After only 3 hours this fishing and restaurant management RPG has rocketed to the top of my GOTY shortlist

Three cheerful people, one of them in a scuba outfit
(Image credit: Mintrocket)

It was already enough that a game let me go spearfishing in the morning and then serve the fish I caught in a sushi restaurant in the evening. I was perfectly content doing that and only that: diving into a beautiful ocean, hunting for colorful fish, putting together a menu, and then serving customers until closing time. Blissful!

But that's honestly just the beginning in Dave The Diver, which just hit 1.0 this week after 10 months in early access. It's quickly shaping up to be one of my favorite games of the year—and I say that confidently after only playing it for a few hours.

In Dave The Diver you're Dave (The Diver), an affable and highly suggestible schmoe who keeps getting talked into stuff. Cancel your tropical vacation and start work as a spearfisherman for some guy you know? Sure. Use the fish you catch in a sushi restaurant that you have to work at and manage? Why not? Find evidence of an ancient underwater mermaid society and terrifyingly huge sea monsters? OK. No problem! Dave is game for doing just about anything anyone asks of him.

And there's a lot being asked of him in this mostly chill (but occasionally frantic) game, and the longer you play the more there is to do. Check out the launch trailer above if you don't believe me. Farming? Crafting? Photography? Music? Seahorse racing? Boss battles? Yep. All of the above.

In Dave The Diver, spearfishing takes place in the "Blue Hole," a mysterious patch of ocean that randomizes itself a bit each day, so the layout of the reefs and the creatures and items you'll find will always be a little different. There are fish to chase and spear (and plenty that will chase you, including barracuda, sharks, moray eels, and worse), crafting resources to gather, crates with extra supplies and weapon blueprints, and even mysterious caverns to investigate.

Man swimming underwater

(Image credit: Mintrocket)

Everything Dave uses can be upgraded, from his oxygen tanks to his harpoon, and there are power-ups to find while diving to compliment your standard gear, like incendiary harpoons and proximity mines. You can dive twice per day, once in the morning and once in the afternoon, so I usually try to focus on catching fish for the restaurant in one dive and exploring or completing quests in the other.

There are lots of quests because there are lots of characters in Dave The Diver, and every few days it feels like someone new shows up needing something: a researcher wanting specific types of shells, an historian who's looking for evidence of an undersea society, a weapon merchant needing a lost package from a shipwreck, and more. Dave's smartphone quickly fills up with contacts as his diving chest fills up with loot.

Man mixing a drink at a sushi restaurant

(Image credit: Mintrocket)

The restaurant is plenty busy, too, and your responsibilities include everything from selecting which items go on the menu, researching new recipes, leveling up dishes for your chef (which often results in glorious, anime-inspired cutscenes), and then serving impatient customers, Diner Dash Style. But it doesn't stop there, because you can hire employees, change the decor, and improve your sushi joint's follower count on social media, which unlocks new options and upgrades. And VIP customers show up occasionally demanding specific dishes, which you have a couple days to source the ingredients for during your next few dives.

It's a lot! It's very busy! And yet… it's utterly relaxing? Somehow despite having loads of quests and a limited oxygen supply while diving, and a bunch of impatient customers demanding sushi while managing the restaurant, Dave The Diver has one of the most chilled-out vibes I've felt in game. 

It's also fantastic on the Steam Deck, if you've got one (if not, there's a Steam Deck sale this week). Game of the Year? Too early to tell, but it's definitely made my shortlist. 

Christopher Livingston
Senior Editor

Chris started playing PC games in the 1980s, started writing about them in the early 2000s, and (finally) started getting paid to write about them in the late 2000s. Following a few years as a regular freelancer, PC Gamer hired him in 2014, probably so he'd stop emailing them asking for more work. Chris has a love-hate relationship with survival games and an unhealthy fascination with the inner lives of NPCs. He's also a fan of offbeat simulation games, mods, and ignoring storylines in RPGs so he can make up his own.