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Video Game / Phasmophobia

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"Give us a sign..."

Phasmophobia is a cooperative horror game released on September 18th, 2020 by Kinetic Games. Paranormal activity is on the rise and it’s up to you and your team to use a wide variety of ghost hunting equipment (high tech items like cameras and sensors alongside more traditional methods like ghostwriting and salt) at your disposal in order to gather as much evidence as you can, as a "vanguard" team ahead of the exorcism team to identify what exactly they are up against.

The game is notable for having players use their own microphones to communicate to both to their teammates and to the ghost itself as well as making use of several ghost hunting tools to identify the entity through physical evidence and behavioral patterns. There is no scripting, and no two ghosthunts will go the exact same way. The game takes many inspirations from real life Paranormal Investigation television shows like the USA's Ghost Hunters and the UK's Ghost Hunting with..., although it should be noted that the ghosthunters in this case can very easily become the hunted.


The game is available on Steam as an Early Access title.

The game provides examples of:

  • Abandoned Hospital: The Asylum location is essentially this.
  • The AI Is A Cheating Bastard: The game is generally fairly merciful with hunts provided you take the proper precautions, but despite the game saying that closing doors will protect you during Hunts, doors don't actually exist to ghosts so even if you think you're safe, if you're still in line of sight to a door the ghost can still see you and chase you down, so you have to get out of the doorway's view to be absolutely safe.
  • Artificial Brilliance:
    • Players use their actual voices to speak to the ghosts, and the NPC ghosts react accordingly. The voice recognition is actually fairly sophisticated, and there are over one hundred phrases a player can say in order to trigger the ghost to respond. Using a Spirit Box even allows for direct questioning, wherein the ghost will give consistent answers to inquiries about their age, method of death, gender, and even their emotional state.
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    • Ghosts will accurately stick to their type of behavior and generally react and plan around what type of entity they are. Mares are more active in the dark, and will actively try and shut off the power in order to plunge the entire map into darkness for instance.
    • Hunting ghosts also show brilliance that's in favor of the player during hunts. Instead of having their AI aggressively hunting you down without any chance to escape them, they use their senses to try to find you. Leave a light on while hiding? They'll see it. Forget to turn off your spirit box or EMF reader, or talk in voice chat? They'll hear you. Thus turning off all electronics, shutting up and hiding in the darkness in a locker or behind furniture actually significantly increases odds of survival.
  • Artificial Stupidity: Sometimes ghosts will get stuck on objects on the site or run in the complete opposite direction of the players during a hunt.
  • Attack! Attack! Attack!: This is the primary strategy for Demons, one of the most aggressive ghosts. They hunt often and, as a result, kill often. At the same time their aggressiveness makes them easy to identify, and crucifixes nullify them for some time.
  • Bag of Spilling: If you're killed by the ghost, you lose all your stuff, regardless if another player brings it back to the truck with them. You will have to buy those items again if you want to use them in the next mission. There is some silver-lining in that players who are killed receive Insurance money....unless you're playing on Professional difficulty, in which case you get nothing.
  • Berserk Button: Saying certain things when speaking to the ghost via the in-game voice chat can cause it to become aggressive and anger it.
    • Even the most passive types of ghosts will usually respond aggressively to their names being called. It's implied this causes them some form of pain, so they lash out to whoever's causing it.
    • Doing anything to telegraph that you're afraid of the ghostnote  has an abnormally high chance of immediately starting a Hunt with you as the target.
    • Ghosts really don't like it when they're being called names, particularly of the vulgar variety, as they get more aggressive than normal.
    • Saying "Bloody Mary" also seems to make the ghost aggressive.
    • Threatening a ghost with violence is another that causes the ghosts to get upset. Phrasing it more realistically and saying you're going to exorcise them is even more effective.
  • Big Boo's Haunt: Given the nature of the game, every level qualifies as one.
  • Boss Game: Type 1. There are no other enemies to face in this game. It's just you and your team against a single ghost in each level.
  • Creepy Child: One of the possible forms a ghost can take. They are no less dangerous.
  • Dangerous Forbidden Technique: If you find a Ouija Board on the map, you can turn it on and use it to get specific answers to questions, even if the ghost you're hunting doesn't use the Spirit Box (the only other way to get specific answers). However, getting a response will negatively affect your sanity, not getting a response will tank your sanity, and if you don't get a sanity decrease? The ghost is a Demon, and it's probably going to get aggressive soon. And regardless of whether or not you get a response, there's a one-in-three chance that using the Ouija Board will end the preparation phase immediately.
  • Danger Takes a Backseat: After a fashion. Even the van can be manipulated by a sufficiently pissed-off ghost.
  • Darkness = Death:
    • Besides dealing with a Jinn, ghost attacks will usually be heralded by either a total blackout or the lights flickering uncontrollably. However with the exception of the aforementioned Jinn, ghost activity is usually higher in the dark which makes it easier to witness paranormal events.
    • Also inverts the trope as well: standing in light all the time will anger a ghost, making it more likely to initiate a Hunt. In order to get your investigation completed safely, you will need to stand around in the dark.
  • Daylight Horror: Jinns stand out as the only type of ghosts who become more dangerous when the lights are on, and as such will attempt to light up the level during a hunt.
  • Dead Person Conversation: Players can communicate with the ghost using either the Ouija Board or the Spirit Box.
  • Death Is Cheap: Mostly averted: dying means that you lose all the gear you brought with you on the level. If you're playing on Amateur or Intermediate hunts, you do get some money back as insurance (50% and 25% of the lost item values, respectively), but Professional doesn't give you anything. You also can't successfully complete the investigation, even if you figure out the ghost, so you lose any money from objectives. However, while dead, you do get to see the house in much clearer vision, as well as the location of the ghost at all times; you can't talk to your teammates in-game when you're dead, but there's nothing preventing you from talking to them on Discord or something similar.
  • Developers' Foresight: Swearing causes the spirits to lash out even harder than just saying their name.
  • Do Not Taunt Cthulhu: Repeatedly calling out a ghost's name or cursing at it is a good way to piss it off and make it hunt you.
  • The Dreaded: Demons and Banshees, among the player community. They hunt early and often, and will not stop until somebody is dead. Revenants are also greatly disliked by players as they move faster than the player can at their fastest. You can only pray that it spawns far enough away for you to hide before it starts the chase.
  • Electromagnetic Ghosts: When a ghost is about to attack, all lights flicker or go out. Ghost activity in general can be measured with an Electromagnetic Frequency reader, and ghosts can also turn radios and televisions off and on, and make phones ring, if any are present in the map.
  • Evil Old Folks: A few of the ghosts are this.
  • The Faceless: Some ghosts, for whatever reason, have a hole in the middle of their face, adding to the already high levels of scariness.
  • Ghastly Ghost: Even the less dangerous and more passive ghosts will kill players if provoked, and nearly all ghosts look like mutilated corpses.
  • Ghostly Chill: All ghosts can be detected with a sudden drop in temperature. Dropping the temperature enough to cause your breath to appear (0C, or about 32F) is considered evidence of a specific kind of ghost.
  • Ghostly Wail: Averted, ghosts do not wail. They may, however, make other noises that are no less creepy.
  • Haunted House: With a few exceptions, these are the most common levels players will find themselves investigating.
  • Heartbeat Soundtrack: Once a ghost starts a hunt, the player it is currently chasing will hear this. If this happens the only thing they can do is quickly find a hiding spot, turn off their light, stop talking and pray that it isn't already too late.
  • Hopeless Boss Fight: You cannot harm any ghost in any meaningful way, only stop it temporarily.
  • The Hunter Becomes the Hunted: A ghost may, at any time after the preparation phase, initiate a Hunt, causing EMF activity to spike, the lights to flicker and the front door to lock as they stalk a particular target through the location. If the ghost reaches their target, that person dies immediately. The only hope you have is to avoid their attention until the Hunt is over.
  • Jump Scare: All. Over. The place. Lights can turn on or off randomly. Radios and televisions may turn on. You may, and likely will hear the floors groan. Doors might rattle or even open. Objects may move, or come flying at your face. And that's all benign. Once the ghost starts getting active and/or angry, you get voices whispering in your ear, guttural sounds of terror, shadows, shadows that are only in reflections, ghostly images, and dead bodies with weapons slowly stalking towards you. And god help you on a Hunt.
  • Mission Control: Aside from your in-game superior who finds you jobs to begin with, this is a viable role for a player on your team. The starting point in the truck has multiple instruments that allow a player to watch cameras for ghost orbs, monitor ghost activity levels, motion sensors, sound sensors, and player sanity.
  • Never Split the Party: Sometimes this is sound advice, as some ghosts do not act around multiple people. Other times this is bad advice.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: A big part of the horror of the game is built on this. Most of the time you will not see or hear the ghost while you're searching for them. But they are still there, waiting and watching before they make a move.
  • Nuclear Candle: Averted: flashlights are still the best option for a light source (other than the actual lights in the location, but that reduces ghost activity). However, candles have the advantage of not being affected by Electromagnetic Ghosts, so they remain as a light source at all times. Unless the ghost blows it out.
    • One very crucial advantage candles have over lights is they drastically slow your Sanity drain while you are holding one that is lit. You can also often find free candles scattered around the map and though they blow out after a few minutes, you can easily relight them. If nothing else, they make handy objective markers (put outside the breaker room, ghost room, or exits to find them easily).
  • Numerical Hard: Intermediate and Professional difficulty are best described by how they different from Amateur.
    • Preparation Timenote : 5 minutes on Amateur, 2 minutes on Intermediate, zero minutes on Professional.
    • Sanity Drain: Normal speed on Amateur, 50% faster on Intermediate, 100% faster on Professional.
    • Cash Rewards: Normal on Amateur, 2x multiplier on Intermediate, 3x multiplier on Professional.
    • Experience Rewards: Normal on Amateur, 1.5x multiplier on Intermediate, 2x multiplier on Professional.
    • Insurancenote : 50% of lost value on Amateur, 25% on Intermediate, and zero on Professional.
    • Hunt Phasenote : 25 seconds on Amateur, 35 seconds on Intermediate, and 50 seconds on Professionalnote .
  • Ouija Board: One can be found on any map. Using it at all will drain your sanity and may end the preparation phase instantly (see Dangerous Forbidden Technique). If the ghost is a Demon, using the Ouija will not drain your sanity, but then you have other problems.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: Ghosts come in different classes and exhibit different behaviours and weaknesses. All ghosts however are frightening and hostile to the investigators.
    • Spirits are the most "basic" ghosts with no particular strengths or behaviours. However, this same lack of distinctiveness can make them among the hardest ghosts to identify, as they can adopt a wide range of behaviours characteristic to other types. As usual, the longer it takes to identify a ghost, the more dangerous it gets.
    • Wraiths are the only ghosts that can fly, meaning that it will very rarely make the footstep sounds that other ghosts make. More dangerously, they can see and pass through solid objects, so doors and cupboards, and other obstacles will not protect you. Salt has a particularly strong effect on Wraiths, and they will immediately cease attacking if they touch a salt pile. However, this will anger them, making it more likely that they'll start a Hunt for the rest of the encounter, manifesting in a permanent increase in activity levels.
    • Phantoms are slow-moving but drain your Sanity if you look at it. They have also been documented manifesting as doppelgangers of investigators, which can trick players into looking at it. Taking a photo of a Phantom will cause it to temporarily disappear, though this will not stop a Hunt in progress, but rather only delay it.
    • Poltergeists are noisy and disruptive, and will manipulate the environment more frequently than any other type of ghost. This can cause players to lose Sanity if they are not directly witnessing the event. Aside from throwing around loose items, they can close and open doors. They also tend to be quite active outside of their Ghost Room. Thus far, they are the only type of ghost which can be identified with just two pieces of evidence: finding Ghost Orbs and Fingerprints guarantees that the ghost is a Poltergeist.
    • Shades are noted for their shyness and will rarely perform any action in the presence of two or more people, forcing players to split up. They're very unlikely to start a Hunt if there's more than one person in the same room, but they have no problem immediately starting a hunt as soon as everyone else leaves.
    • Demons are probably the worst kind of ghost to encounter. They are extremely aggressive and may attack unprovoked, sometimes as soon as the player steps outside of the van. You can use a Ouija board to communicate with a Demon without losing Sanity, which can help you quickly identify it (if you have someone in the van), as well as locate its Ghost Room. Demons are quite slow however, and can be repelled with Smudge Sticks, Salt and Crucifixes if you're prepared. Note that while its aggression leads to frequent Hunts, other ghosts under appropriate circumstances may attack just as often.
    • Banshees are the other incredibly dangerous ghost, alongside Demons, being very aggressive and difficult to consistently detect. Banshees are unique in that they fixate on one player to the exclusion of all others: if that player is alive, the Banshee will do their best to make that player dead, and only then will they move on to another target. This is helpful if you can identify the target player. It's also terrifying if you are the target player, because you'll have to put yourself in danger so that everyone else can gather evidence, and hiding is considerably less effective because the Banshee will always have an idea of where you are. The only saving grace is that Banshees are easier to affect with a crucifix.
    • Jinn are empowered from having the lights on: they move much faster, allowing them to quickly "sprint" to a player's location during a hunt. This makes them the only type of ghost where it's better to do most of the investigation in complete darkness, turning off the power box to keep it from switching on any lights. Jinn also tend to stick around their Ghost Room, reacting only when players intrude on their territory
    • Mares are the opposite of Jinn: they work best in the dark. They will turn off the lights and Fuse Box when they get the chance so that they may move faster and hunt more frequently in the dark. Keeping the lights on (particularly in its Ghost Room) is key to reducing its aggression.
    • Oni act similar to Demons but only become more aggressive when players are grouped together, forcing you to split up if you want to play it safe. Like Poltergeists, they may also throw around objects, though this does not lead to a noticeable decrease in sanity levels. They also tend to wander far from their Ghost Room.
    • Revenants are usually quite slow but move faster than the players while hunting, and unlike every other ghost, they can switch targets if another is closer by. That said, they will move much slower during a Hunt if they cannot maintain line-of-sight to a player, which makes hiding even more effective against them.
    • Yurei behave much like a vanilla Spirit, but they passively drain sanity faster than any other ghost. They are particularly susceptible to smudge sticks, which prevent them from wandering for much longer than other ghosts.
  • Old School Building: Brownstone High School, one of the medium-sized hauntings alongside the Asylum.
  • One-Hit Kill: What happens if a ghost that's attacking manages to catch you. You'll see the ghost reaching to grab you from behind while your teammates will see you holding your neck as if you're being strangled.
  • Paranormal Investigation: What the player(s) are tasked with doing. Notably you're not trying to exorcise or remove the ghost, but are gathering information about what kind of ghost you're dealing with so another team can deal with it more efficiently.
  • Poltergeist: One of the many types of ghosts, and also the most likely to throw objects.
  • Sadly Mythtaken: Most of the ghost classifications borrow the names of various folklore creatures that have nothing to do with ghosts, like the Germanic Mare or the Japanese Oni.
  • Sanity Meter: Each player has one, displayed as a percentage in the van. Reaching zero sanity is not a death sentence, but it does make the ghost far more aggressive, attacking as often as possible (which can be every minute on Professional difficulty). Sanity also affects things such as the frequently and magnitude of ghost activity: lower sanity means more chances for evidence. Ghosts also tend to prioritize the lowest sanity member of the party as the target of their hunts.
  • Shout-Out: In the Halloween update, a new ghost was added into the game resembling famous horror ghosts like The Ring or The Grudge.
  • Sickly Green Glow: Fingerprints appear as glowing green under UV light.
  • Spooky Photographs: There will sometimes be objectives asking you to capture a photo of the ghost. Taking a picture of a Phantom will also cause it to disappear temporarily.
  • Super-Persistent Predator: Banshees will single out a player and fixate on them to the exclusion of other players, and will hunt aggressively and frequently to try to kill their chosen fixation, only moving on to attack another player once they've gotten their prey. This is a double-edged sword as it allows the team to work around it for the most part during investigations, but means the chosen party member has to willfully put themselves in danger to make paranormal activity happen.
  • Supernatural Repellent: You can bring in crucifixes, smudge sticks and salt to prevent the ghost from attacking. Crucifixes are the most powerful but the hardest to use: ghosts that move within 3 meters (5 meters for Banshees) of a crucifix on the ground (not in a player's hand) will stop an active hunt. If the ghost isn't on an active hunt, or if it doesn't get close enough to the crucifix, it does absolutely nothing. Smudge sticks generally affect an entire room, and have varying effects on a ghost, usually making it less aggressive or restricting it to a location for a while, but they require a lighter to light, meaning two of your three inventory spots are occupied. Salt is more of a landmine: ghosts that step on it are repelled. However, Wraiths can fly over salt, and get angry when they encounter it.
  • Turns Red: Players start with five minutes to gather evidence or prepare themselves for activity before the ghost starts to become aggressive. Once the five minutes are up, the ghost will become much more active and will attempt to kill the players once sufficiently provoked. On Intermediate difficulty the preparation phase is reduced to two minutes. On Professional, there is no grace period. The ghost is active from the moment you open the front door.
  • Vengeful Ghost: Some ghost types are described in the journal as coming back because of this.
  • Voodoo Doll: One can be found on farmhouse maps. Its effects are currently unknown, but it seems to affect sanity negatively, and may be more susceptible to ghost activity.
  • Who You Gonna Call?: The player party are advanced scouts for a ghost hunting/exorcising group, their job is to identify the ghost as best as they possibly can so the actual exorcism team knows what they're heading into.


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