MLB The Show 23 Review: Negro Leagues Steal the Show in Near-Perfect Release

Learn whether MLB The Show 23 is right for you with this review breaking down every aspect of the game.

John Donaldson is one of the players who is part of the Negro Leagues Storylines

The start of another Major League Baseball season means the release of another edition of MLB The Show, and MLB The Show 23 is one of the best versions of the longstanding baseball sim franchise in years. The Negro Leagues Storylines take the spotlight, but that’s not all that fans can look forward to with some mainstay game modes leveling up in a big way. 

Whether you’re dedicated to offline game modes like Franchise and Road to the Show or looking to take on the toughest competition around the world in Diamond Dynasty, it’s key to know exactly what makes this year’s game different from the last. For players who have been away from the franchise for some time, our MLB The Show 23 review will help you determine if this is the year to dive back in. 

In this review you will learn: 

  • The best new features and upgrades in MLB The Show 23
  • How the gameplay and presentation compares to MLB The Show 22
  • A quick MLB The Show 23 review of every game mode this year
  • All the details you need to decide if MLB The Show 23 is worth it
  • Our official MLB The Show 23 rating

MLB The Show 23 review: How does it compare to MLB The Show 22?

AN example of the gameplay in MLB The Show 23

With a new game arriving every year, fans are always understandably asking exactly what makes each new installment special aside from updated rosters. While some franchises frequently fall short in that department, the good news is MLB The Show 23 truly does feel like a massive step up compared to last year. 

Core gameplay and controls haven’t changed drastically, so veteran players of MLB The Show 22 should easily settle right back in as you start your journey in the latest release. Fielding saw the most significant gameplay change with a revamp of the meter helping keep things fresh rather than formulaic, but it’s an adjustment players should be able to make fairly easily. 

Diamond Dynasty saw major changes, including a revamp that has done away with the dreaded power creep many fans hate to see in annual Ultimate Team modes. Franchise Mode and March to October aren’t massively changed, but improvements to scouting, the draft process, and additional refinement of both modes will be welcome for players that spend their time there. Road to the Show got a little polish with interface redesign in some areas, but feels about as players will expect.

The overall presentation and experience of MLB The Show 23 continues to improve on last year’s foundation, including the return of commentary duo Jon “Boog” Sciambi and Chris Singleton. With years and years of audio to replace, a new cycle of lines adds a bit more variety to commentary this year. Non-commentary audio like in-game sound effects and mixing also got even better this year. Visually, the game is as stunning as ever, and additional cutscenes and overlay improvements only accentuate that. 

However, perhaps no part of MLB The Show 23 is more showstopping or notable than the new Storylines mode diving into the history of the Negro Leagues. The experience is undeniably powerful, a blast to play, and only the beginning of a multi-year partnership. 

Negro Leagues baseball history comes to life like never before

Episode 1 of Storylines features John Donaldson

While there have been celebrations of stars like Jackie Robinson in the past via a special edition of MLB The Show 21, his name is only one of many that anchored the Negro Leagues during baseball’s horrific segregation era. This year, with Negro Leagues Baseball Museum President Bob Kendrick serving as the game mode’s passionate historian, Storylines is pulling back the curtain on that history. 

Whether you’re a longtime fan with some knowledge of Negro Leagues history or a younger player completely unaware of this time in baseball history, you’re in for a treat in MLB The Show 23. This year, the first season of what is expected to be at least a five-year partnership with the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum highlights eight of the most important names in Negro Leagues history. 

Each of the following players have their own dedicated episode in Storylines where players learn about their contributions to the game and play some of their most memorable moments: 

  • Satchel Paige (????-1982) – The Negro League’s Brightest Star
  • Hilton Smith (1907-1983) – The Forgotten Star
  • Rube Foster (1879-1930) – The Father of Black Baseball
  • Hank Thompson (1925-1969) – Barrier Breaker
  • Buck O’Neil (1911-2006) – A Leader of Men
  • Jackie Robinson (1919-1972) – Baseball’s Greatest Pioneer
  • John Donaldson (1891-1970) – The Great Barnstorming Showman
  • Martín Dihigo (1905-1971) – El Maestro

As you dive into each individual episode, interviews with Kendrick anchor the mode. Kendrick’s passion for these players and their historical impact on the game of baseball is infectious, and it’s truly impossible not to be captivated by his storytelling. MLB The Show 23 interweaves this with rare footage and photos from the Negro Leagues era whenever possible. 

Each episode is filled with eight individual moments that players must successfully recreate to advance to the next. After an episode is completed, a valuable 90 OVR version of that player is awarded for use in Diamond Dynasty. 

For players that want to breeze through the moments and listen to Kendrick afterwards, you can easily skip the video segments and then watch the full uncut version of that player’s history later. Together, they form what is essentially a feature-length documentary about the Negro Leagues inside MLB The Show 23, and this mode is now a mainstay that will continue to highlight new players each year. 

Diamond Dynasty rework makes the bold choice to end power creep

A Diamond Dynasty team in MLB The Show 23

Whether it’s MLB The Show or another annual sports sim franchise, players familiar with Ultimate Team style modes are also familiar with the largely disliked power creep which each year brings. For those unfamiliar with the term, power creep refers to new cards released throughout the year being stronger than all the cards released earlier in the year. 

In the past, this meant that players who pushed hard early on but took a break would quickly see their ability to stay competitive evaporate as their squad’s overall ratings would fall behind. Instead, MLB The Show 23 gives Diamond Dynasty a clean slate with the new rotating Sets and Seasons mechanic. 

Each season throughout the year will make cards from Set 1, Set 2, and/or Set 3 eligible for that season’s primary game modes and Diamond Dynasty gameplay. Core cards, such as the Live Series or those earned in the Negro Leagues mode, are eligible to use the entire year. Players also get one Wild Card slot, which allows the use of one ineligible card in your squad, allowing those who dedicate time to improving a given card with Parallel XP to keep it in play down the line. 

Mini Seasons got some general upgrades this year including new stadiums, and rule changes like the universal designated hitter are now active in Diamond Dynasty for the first time. This includes the ability to play a true two-way player like Shohei Ohtani as both pitcher and designated hitter. Diamond Dynasty will feel quite familiar to experienced players, but it should remain fun for much longer thanks to this year’s changes. 

Road to the Show delivers again, but the package didn’t change much

Gameplay during Road to the Show

The nature of annual releases like MLB The Show 23 is that, naturally, some game modes are likely to get more attention than others during each development cycle. The neverending nature of these franchises means that developers will often spend several years getting the pieces in place for upgrades and features they simply don’t have time to finish in a single year. 

Unfortunately, that means some game modes feel neglected between games, and for some players, Road to the Show will be that game mode. There are some minor improvements such as a revamped ballplayer loadout screen and refined team choice menu at the start of a new save. Challenges in your Road to the Show games are a bit better this year with many offering Program Stars or an Equipment Pack as a reward in addition to attribute boosts, but the overall experience doesn’t feel that much different than last year. 

Year to year saves remain a missing link, and integration with Diamond Dynasty for your Ballplayer keeps the likelihood of that being changed in future years low. While there’s no denying that Road to the Show is still a blast in MLB The Show 23, the changes may not be enough to convince dedicated players to bite on this release. 

Scouting and draft upgrades arrive for Franchise Mode and March to October

The menu for Franchise Mode in MLB The Show 23

Whether you prefer the streamlined flow of March to October or the nitty gritty of Franchise Mode, there’s good news on both fronts in MLB The Show 23. League changes like the new postseason format and the “Ohtani rule” of pitchers staying at DH after being relieved are now fully implemented, and the MLB Draft has now been moved to its accurate spot in the middle of the season rather than being an offseason Franchise Mode event like in previous years. 

However, the biggest upgrade this year has to be the revamped prospect generation and how it’ll pair with upgraded scouting and that aforementioned draft. Prospect generation logic was overhauled this year, so the classes will actually be much more accurately diverse with a mix of high school seniors, junior college players, and other older draft entrants. 

Along with those upgrades, the scouting system has been revamped with more depth and challenge as you work towards finding the right prospects to invest in. Of course, all of these changes will also play into the overall logic that handles how Franchise Mode and March to October operate. 

Like always, logic changes included further improving trade logic between teams in Franchise and March to October. There will no doubt still be some in-game trades that have you scratching your head, but sometimes this simply comes down to teams seeing a player’s value and their own needs differently than you might expect. 

MLB The Show 23 release date, platforms, editions, price, and microtransactions

Derek Jeter is featured on the artwork for the Captain Edition of MLB The Show 23

Now that the gameplay and game mode changes in this year’s installment have been broken down, it’s worth outlining some of the game’s logistical details for players who are still deciding whether it’s right for them. 

After arriving for early access on March 24, the worldwide MLB The Show 23 release date was March 28, 2023. Just like last year, MLB The Show 23 is available on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and Nintendo Switch. 

The MLB The Show 23 Standard Edition is $69.99 on PS5 and Xbox Series X|S and $59.99 on PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. The Captain Edition (physical collector’s edition) and Digital Deluxe Edition of MLB The Show 23 are both priced at $99.99 with the latter available on all platforms, but The Captain Edition is not available on Nintendo Switch. 

While there isn’t any paid downloadable content for MLB The Show 23 and none is currently expected to be released this year, microtransactions are back for those who wish to load up on the in-game currency for Diamond Dynasty. Here are the prices for bundles of MLB The Show 23 stubs: 

  • 1,000 Stubs – $0.99
  • 5,000 Stubs – $4.99
  • 11,000 Stubs – $9.99
  • 24,000 Stubs – $19.99
  • 67,500 Stubs – $49.99
  • 150,000 Stubs – $99.99

For those planning to dedicate time to Diamond Dynasty, the Digital Deluxe and Captain editions each come with several packs, double daily login rewards, and a bundle of stubs. You’ll get 30,000 Stubs with the Digital Deluxe Edition but only 10,000 Stubs with The Captain Edition of MLB The Show 23. Both special editions also include dual entitlement on PlayStation and Xbox, so players will receive either both the Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S versions or PS4 and PS5 versions of the game. 

MLB The Show 23 review and rating: Is it worth it?

Now that our MLB The Show 23 review has given you a better idea of this year’s newest and most outstanding features, the question of whether it’s actually worth your money still needs to be answered. Most of the time, the “is it worth it” conundrum is one with different answers for every player depending on where you tend to spend your time in the game each year. 

That’s not actually the case this year, and the biggest reason is the arrival of Storylines featuring the Negro Leagues. If you’ve ever enjoyed this franchise in recent years, MLB The Show 23 is an absolute must purely based on the value of playing through the careers of these Negro Leagues legends. It’s honestly difficult for us to see any player not enjoying Storylines, but there are additional strengths all over the game. 

The choice to eliminate power creep in Diamond Dynasty instantly makes it one of the most approachable, and to be quite honest least predatory, Ultimate Team modes across any mainstream sports simulation game. Microtransactions are still present, but Sony San Diego has struck the best balance in the industry when it comes to making sure “no money spent” players who refuse to purchase extra Stubs can stay competitive throughout the year. 

Franchise Mode and March to October saw notable upgrades that dedicated players will likely be excited for, and Road to the Show delivers just as much career mode fun as players have come to expect from it. Ultimately, the negatives for MLB The Show 23 are relatively minor. 

Some players may want more out of their favorite game mode, and a few small bugs linger after launch, but otherwise, this is one of the most comprehensive and complete annual releases in years. MLB The Show 23 also continues to lead the industry when it comes to game stability as well as interface responsiveness and design. MLB The Show 23 crashes less, is easier and quicker to navigate, and just looks better than any other annual sports franchise. 

The only question you really need to ask yourself is when you’re able to get MLB The Show 23 and which edition is the best choice, because this game is absolutely worth it for all players. Sony San Diego has set the standard once again. MLB The Show 23 already feels like a lock as the best sports game of the year. 

Official MLB The Show 23 Rating: 9.5 out of 10 

This MLB The Show 23 review was based on gameplay from the Digital Deluxe Edition on Xbox Series X|S. 

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