Something that doesn’t happen very often in video games is a late surge in popularity. It’s not that it never happens, but typically you can tell how popular a game will be based on its initial sale numbers. Every once in a while, an initial disappoint gains second life thanks to major patch updates, but even those major updates often see titles reach nowhere near the popularity that hype built up.
This is why the meteoric rise in popularity that Among Us has seen in recent weeks is truly impressive. The indie party murder mystery game first released all the way back in 2018 remained in relative obscurity until its explosion into current game of the moment status. The title does have some elements of the traditional path of patch updates to improve an underperforming debut — for example it took two months to make online multiplayer a thing — but even then, it was hardly a game that everyone knew about when it was first released. So what has made Among Us the sensation it currently is today?
It all starts with the pandemic. As many in the United States and the rest of the world continue to abide by social distancing rules, it has created a major need for video games to act as a social device. Games that actively encourage friends to virtually get together, play a game, and are able to do so online are perfect in the current world climate. And Among Us is exactly that, which is a big reason it’s become so popular so fast.
Among Us is a simple but endlessly addicting title, which is what all great party games should be. Up to 10 players gather on a space ship together and are tasked with completing objectives around the ship. These tasks can include re-fueling the engines, fixing the electrical wires, clearing the oxygen vents, and shooting asteroids. Each task is a small mini game that you must complete to do the task. None of them are particularly hard, but some take longer than others. Among these 10 people, though, there are two imposters. It’s the job of the imposters to kill at least six of the eight non-imposters. If they do, they win. If the crew members finish all their tasks, or expose the imposters, then the crew wins.
The way the crew can expose imposters is by proving that they have killed other crew members. As you go around completing tasks, you may discover the dead body of a crew member. You can then report that dead body and call everyone to a meeting where everyone has a chance to discuss who they may believe the killer to be. If you saw one of your friends hanging out with one of your other friends in the Admin room, only for one of them to turn up dead later, you can make a case for them to be an imposter. If everyone agrees with you, then that person is then voted off. If you’re wrong, though, then you have lessened your numbers and improved the imposters chances at winning.
It’s a game concept that isn’t exactly new, but Among Us offers some really fun strategy and works seamlessly online. It’s also a very satisfying watch on Twitch, which is another factor that’s fueled its rise in popularity in a huge way. Watching imposters call in sabotages that, if not completed in time, lead to an automatic loss for the crew makes for a surprisingly drama-filled experience. You can use these sabotages as an opportunity to kill crew members, or to fake your innocence and assist them in fixing the sabotage only to stab them in the back later. There is strategy in all of this. There are also vents that only the imposters can hide in that they can use as quick getaways, but don’t spend too long in there or everyone will wonder where you have been.
What’s truly great about this game is that it gives friends the perfect party game to play online over Discord chatting with one another. You may have played a board game similar to this — Donner Dinner Party or The Resistance or Werewolf — during game nights that might not be safe to have in person these days. Among Us encourages conversations, stories, and is at its best when you have a really great group of people to play with. In many ways it’s the perfect party game for 2020. Not bad for a game that came out in 2018.