How To

How to play (and win) Plague Inc

How to play (and win) Plague Inc
Ben Bowman

Ben Bowman

  • Updated:

Plague IncPlague Inc is a really fun mobile game where you get to let your inner evil genius run wild and destroy the world. Your mission: infect and kill everyone with a disease you created. Here’s how to play and win Plague Inc.

How to start

Plague Inc. Download Free ►

Select your plague
Select your plague

When you first play the game, you’ll only have access to Bacteria, but as you destroy the world, you’ll unlock even more plagues. Bio-Weapon is incredibly fun – once you’ve infected everyone on Earth, you essentially get to push a button to kill anyone left standing. Feel the power!

One thing to note is that the different plague types behave differently, and the world reacts to them differently. In some cases, transmission is easy. In some cases, like a Fungus, it requires a lot of effort on your part to get the disease to spread. Some diseases mutate rapidly, which could help you kill people faster, but could also draw unwanted attention from those pesky scientists working toward a cure.

Select your difficulty

In a Casual game, no one washes their hands, research doctors don’t work, and people hug the infected. (Suckers.) In a Normal game, two-thirds of people wash their hands, doctors work three days a week, and people ignore the sick. In a Mega Brutal game, doctors invest in research and there are random medical check-ups, so it’s harder to get your disease into the world. You’ll need to win the game on Casual before moving up the difficulty ladder.

Name your plague

It’s the most fun to name the plague after your ex. He or she already destroyed your heart, why not let them destroy the world?

Modify the genetic code

Modify genetic codeThe first few times you play the game, you won’t have many advantages, but as you win a few rounds, you’ll unlock new genes that can make the game easier. In some cases, you can activate a gene to help the disease spread more quickly over water or survive in warmer climates. These are all things that you can add to your disease over time within the game, but if you start with them, it’s a huge bonus. Yes, you can buy new genes to get a leg up on your destruction. With that, you’re ready to start the game!

How to start your plague

Plague Inc startThis is the main screen where you’ll be monitoring your disease’s progress. As the helpful pop-up suggests, wherever you touch is where the plague begins. It’s a big world out there, and you have to infect more than 7 billion people, so where should you start?

Aggressive beginnings

If you want to get a lot of people infected in a hurry, China or India are home to more than 1 billion people. Those countries also have large pockets of undeveloped regions. You’ll have an easier time infecting poorer countries like those in Africa or South America or Southeast Asia. Just be careful. If you spread too fast or kill too quickly, you’ll draw the attention of the scientists who will fight back with a cure. Still, it’s nice to get one-seventh of the world’s population infected in a hurry.

Stealth attacks

If you start your disease in a place like Europe or the United States where medicine is easier to come by, it will take a lot longer to get rolling. You’ll also have to create a fairly aggressive disease to break through all of those countries’ safeguards and spread beyond those borders. By that time, those annoying scientists will be hot on your trail. It’s best to hold off on starting in the Western world unless you’re an advanced player. Don’t worry, you can infect them all later.

Speed up

speed upAfter you’ve started your plague, click the little drop-down arrow underneath the date and hit that fast-forward button. The spread of your plague will likely take more than a year, so there’s no point in watching time pass slowly.

Pop the bubbles

Plague started in ChinaWhen you’ve started your plague, you’ll notice little red-purple bubbles appearing with the biohazard symbol. Touch them to pop them. Doing so gives you DNA points, noted in the lower left side of the screen above the word “Disease.” You’ll also get DNA points for popping orange bubbles with the DNA double-helix. You need DNA points to manipulate your disease.

Also, take note of the little icons on the map. The anchors denote a seaport. The airplanes mark an airport. Starting your disease in a place that has both will make it easier to spread your sick creation. Thanks, China! Now we’re ready to get even more evil.

Improve your disease

Click the “Disease” button in the lower left corner and you’ll see several options to upgrade.


Transmission screen

Sharing is caring! So let’s get the world to share our disease. In the Transmission screen, you have options to upgrade the ways your plague jumps to new hosts. Each one will cost DNA points, so spend wisely and consider which will be the best help in spreading your disease from its starting point.


Looking to spread your disease over big distances? Birds can help. As the disease gets more aggressive, some countries might shut down air or water travel. That means places like Greenland, Iceland, or Madagascar can be harder to take over. Thankfully, no one can stop birds.


Is your disease starting in a city? Rats can do a great job smearing that sickness all over the place.


If your plague begins near the equator, swarms of bugs can help make life hell.


Starting your plague in a rural area? Livestock are a great way to move the sickness around. They work particularly well in large places without a ton of people, like Canada, Russia, or the American midwest.


Poor areas are susceptible to sharing diseases through blood-to-blood contact. We almost never choose this because it seems like a waste of DNA points. (How often do you rub open wounds with your buddies?)


This is a great one to start. Choosing Air helps your pathogen travel on dust particles. It works especially well in arid climates like Africa or the Middle East. And it helps your disease jump to new countries through air travel. It’s a sickness souvenir!


Another great start, choosing Water means the disease can survive outside the human or animal body in fresh, warm water. This is a great start if your disease begins in a humid environment or a place where ships are in play.

Advanced transmission options

Note that as you add one of these transmission factors, you get the opportunity to unlock more. Choosing Bird I allows you to then add Bird II, for example. The more advanced versions of these transmission factors will help you bypass any filters that may arise or the animals might roam over larger areas.

If you unlock Air I, Air II, Water I, and Water II, you can then add Extreme Bioaerosol, which basically means the disease is just flying everywhere with nothing that can stop it. Good luck not breathing or drinking, humans.


SymptomsThis is the fun stuff! It will cost DNA points to add symptoms to your disease, so consider your plan carefully. Whenever you select one of these six traits, you’ll have the option to add another “more expensive” trait that stacks on top of it. So selecting Insomnia will make it harder for people to sleep. The next advancement is Paranoia, which means sick people will avoid the doctor.

Depending on your disease, it may mutate on its own to give you these symptoms without any DNA cost. But be careful! If your disease becomes too lethal or severe, the scientists will smack it down. In fact, it may be helpful to de-evolve a disease to get rid of symptoms. After all, if the whole world is infected and no one knows, it’s easy to ratchet up the symptoms before research on a cure can begin!

There’s a sweet spot where adding an advanced symptom like Paralysis or Coma can help throw off the research trying to cure your disease. Just wait until everyone is infected before you start going wild. Clicking on a symptom will tell you whether it will slow research into a disease. Total Organ Failure and Insanity are lots of fun to inflict on the populace, but if you do it too early, the scientific urgency kicks in.


Plague Inc abilitiesBeginning players may not pay much attention to this screen because it’s more fun to make your victims cough or sneeze, but the Abilities screen is very important.

Some parts of the world require a little work to take down. This may mean making your disease resistant to the heat or cold. It may mean adding drug resistance or other advanced factors to break past modern medicine. And, depending on the disease, the traits to the right of this screen may be super-important. For the Bio-Weapon, you’ll need to knock out a bunch of those traits on the right to unlock the global kill switch. If you’re struggling to infect certain places, it may be that your disease isn’t advanced enough. Stop by the Abilities screen and fix that.

Let’s play Plague Inc

China infectedSo our disease has started in China and we’ve spent some DNA points on upgrading its transmission capabilities. Look at all those gorgeous red infected people! You can click on a specific country to get its stats. As you can see, China is swamped with the sick, but our screen shows us that Japan only has 17 infected with our virus. We’re only really concerned about specific countries if we notice we haven’t penetrated it yet (time to upgrade transmission factors) or if the numbers aren’t growing steadily (might need to upgrade transmission or abilities). Island nations can be particularly troublesome.

Asia dyingWow, our disease is spreading fast! With 4.5 billion infected, we’re well on our way. New DNA bubbles are popping up rapidly as more people get our disease. You’ll also notice that the dead are piling up (453,825, thank you very much), but it’s a small fraction of the infected. This is good. We still have half the world to infect, but the disease isn’t deadly enough to alarm the medical community. You can see there’s only 1% of the cure progress completed.

Pop the cure bubbles

Cure bubbles

As your disease spreads, the world will fight back. You’ll notice little blue planes flying across the map with little blue circles appearing. When you pop those, it helps to slow the progress of a cure.

Things to watch

Your success or failure at this point in the game involves your awareness of what’s left.

Monitor the ticker and pop-up alerts

You’ll often get an alert that a large bird migration event is about to occur. If so, jump into the Transmission tab and make sure Bird I and Bird II are activated so you get the most bang for your buck. If you get a notification about a kissing festival, add Nausea so all your sick people will kiss the healthy people.

Pop up alert

Sometimes, the pop-ups and the ticker at the top of the screen will alert you about steps the humans are taking to fight back.

You’ll also see more fun alerts as you unleash hell on the planet…


Everyone is sickWhen everyone is sick, you might consider getting some DNA points back by removing all of your Transmission factors. (Note: some diseases give you points back for devolving, some take points away for devolving.) Once everyone is sick, there’s no need for Transmission.

Now you can go for broke with the most hellish Symptoms. Insanity and Paralysis and Nausea and Projectile Vomiting? Sounds like fun! (That’s also how we felt when dating our ex who the disease is named after, so it’s appropriate.)

Suck it, SwedenSorry, Sweden. With 4.2 billion corpses littering the planet, anarchy seems like a logical step. But we’ve still got 2.9 billion people alive. Time to get even meaner. Let’s go to the Symptoms tab.

SymptomsAs you can see, we’ve got a pretty horrific disease running wild. The Infectivity and Severity are maxed out, but we could be more Lethal. If we click on Total Organ Failure, we see it’ll cost 33 DNA points, but the half-shaded mark on the Lethality bar shows us how much more deadly it will be. Here comes the pain…

We winAh, now to sit back and watch those 350,489 people liquify at the hands of our plague.

VictoryAfter our victory (or if you lose), you can check out graphs to see how your disease progressed.

disease graph

As you can see, we wiped out the planet in 547 days, but we didn’t really start making our disease severe until near the end of our first year. That kept the disease under the radar until nearly everyone already had it. By keeping our lethality in reserve, we also avoided unwanted attention.

Cure graphThe cure graph shows that no one even cared about this disease until the end of the first year. Again, the cure progress tracks pretty closely with our lethality.

One of the best features about Plague Inc is that it works offline. It’s a great way to kill a ton of time if you’re stuck on a plane.

Are you ready to unleash your plague on the world? Download Plague Inc and let ‘er rip!

Plague Inc. Download Free ►

Ben Bowman

Ben Bowman

Ben Bowman is an Emmy Award-winning journalist who led's editorial team in 2018 and 2019. Before joining Softonic, he was the Head of Content for and a news producer for NBC, Fox, and CBS. He is an award-winning filmmaker and director of sketch and improv comedy, and a contributing writer for the Pitch comedy app.

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