Phasmophobia is unlike any horror game out there right now

Phasmophobia header on the Steam store. Image credit to Kinetic Games.

You wait inside the van, flipping through your book in anticipation, wondering what kind of ghost haunts this house. A static scream then pierces through your radio. Your friend died, again, leaving you to solve this haunted mess. 

“Phasmophobia” tackles the multiplayer horror genre differently than any other game I’ve played. “Left 4 Dead” and “Dead by Daylight” are fun but don’t invoke the level of fear and anxiety that Phasmophobia does. You and up to four other players (although there are mods to raise that cap to eight) pick from a series of jobs to do: and the certainty of living isn’t always there. 

Phasmophobia launch trailer.

“Phasmophobia”, which also has VR support, has been able to break barriers for a small indie game with only one developer. It has stayed on the top sellers list on Steam for a decent amount of time now with big-name titles like “Cyberpunk 77,” “Destiny 2” and “Baldur’s Gate 3.” 

Ghosts interact with everything around you. They flicker the lights, turn sinks on and off, write friendly messages such as “DIE DIE DIE,” in spirit books you leave in the house and even speak to you through a spirit box, which has to be the most nerve-wracking thing to use. Some homes even have Ouija boards you can use to communicate with the ghost, but use at your discretion, unless you have a deathwish. 

You start with basic jobs: homes with only a few rooms and maybe a basement. But, that can change quickly as you become a more experienced ghost hunter. 

The higher level you get, the more serious the jobs are. Huge maps that scale multiple floors like the worn-down asylum can take a lot longer to find the ghost’s preferred location, and the dreary ambiance and white noise doesn’t calm your nerves. 

Maps like these require some well-planned teamwork and a lot of gear. The items you gain access to as you get higher level can immensely help your jobs, quickly debunking which ghost is and isn’t the culprit for haunting the location.  

All of these concepts tied together makes you feel like you and your friends have your own reality TV ghost-hunting show. 

“Phasmophobia” is extremely fun to play and even fun for others to watch as well. Whenever my friends and I boot up the game, someone usually asks for it to be streamed on the Discord server. They typically laugh as we suffer, begging for our lives while getting hunted by a demon. 

Like many others who tried out this now insanely popular game, I’m not a big horror fan, and I’d be the one to die first in a real ghost-hunting scenario. “Phasmophobia” can challenge that fear with the gratification of actually completing the job in full. But, it can also scare you to the point of ALT-F4ing and never opening the game again. (Until you’re convinced by a friend to start playing once more.) 

Anya Von Dolteren, a new player to the game, felt you had to play the game under certain circumstances to get scared. 

Video compilation of various players encountering ghosts. 

“Most of the horror in Phasmophobia is determined by the atmosphere and how seriously I take the game. If I play with the lights on or with someone talking near me I can’t really get into it and don’t find it to be very scary,” Von Dolteren said. 

She adds, however, that the game is still different from other horror games she has experienced. “I think most of the power to be creeped out or the likewise is entirely up in the air. Multiplayer is also one of the largest aspects and being able to have a scary experience with friends can be really enjoyable,” Von Dolteren said.

Image of a ghost in Phasmophobia. Image credit to user Dameorw on fandom.com.

In the first real game I played with my friends, we picked the most straightforward house we could and it ended up feeling like ‘easy’ just meant the size of the house. The ghost only responded to people if they were alone, so we had to split up. My friends had found the room it was most active in and began setting up the gear to try and identify the ghost so we could leave as soon as possible. As I stepped back inside with some extra equipment, the door was slammed shut behind me. My breath could be seen in front of me as temperatures dropped, and I heard someone or something breathing down my neck. After turning around from trying to pry the door open, I saw it. I panicked. I screamed for my fellow ghost hunters through the radio, and they eventually showed up, and the ghastly figure was gone, for now. 

The more we progress through the game, the closer we got to unlocking the asylum. And when we did, boy were we in for a surprise. 

It was a maze. There were dozens of rooms, and it felt almost impossible to find where the ghost called home. We set up equipment everywhere in attempts to narrow down the location of the ghost. Motion and sound sensors were scattered around, along with video cameras, to capture evidence of the spirit. Finding it was proving difficult, so out of frustration, we began to scream its name down the dark corridors covering the asylum. It heard us and killed one of my friends shortly after. 

Developers are continually working on the game, and fans can suggest additions or tweaks to the game in a Discord server dedicated to “Phasmophobia.” Even if you aren’t the biggest fan of horror games, I’d highly recommend picking it up to play with friends. 

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