Phasmophobia Has Nailed the “Co-op Horror” Genre Where Other Games Missed the Mark

The co-op horror genre is one not often explored. The combination of these two genres has been tried before, successfully & unsuccessfully, but few games have hit the nail on the head in providing a co-op experience that truly captures the fear of being chased down by a ghost or monster with friends or strangers by your side.

To start, we need to understand what the term “co-op horror” means. Everyone should be familiar with both terms on their own. A co-op game is one wherein players must work together to complete an objective, whilst a horror game aims to excite and scare its players by giving them the thrill of being hunted down by a ghost or monster that wishes to do them harm. So when you combine these two genres, you’re looking at a game that puts a group of players together that are aiming to be complete an objective whilst avoiding being hunted down by a presence that wishes to harm them. The concept itself is fairly easy to understand, the execution of this is a lot more difficult.

When creating a co-op horror game there are many things to consider. What will be the threat? How many players can be in a single session? And what kind of features make the game unique and, most importantly, fun? Depending on what your answers are to these questions will heavily define how your game is played and how enjoyable it is for those playing it. Let's take a look at some of the most successful co-op horror games on the market by establishing where they stand and how they compare to Phasmophobia.

 

Established Co-op Horror Games

If you’re into PvP or Survival games then there’s a good chance you’ve heard of at least one of these titles before or maybe you’ve played them yourself, either way, both of these games fit the criteria of what makes a co-op horror game, sort of. They are Dead by Daylight & The Forest.

Dead by Daylight is a 4v1 multiplayer horror game where one player takes on the role of the savage Killer, and the other four players play as Survivors trying to escape the Killer and avoid being caught. Survivors must activate generators to power doors that allow them to escape. The Forest meanwhile is a survival horror game wherein the player is the lone survivor of a passenger jet crash, they find themselves in a mysterious forest battling to stay alive against a society of cannibalistic mutants in singleplayer or co-op.

dead by daylight

the forest

Both of these titles are classified as co-op horror games but they also contain features or mechanics that separate them from each other. Dead by Daylight is by far the most successful game within the genre with over 300,000 reviews on Steam and an all-time peak player count of 77,000 players across October 2020. The Forest has also seen plenty of success with over 200,000 reviews and an all-time peak player count of 32,000 players across January 2021.

But what about Phasmophobia? Well, for a start, keep this in mind. Dead by Daylight & The Forest have both been released for several years now. Dead by Daylight launched back in June 2016 and The Forest in April 2018 whilst Phasmophobia launched in September 2020. So Phasmophobia is only a few months into its life cycle and is still in early access, but that hasn’t prevented it from peaking at an incredible 112,000 players across October 2020. So what has Phasmophobia done to hit such a high peak in such a short lifespan?

 

Phasmophobia

Phasmophobia (Meaning the intense fear of ghosts or other supernatural beings) puts you in the shoes of a Paranormal Investigator. Your job is to investigate paranormal activity at various locations and identify the type of ghost you inhabiting the building so the “Ghost Hunters” can bring the right equipment for the job.

Phasmophobia allows you to team-up with up to 3 other players (Meaning 4 players total per session) when exploring these locations. You’re also given some handy tips on what kind of behaviour the ghost is exhibiting and you have the option of buying equipment that will assist you in identifying the type of ghost you’re going up against. After you’ve collected evidence and noted down in your journal what ghost type you believe it is, you can leave the location and head back to your base wherein you’ll be paid and new jobs will be offered to you.

phasmophobia screenshot1

So it all seems a bit, simple, right? Well, yes. That’s where Phasmophobia shines, the game isn’t complicated at all, it’s easy to understand and doesn’t require a great deal of skill to be able to enjoy the game. This is where titles like Dead by Daylight fall short, it’s a PvP game, it has a degree of skill required to play the game and it features a perk system that means players have to actively think about how they’re going to play their character. The Forest doesn’t feature any perk systems or skilled-based gameplay but it is a survival game primarily and whilst the mutant humans roaming the woods can incur a fright you will eventually start focusing your efforts on killing them rather than living in constant fear of their presence.

Surely you could argue the same for Phasmophobia though? After so many investigations you’re going to get used to the idea of a ghost hunting you in the hallways of an abandoned high school… right? Well, not really. One of the biggest reasons Dead by Daylight & The Forest fall short in the horror aspect is because they contain features within their game that truly limit the feeling of horror that you can experience. Phasmophobia doesn’t have any of that, there are no tools that can fight the ghosts, there are no loopholes to exploit and communication is key, something which Dead by Daylight & The Forest don’t even require.

Phasmophobia is atmospheric at all times, there is no chase or battle music to take you out of your immersion, there is a fantastic communication system in which voices get quieter the further away a player gets and the radio communication for cross-map comms is a ghost magnet whenever a ghost starts hunting you. Walking into an abandoned house in the middle of the woods is creepy enough as is, knowing that you have some friends or strangers alongside you gives you comfort, but all that goes out the window the moment you find yourself trapped inside a bathroom because the demon on the other side of the door is determined to make sure you pay the price for disturbing their home.

 

Conclusion

Phasmophobia truly delivers when it comes to horror, the game is still very early in its life cycle but with over 180,000 reviews on Steam and a significant amount of new content planned to be released throughout 2021, Phasmophobia has truly embraced the co-op horror genre.

But what do you think about Phasmophobia? Have you played it yourself or are you still on the fence about buying it? We’d love to know your thoughts!

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