Dave the Diver is Steam’s next viral hit and for good reason

Steam is a wide ocean of games and only a select few ever really rise to the top. Every once in a while, though, a smaller indie gem makes its way to the surface and emerges as a breakout success. We’ve seen it previously with games like Among Us, Loop Hero, and Valheim, but this summer’s surprise hit is making an especially big splash. I mean, when’s the last time you saw a 2D fishing game earn more concurrent players than Call of Duty? That’s exactly what’s happening with Dave the Diver.

Developed by Mintrocket, Dave the Diver is a unique fishing RPG that’s earned ‘overwhelmingly positive’ status on Steam with over 20,000 reviews. While it may sound like something that came entirely out of left field, the indie is actually an early access success story, as Mintrocket has slowly built the project alongside fans since it launched in 2022. A grand 1.0 release in late June pushed the promising project over the top and made it a bona fide hit with PC players.

So, what makes Dave the Diver so special? There’s a whole lot to love in this summertime hit.

Dive in

Dave the Diver is a unique blend of 2D adventure, underwater RPG, and sushi shop simulator. Think Ecco the Dolphin meets Diner Dash, though even that doesn’t paint a full picture of its wealth of addictive, creative gameplay hooks.

The basic premise is that players take the role of Dave, a scuba diver who’s tasked with gathering supplies for a seaside sushi shop. During the day, he pops into the ocean to harpoon fish and harvest ingredients. That part of it plays out a bit like Steamworld Dig, where players grab as much as they can carry and return it to the surface before their oxygen runs out. There’s a lot of good old-fashioned risk-reward there, as wiping out means dropping almost everything. Though that healthy stress is counterbalanced by almost zen underwater exploration, as lo-fi beats and colorful pixel art turn each run into a pleasant vacation.

Dave dives underwater in Dave the Diver.
Mintrocket

Each night, Dave then takes those materials to a sushi bar and is in charge of managing the dinner rush. Players create a menu each night, serve impatient guests as quickly as possible, and try to raise the shop’s reputation to unlock more recipes and features. It’s a classic restaurant simulator premise, complete with a few small serving minigames and an eventual staff managing component.

Those two ideas work together like a well-oiled machine. Diving gives Dave fish that he can turn into sushi, which can be sold to upgrade his diving equipment for more fruitful runs. It’s a tightly wound progression loop that makes each day and night feel productive. And that’s only a small portion of its rewarding hooks too. Dives can also turn up weapon blueprints that can be built and upgraded back on Dave’s boat, bracelets that give him passive boosts, research tasks that bring their own rewards, and much more. It’s constantly introducing new systems without overcomplicating its elegant sea-to-table core.

Dave serves customers sushi in Dave the Diver.
Mintrocket

That design philosophy runs through its story too, which is similarly multilayered. What begins as the simple tale of a run-down restaurant’s comeback expands out in scope as Dave meets activists, fights pirates, and discovers the secrets of a lost underwater civilization. That may sound a little messy, but all those threads tie together neatly to paint a full picture of its world’s inner workings.

The only narrative piece that’s giving me pause so far is its way of hand-waving away some of the moral questions a game about killing thousands of fish presents. An early plot thread sets some boundaries, separating Dave from what the game paints as a significantly more harmful commercial fishing industry. It’s a little hard to separate the two, though, considering that the core progression hook is built around Dave being able to kill and carry more fish as time goes on. I’m still working through the main story so I’ve yet to see if there’s much more nuance to it, but that thread already seems to be taking a backseat to a fantasy story about merpeople.

Regardless of how well it’ll stick the landing for me, Dave the Diver has already become my July obsession. It’s the perfect summer game to take on the go during vacation season, as it runs smoothly on my Steam Deck. If you’ve been hearing the name but don’t know what the fuss is, don’t be afraid to jump in. The water’s more than fine.

Dave the Diver is available now on PC.

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