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Phasmophobia (video game)

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Stylized white text, spelling out the word "Phasmophobia" in all-caps, on a black backdrop.
Cover art
Developer(s)Kinetic Games
Publisher(s)Kinetic Games
Platform(s)Microsoft Windows
  • Windows
  • 18 September 2020
    (early access)
    PS5 & Xbox Series X/S
Genre(s)Survival horror, puzzle
Mode(s)Single-player, multiplayer

Phasmophobia is a paranormal horror game by British indie game studio Kinetic Games. The game became available in early access for Microsoft Windows with virtual reality support in September 2020. In the game, one to four players work to complete a contract where they must identify the type of ghost haunting a designated site. It is based on the popular hobby of ghost hunting.

Phasmophobia rose in popularity after many Twitch streamers and YouTubers played it during October 2020,[1] becoming the sixth-most popular game on Twitch of that month and the best selling game on Steam globally for several weeks from October to November 2020.[2][3] It earned positive reviews from critics, who praised its innovativeness.


Phasmophobia is a horror investigation survival game played from a first-person perspective. The player works solo or in a group with up to three other players to complete a contract in which they must identify the type of ghost haunting the specified site. Players can communicate through voice chat, both locally within a short distance and globally via walkie-talkies. Phasmophobia features speech recognition[4][5] allowing certain pieces of equipment, Cursed Possessions, and even the ghost to hear players speaking and understand key words and phrases. Gathering evidence to determine the correct ghost type and surviving will net the majority of the cash and XP, but completing objectives and taking photos will augment or even double the rewards. Investigators are encouraged to complete as much as possible to level up and earn money to unlock maps, levels, and item upgrades.

Players create or join a lobby where preparation for the contracts is done. Phasmophobia gives players the option to customize their appearance by picking between eight different paranormal investigators to distinguish between group members. Located at two corkboards in the lobby, a contract location is voted on between players, while the difficulty is set by the host. All equipment is purchased and upgraded at a computer in the lobby and selected to be loaded into a van from which the group will operate upon arriving at the site. Players who survive and have completed their objectives (or wish to give up) must return to the Van to leave.

Phasmophobia features twenty-four different ghosts, each of which behaves differently and provides unique clues. Upon arriving at the site, one of these ghost types will be randomly assigned for the mission. As players attempt to complete the contract, sanity will drain with certain events and circumstances affecting the rate at which it does so. When sanity is low enough, a ghost will begin to hunt and attempt to kill the players (assuming the "Friendly Ghost" custom difficulty setting, which disables hunts, is not enabled). During the hunting phase, all exit doors are locked so players must outrun and/or hide from the ghost until the end of the hunt. Depending on the ghost type's strengths and weaknesses, it may be able to hunt when sanity is higher or lower.


As of May 2024, there are twelve sites of various sizes: small, medium, and large. The small maps include four suburban-style houses, two farmhouses with reworks planned for the near future, a small campsite, and a restricted variant of the larger asylum map. The medium maps are a campsite and a prison, and the large maps are a high school and a mental institution. Potential future maps located at an apartment building, mansion, and hospital have been hinted at, with a new map that the Kinetic Games developers called Point Hope, a unique lighthouse where each room encompasses a full floor.


Upon starting the game for the first time, players will be presented with a set of rudimentary starter equipment consisting of eight Tier I items: an old radio, a notepad, a laser pen, an electromagnetic field detector, an old camcorder, a mercury thermometer, a UV glowstick, and a retro metallic flashlight, with more of these available to buy in the store, assuming the player has enough funds to do so. Additional equipment types or upgrades can be unlocked depending on player level and subsequently purchased. Certain types of equipment like Firelights, Igniters, Incense, and Crucifixes may be needed to complete the optional objectives and protect players.

Upon loading into the contract, players will start in the Van where they will find the equipment they have selected and another corkboard, the Objective Board, listing the objectives they need to complete as well as the name of the ghost and showing all ten of their photos. It also houses the Surveillance Computer (used to monitor CCTV cameras and video feeds), the Sanity Monitor (used to monitor player sanity), a map of the current site, the Sound Sensor Screen (used to stream audio into the Truck and monitor said audio), and the Site Activity Monitor (used to monitor the ghost's activity). This set of equipment is permanently located inside the Van and is used to track the status of the players and ghost’s activity, although on Nightmare and Insanity difficulties as well as with two specific Custom Difficulty settings, the Sanity Monitor and Site Activity monitor may be disabled and appear as smashed screens. Players will also have a journal on hand permanently where information about the ghosts, evidence, objectives, and photos can be found. Evidence and ghost identification must be marked in the Journal to receive money and XP that can be used to purchase and upgrade more equipment.


Players must utilize the various pieces of equipment to identify the three pieces of evidence unique to the type of ghost they are dealing with, and often to complete optional objectives as well.[6][7] However, on Nightmare difficulty and higher, the ghost will only show two or lower pieces of evidence, forcing players to use the ghost's special traits and abilities to determine the correct ghost type. Custom settings can be used to set the amount of evidence the ghost will give and ranges from 3 to 0 evidence. Some ghosts also have forced evidence, which will always show up as long as there's at least 1 evidence given. As of May 2024, there are seven possible pieces of ghost evidence.

Photo Evidence[edit]

Additional photo evidence can be taken with a Photo Camera to earn extra money and will give points according to the category, distance, and position in the frame from which the photo was taken (which is denoted by a star rating). A photo of the ghost will net the most money, but other items that count towards photo evidence include bones, dead bodies (of teammates), fingerprints, footprints, disturbed salt, interactions, dirty water, used crucifixes, Ghost Writing, and Cursed Possessions.

Kinetic Games has stated that reworks to the Photo system will be coming in the near future, with Video and Sound evidence.

Cursed Possessions[edit]

Cursed Possessions, also called "Cursed Items" or "Cursed Objects", are a group of items in Phasmophobia that allow players to directly interact with the ghost itself. Some abilities of the Cursed Possessions include the ability to make the ghost appear, force a hunt, ask the ghost questions, or even kill the player. As of May 2024, there are a total of seven cursed possessions in Phasmophobia. They include the Ouija Board, Music Box, Haunted Mirror, Tarot Cards, Summoning Circle, Voodoo Doll, and the Monkey Paw. Each item offers a distinct way of interacting with the ghost. Each cursed item has a 1 in 7 chance to spawn on each map, with different spawn locations for each item. Only one cursed possession will spawn on the map unless set otherwise via custom difficulty.[8] Having any Cursed Possession reduces the multiplier of custom games, while specifically choosing once lowers it further. The Monkey Paw is the most extreme, with a 5x multiplier reduction. The Music Box, Haunted Mirror, Tarot Cards, Summoning Circle, and Voodoo Doll were all released in the update 0.5.0, known as the Cursed Possessions update.

  • The Ouija Board was the first Cursed Possession in Phasmophobia, being present in early alpha and the initial release. Similar to a Spirit Box, the Ouija Board allows players to ask the ghost questions, such as "Where are you?" or "How old are you?". The Ouija Board can give players more helpful answers than a Spirit Box. The ghost will respond by moving the dial to one letter at a time, spelling out an answer. Asking questions on the Ouija Board will lower the player's sanity more or less depending on the question. Asking the question "Hide and Seek" will count down and trigger a cursed hunt, and asking a question without enough sanity will break the Ouija Board and trigger a cursed hunt. Ouija Boards can reliably be found in basements, closets, or other storage spaces.
  • The Music Box is an item that allows the player to locate the ghost. Once the Music Box is obtained, a player can trigger it, and the ghost will begin to creepily hum along with the music. Any players nearby will start losing sanity depending on their distance from the Music Box. Once a player drops the Music Box or runs out of sanity while the song is playing, the Music Box gets too close to the ghost, or the ghost is near the Music Box for too long, the ghost will immediately begin a cursed hunt. Music Boxes can usually be found on shelves or tables.
  • The Haunted Mirror is a Cursed Possession that allows players to peer into it and see the ghost room. Each time a player looks into the mirror, their sanity will decrease by a significant chunk immediately, and then further over time. If a player runs out of sanity while looking into it, it will break and trigger a cursed hunt. Depending on the map, the Haunted Mirror can either be found on a wall or lying down.
  • Tarot Cards are a Cursed Possession that can be used by "pulling" cards from the deck. There are a total of 10 tarot cards in the deck. When pulling a tarot card, the card will burn with a distinct flame effect, the color present in this effect depends on what card was pulled. Some tarot cards can benefit the player, such as restoring their sanity significantly or even fully restoring it. "The High Priestess" has a 2% chance of being pulled and can revive a player who has died; if no one has died, the player will receive an extra life. There are also tarot cards that are less desirable to receive as a player, such as "The Moon", a card that drops a player's sanity to 0%, or "Death", the card that triggers a cursed hunt. One tarot card, called "The Hanged Man", has a 1% chance of being pulled and will immediately kill the player if pulled. Tarot Cards are typically found on tables.
  • The Summoning Circle is a Cursed Possession that can spawn on the floor of an area, typically a basement. The Summoning Circle is a circle outlined in red that is surrounded by 5 candles. Players can light the candles using an igniter. Each candle lit will drain some of the player's sanity. Once all 5 candles are lit, the ghost will appear in the middle of the circle. After appearing, if the player had the required amount of sanity to light all 5 candles, the ghost will remain still for a few seconds before beginning a cursed hunt. If not, the ghost will immediately begin a cursed hunt.
  • The Voodoo Doll is a cursed item that allows players to trigger ghost interactions. There are a total of 10 pins in the Voodoo Doll, and ghost interactions can be triggered by pushing the pins into the doll. Each pin that is pushed into the doll will drain the player's sanity slightly. If the heart pin is pushed into the doll, it will trigger a cursed hunt and drain a slightly bigger chunk of sanity. If the player doesn't have enough sanity to use the doll and still tries to push a pin, all remaining pins will be forced into the doll and a cursed hunt will begin. Voodoo Dolls are typically found on beds or atop raised objects.
  • The Monkey Paw, the 7th Cursed Possession, was added in the content update on February 27th, 2023. The Monkey Paw allows the players to make a variety of different wishes by speaking into their microphone (using one of 10 phrases). Once a wish is made, a finger on the monkey paw will then curl, showing that the wish has been granted. A player can make a maximum of 5 wishes using the monkey paw depending on the difficulty multiplier, with the minimum amount of wishes being 3.[9] Each wish has both an upside and a downside, which are proportional to the strength of the wish in question. Some wishes include one that eliminates an evidence but neuters the wishing player's senses of hearing and sight for the rest of the contract. Another good example is the wish that revives a dead player but has a 50/50 shot to kill the wishing player. Monkey Paws are usually in cabinets or kids' rooms.

Ghost types[edit]

As of May 2024, Phasmophobia has 24 different ghost types. Most of these ghost types are based on creatures and entities from various cultures and religions, such as:

the Banshee from Irish folklore;

the Yokai, and Yurei from Japanese folklore;

the Jinn from Islamic folklore;

The Demon from Christianity.

Each ghost type is the same at its base, simply modified with different abilities it can use, as well as times it can hunt. The Spirit is the best example of this base, only possessing a simple weakness.


Sanity is a parameter that determines a number of factors during gameplay. Sanity begins at 100% at the start of a game and decreases passively as the player wanders in dark areas. Active ghost actions such as ghost events will drain sanity faster, and certain ghosts' abilities will drop sanity even faster. The lower the average sanity, the more likely a ghost is to perform certain actions, including ghost events, interactions, and hunts. Sanity drain can be reduced by holding a lit Firelight by different amounts depending on the Tier or standing in lit areas. Sanity can be restored by using Sanity Medication or using Cursed Possessions, most of which use sanity as a cost for their abilities.


The hunt is a gameplay feature designed to add complexity and danger to players' investigation of a specific location. When a hunt occurs, the ghost manifests and wanders throughout the area to eliminate one or more players, depending on the difficulty. A standard hunt can be prevented with a crucifix, but a Cursed hunt, triggered by a Cursed Possession, can only be prevented with a Tier III crucifix. Throughout an unprevented hunt, the lights near the ghost's current position will intermittently flicker, all exit doors will be locked, and the ghost will disrupt active electronic devices nearby. Some ghosts exhibit abilities during hunts that could make them stronger or weaker, depending on the ghost, and these abilities can be used to determine the ghost type if the investigators know what they're looking for. In addition to the varying abilities amongst ghosts, all ghosts exhibit the ability to hear other players talking through their microphones. Talking during a hunt when near the ghost will alert the ghost of the player's location and they will move in the direction of the player's voice. During a hunt, leaving electronic devices active in one's hand or inventory, such as the flashlight, will also attract the ghost to the player's location if the ghost is close enough.[10] Hunts will last longer on bigger maps; and on higher difficulties, hunts will be extended if the ghost kills someone. Cursed Possessions can elongate hunt durations further.

Custom difficulty[edit]

In September 2022 an update was released which added the custom difficulty to the game, with a rebalance in February 2023. This custom difficulty makes the player able to change certain settings to the mission. Changing the settings will result in money and XP multipliers that could be more or less rewarding, depending on the difficulty of the settings.[11] Changeable settings include player/ghost speed, weather, hiding places, flashlights working, Cursed Possession amounts, evidence amounts, starting sanity, and more.


The game's Steam page was launched in March 2020. An announcement trailer was released three months later, announcing additional VR support and a release date for the early access build. On September 18th, 2020, the game was released in early access for $14.[12] After the release, the game received two major updates regarding bug fixes in the following week and several major content updates over the next 3 years..[13] On June 13th, 2023, Kinetic Games announced that console versions of the game would be released in August, however, due to a fire that occurred at the Kinetic Games office, they were pushed back to October,[14] however, on October 17th, 2023, Kinetic Games announced again that console versions of the game were delayed again due to “Unforeseen challenges” caused by the fire and was yet pushed back again with no confirmed date this time. [15]

In the future, Kinetic Games has promised reworks to core systems like Photo evidence, Progression, CCTV, horror, hunts, events, and more, as well as new additions, including Video and Sound evidence, character customization, new character models and animations, new optional objectives and tasks, new interactions, hallucinations, and new ghost models.


Although first released around mid-September, the game began to pick up steam around the beginning of October for Halloween. This was the game's first time becoming trending and was being played by many notable Twitch streamers and YouTubers.[16][17] This was likely due to the game becoming early access around the beginning of the Halloween season, as well as being similar in popularity to its inspiration P.T.[18] In addition to gameplay by notable content creators, many of the games initial players took to social media to share their clips of the game. Users on these social media platforms would re-share the clips or download the game for themselves. A large portion of Phasmophobia's immediate popularity and success can be attributed to its presence on social media.[19] It could also be due to the start of the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic causing many people to stay at home.[20]

With the influx of players due to the large number of popular streamers playing the game, hackers became widespread during the later weeks of the game's release, mostly by trying to jumpscare players or spawn an infinite amount of items.[21] One of the more concerning examples of hacking were stream snipers, who changed their player models to a more NSFW one, likely causing said streamers to receive warnings and bans for inappropriate content.[22][23] The developers then began working on updates to solve the problem.[24]

On Twitch, the game grew exponentially and even reached the top 5 most viewed games in mid-October, overtaking games such as Among Us, Fortnite Battle Royale, FIFA 21, and Genshin Impact.[25][26] According to online player tracker GitHyp, the game hit a peak of over 86,000 active players around October 10th.[27][28]


Phasmophobia was well-received by critics. GameRant named it the best horror game available on Steam, saying that "Even with no official Metacritic score, players on Steam have been incredibly impressed with Phasmophobia, and with the game coming to consoles soon, even more players will get to experience the horror in no time."[30] Since August 2023, IGN considered it one of the "12 Best Horror Games on PC", stating that "Nothing beats that moment when you suddenly see your friend twist and contort from getting got by one of Phasmophobia’s many evil spirits as you all scramble to the exit for a hasty escape."[31]

Rich Stanton of PC Gamer called it "the best ghost game ever made", as well as declaring that it was "unlike anything else I've played", and that it "comes up with shit that'll turn you white".[6] Cass Marshall, writing in Polygon, also gave a positive review, describing it as "a nice, cozy kind of horror and once it gets rolling, it is brilliant", while also finding that the game had numerous bugs which have since been fixed. Jeuxvideo.com described the game as being quite original and imaginative, on top of being creepy. They felt that the maps in the game were well thought out and that the level of progression was well-paced. Whilst the review criticized the game for its animations and certain redundancies, they felt that they would likely be smoothed out with constant updates before the game's release.[32] A review by CBR described the game as "the perfect game for the Halloween season", praising it for its unique jumpscares, as well as for its sound design.[20] The game has been compared to many other horror games of a similar nature, such as Friday the 13th: The Game and Dead by Daylight.[33]


The game became a Steam top-seller, and by the end of October 2020, was the best selling game of that week, even beating out Fall Guys and pre-orders for Cyberpunk 2077.[34][32] It was the highest selling game on Steam for three weeks in a row.[35]


Award Date of ceremony Category Result Ref.
The Game Awards December 10, 2020 Best Debut Game Won [36]
The Steam Awards January 3, 2021 VR Game of the Year Nominated [37]
Game Developers Choice Awards July 21, 2021 Best Debut Developer Won [38]


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