Unveiling the history behind 'sus' memes from 'Among Us'

GameSpot Trailers/Youtube

Unveiling the history behind ‘sus’ memes from ‘Among Us’

Thanks to online gamers, 'sus,' once a term associated with suspicion and discrimination, now unites players and meme enthusiasts in the shared joy of a captivating game.


Kahron Spearman


Posted on Dec 22, 2023   Updated on Dec 11, 2023, 3:48 pm CST

“Among Us,” a social-deduction game developed by InnerSloth, became a gaming sensation in 2020. Along with its widespread popularity, this cultural phenomenon also popularized the term “sus.”

The seemingly innocuous abbreviation has a rich history that spans beyond its current association of identifying imposters in the game, and it’s lent itself to a host of sus memes.

Keep reading for a deep dive into the history of sus memes.

The rise of ‘Among Us’

Released in 2018, “Among Us” remained relatively under the radar until mid-2020, when it experienced an extraordinary surge in popularity. The game’s simple yet engaging format involves players assuming the roles of either Crewmates or Imposters. Crewmates must complete tasks and identify Imposters, who stealthily attempt to sabotage and eliminate the crew.

During this time, the term “sus,” shorthand for “suspicious,” became an integral part of the game’s lingo, used to describe players who exhibited questionable behavior.

You seem kinda sus bro
byu/XoverZ indankmemes

Cultural impact and Twitch phenomenon

The game’s ascent to stardom was fueled by Twitch streamers who played it for hours on end, attracting massive viewership. Politicians like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar further amplified its reach when they streamed themselves playing the game, and YouTube compilations of “Among Us” memes amassed millions of views, highlighting the game’s vast influence on internet culture.

The dark backstory of ‘sus’

The term “sus,” while now synonymous with “Among Us,” has a much older and darker origin. “Sus law” was a nickname for a notorious, often racialized stop and search law enacted in England and Wales in 1824, that allowed the police to arrest individuals based on mere suspicion. This led to discrimination and tension, notably contributing to the 1981 Brixton riot in London.

In the 1930s, police also used the term as an “abbreviation to refer to the discovery of crucial evidence or information as having ‘sussed something out’ or going on an investigation as ‘sussing out a situation or person.'”

Adoption of ‘sus’ in modern internet jargon

Over time, “sus” evolved into a common phrase in American slang, popularized by Black internet communities. Its meaning was transformed to be used more broadly as a descriptor for anything dubious or questionable. Celebrities like Tyler, the Creator, and Elon Musk have also used the term, further embedding it into popular culture.

With “Among Us” reaching peak popularity in late 2020, “sus” came to be almost exclusively associated with the game. Players quickly adopted the term to accuse each other of being Imposters in a humorous manner. This spawned a plethora of sus memes on platforms like Instagram and Reddit, solidifying the word as an iconic catchphrase of the game and beyond.

The game’s influence on language

The popularity of “Among Us” demonstrated how language can evolve and be shaped by cultural phenomena. The game breathed new life into the word “sus” and influenced its widespread use among gamers and non-gamers alike. Its use and spread highlighted the democratic nature of language, and how words can be adapted to new meanings through utilization.

Thanks to online gamers, “sus,” once a term associated with suspicion and discrimination, now unites players and meme enthusiasts in the shared joy of a captivating game.

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*First Published: Dec 22, 2023, 6:00 am CST