Dave The Diver Review - Screenshot 1 of 5
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

Dave the Diver is a game about a diver named Dave. It's also about a restauranteur, archaeologist, marine researcher, and social media genius — also Dave. Poor ol' Dave has to wear all these hats in Dave the Diver, and living out his toilsome existence makes for one of the best games of the year and easily one of the Switch's most clever indie games in ages thanks to its oddly gripping loop, charming writing, consistent sense of humor, and immaculate vibes.

Anyone who's worked at a bar or restaurant with a small staff will tell you that those jobs aren't just about prepping food, waiting on tables, or mixing cocktails. They're full of in-between, one-time tasks, like running to the grocery store for some fresh citrus during a dinner rush or taking last-minute catering deliveries to visiting businessmen on the other side of town. These extraneous tasks that the owners can't afford to hire someone new to take care of define working at a mom-and-pop establishment almost as much as working on the line or behind the bar.

Dave The Diver Review - Screenshot 2 of 5
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Undocked)

Dave the Diver understands these truths on a level almost never seen in a game, and just as rarely in other media. You'll dive to catch the fish being served at Bancho Sushi one minute and help manage the restaurant's social media page the next. You'll manage personnel, help repair the restaurant, grate wasabi, and pour so, so much tea. You could very easily quit or find another job, but you care about the people heaping their needs on your back and you want — no, need — the restaurant to succeed; there's too much of your own blood, sweat, and tears in its walls and floorboards and kitchen for you to let it fail.

This game, which launched on PC and Mac in June, is bursting at the seams with bespoke minigames, cutscenes, interactions, and moments that capture the feeling of wearing the many hats you are often asked to when working in the service industry. The core loop resembles something like 2018's roguelite-dungeon-crawler-meets-management-sim, Moonlighter.

During the day, Dave goes diving in the Blue Hole; a fictional place somewhere in the tropics where fish from all oceans gather. Think the All Blue from One Piece, if you're familiar. While you're underwater, Dave's goal is mostly to find and capture delicious fish to serve at the restaurant that night. But sometimes, a local college student might ask him to search for a particular type of shell, or an archaeologist may have discovered remnants of an ancient civilization and ask Dave to look into these traces.

Swimming feels good, and the Blue Hole is downright gorgeous with vibrant coral and fish dotting the upper levels and more threatening, and grotesque as you go deeper. It's a stark reminder that nowhere on Earth is quite as cool as the ocean. Dave The Diver doubles down on its sense of wonder and discovery by randomly generating and re-generating the Blue Hole every time you dive, making every foray underwater feel fresh and new.

In fact, that freshness is so potent that it comes at a cost to the overall flow of Dave The Diver. Many missions will task you with searching for stuff that's fallen to the ocean floor; stuff that only spawns in one place. Unfortunately, the game doesn't make it clear that a given item will always spawn somewhere around 50 meters under the surface, for example. It also doesn't provide any tracking or helpful information beyond basic visual descriptors. That's fine from a discovery standpoint and theoretically helps keep things slow and steady, but in a game that feels so intent to push forward continually, it feels like swimming against a riptide.

Dave The Diver Review - Screenshot 3 of 5
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

In typical roguelike fashion, there are a number of abilities and powers to pick up that make scouring the deep for swimming delicacies all the easier. Before long, you'll have a number of useful tools at your disposal to aid in your exploration of the Blue Hole. Many are there to help you hunt (or defend yourself from) the pixel fish that populate the Blue Hole, like the trusty harpoon gun, which spears fish with a satisfying whoosh, but doesn't always do the job. That's why you can carry other weapons like rifles and knives that help do more damage against more formidable fauna like sharks, which function as environmentally apt minibosses.

Then, after his two daily dives are done, Dave moonlights as a waiter and manager at Bancho Suchi, which is conveniently perched at the edge of the Hole. There, you'll manage personnel, upgrade menu items, create the night's menu based on your catches from earlier in the day, run food from the kitchen to waiting customers, pour beer and tea, grate wasabi, and take care of a handful of other tasks that manifest as microgames.

Each service is brief, but lively — especially once you get into the thick of it. This game faithfully recreates the feeling of a busy shift as a waiter. Customers get mad and leave if they don't get their food in time, and they don't tip as well if you pour a pint with too much head; Dave The Diver creates a tangible, satisfying sense of tension as you race to the end of the bar, hoping to get food out to the customer before they get too fed-up. It feels great to deliver just in time for diners to enjoy their order and leave a nice tip. At the end of the night, you'll get a recap of how things went and a rating out of five stars based on the restaurant's performance. Doing well will net you the ability to research new dishes to add to the menu.

Dave The Diver Review - Screenshot 4 of 5
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

Almost every metagame-level change you can make, like upgrading a dish or crafting a new weapon to dive with comes with a bespoke animation that fits the character doing the action. They're always funny and highlight an offbeat sense of humor that permeates Dave the Diver's writing, gameplay, animations, and overall presentation. And it really can't be overstated just how many of these individual cutscenes there are. The same goes for small gameplay-driven tasks; they're everywhere, they're well-animated and realized, and are all innately satisfying.

A well-run service provides bountiful benefits that kick back to Dave's diving exploits, and all the microgames feed into each other. The constant rotation between diving and serving melds together like the perfect marriage of wasabi, fish, and seasoned rice in a piece of lovingly crafted sushi.

Similar to a Mario game, Dave the Diver never lets you get bored. Instead, it throws an endless onslaught of new ideas and mechanics at you. It's rich with little interactions that you might only see once, and it rules. The constantly changing ebb-and-flow will assuredly take a hold on your consciousness in a way few games can.


In a year dominated by titanic, big-budget releases like Tears of the Kingdom and Mario Wonder, Dave the Diver steps up to the plate and knocks the ball clear of the park with a heaving swing. Its charming animations and writing supplement a mechanically dense experience that never stops dangling a new carrot to chase. It's one of the few games to come out this year that rivals Mario Wonder's all-out density and charm while doing something almost completely new. You owe it to yourself to pick up this outstandingly funny, enthralling, and weird gem.