players to inappropriate content.
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Products & Purchases
The game features huge promotional spots for Wilson, Bowman, Under Armour, Major League Baseball, Topps, Google, and other brands in stadiums and game modes. Buying game packs can be done through real cash or tokens earned by in-game play, which can be applied to multiple modes. Players don't have to buy these packs, but created players and fantasy teams get significant boosts by paying for cards. There are also multiple versions of the game, with varying levels of extras provided. This is part of a long-running baseball franchise. Cross-platform play requires two versions of the game for multiple systems.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that MLB The Show 23 is a sports simulation game for the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X and S, and Nintendo Switch. This is the latest chapter in the long-running baseball franchise, and players will have the option of leading a created character from the minor leagues to the professional team of their choice, or leading their favorite franchise through various league games. There are several difficulty and control settings, including a dynamic option that gets harder when you play well or easier if you're doing poorly. There's not inappropriate within the game, though multiplayer isn't moderated, which could expose players to inappropriate commentary. But there is a ton of product placement to be found throughout the game, with sponsorships and logos from Google, Wilson, Under Armour, Topps, and other companies found frequently through the title. There's also a heavy push to purchase cards and baseball packs in the game to gain an advantage for your created players and baseball teams. These can be earned through regular play, but your progress is accelerated and simplified if you take advantage of the offers that are frequently presented to you. Additionally, cross-play functionality between different systems requires two separate copies, which is particularly important if you want to take your progress on the go with you on a Switch from one of the other consoles. The focus on the Negro Leagues is a massive accomplishment for the game, and the focus on teamwork and team play thanks to the Captain feature drives home the importance of working together for the goal of being the best club in the league.
Is It Any Good?
While much of this year's installment may feel like a minor update, the new Storylines mode infuses this game with a fresh perspective, an infusion of history, and a spotlight on legendary athletes. MLB The Show 23's newest mode highlights the lives of eight athletes from the Negro Leagues whose play had massive impacts on and off the field of baseball. Of course, you expect to find Jackie Robinson to be included in Season one as the trailblazer that destroyed MLB's color line, and he's rightfully included. But other heavyweights, such as Satchel Paige and Buck O'Neil get their time to shine as well, alongside figures that aren't as widely known, such as Rube Foster. The presentation, which is beautifully narrated by Bob Kendrick with a mix of video clips, animated screens, and splashy visuals, instills both a sense of respect and admiration for these men's accomplishments, and the growth of the game in general. It's hard not to learn something about the sport itself, such as Satchel Paige aiming his pitches with a chewing gum wrapper on home plate, or the impact of Martin Dihigo as a true five-way player. While the first season of this mode is pitcher heavy (five of the eight players are hurlers), this is a great demonstration of how to give a history lesson for a baseball game or any sports game, and leaves open the possibility for future seasons to cover other stars, potentially even expanding to players from countries. Hopefully more of these will be released over the course of this year instead of having to wait till next year for the next installment.
It's also great that completing this mode gives players a solid base for their Diamond Dynasty team, giving them a head start without opening a single pack in the game. These players also highlight the new Captain mechanic, which can boost the batting power and pitching performance of your team significantly. Not only does it lean into the idea that some players could elevate their own play, but they could raise the level of their teammates during key games. It's a concept that feels so natural to the game, it's hard to believe that it hadn't been included before, and it makes you more of a contender to complete game programs and get better rewards by playing games in any mode. The same could be said about supercharged cards to reflect the performance of current players on the field during the 2023 season. Watching a player get on a hot streak and see that reflected in boosted stats is something that feels like a no-brainer, but its inclusion in the game just feels right. If anything, the biggest knock against The Show 23 is that there's not a huge amount of enhancement to the other modes for this year's game. Now, much of last year's game wasn't flawed, so this is a case of cleaning up items that the developers didn't get to. Adding a dynamic throwing meter is nice, boosting the created stadium option pieces is a plus, and refining other elements of play are good, but these are somewhat expected when it comes to a yearly installment. If you were looking for a massive leap forward with Road to the Show, Franchise mode, or Diamond Dynasty, you're out of luck, because these are mainly the same as they've been for a while. But that's fine when the Storylines mode for MLB The Show 23 not only provides a solid foundation for baseball games and sports games in general, it lays a blueprint for where this franchise could go in the future.
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Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.