Simon Says (or Simple Simon Says) is a child's game for 3 or more players where 1 player takes the role of "Simon" and issues instructions (usually physical actions such as "jump in the air" or "stick out your tongue") to the other players, which should only be followed if prefaced with the phrase "Simon says", for example, "Simon says, jump in the air". Players are eliminated from the game by either following instructions that are not immediately preceded by the phrase, or by failing to follow an instruction which does include the phrase "Simon says". It is the ability to distinguish between genuine and fake commands, rather than physical ability, that usually matters in the game; in most cases, the action just needs to be attempted.
The object for the player acting as Simon is to get all the other players out as quickly as possible; the winner of the game is usually the last player who has successfully followed all of the given commands. Occasionally however, 2 or more of the last players may all be eliminated by following a command without "Simon Says", thus resulting in Simon winning the game.
The game is well embedded in popular culture, with numerous references in films, music and literature.
Simon says was invented in Ancient Rome, where it was called Cicero hoc facere dicit, or "Cicero says to do this." The tradition behind the use of 'Simon' as the controller of the game may trace back to the year 1264, when at the Battle of Lewes, Simon de Montfort captured King Henry III and his son, the future King Edward I. For the next year, any order Henry III gave could have been countermanded by de Montfort, until his defeat at the Battle of Evesham. It is also possible that the name has no such meaning, and Simon derives simply from the alliterative effect.
This game has translated across multiple cultures from seemingly common routes and some international versions also use the name Simon such as:
- Arabic: for example, "الجنرال عمل كده" ("The general commanded", Egypt) or "قال المعلّم" ("The teacher says", Lebanon) and "سلمان يقول" ("Salman says", Iraq)
- Basque: "Buruak dio" or "Buruzagiak dio" (The leader says), or "Unaik dio" (Unai says)
- Bengali: "নেতা বলেছেন" (The leader says)
- Cantonese: "老師話" ("The teacher says")
- Danish: "Simon siger"
- Dutch: "Commando" (the Dutch noun for "command"), or "Jantje zegt" ("Johnny says") in Flemish parts of Belgium
- Finnish: "Kapteeni käskee" ("The captain commands")
- French: "Jacques a dit" ("Jack said"), or "Jean dit" ("John says") in Québec
- German: "Kommando Pimperle" (or with similar rules "Alle Vögel fliegen hoch")
- Hebrew: "המלך אמר", "הרצל אמר" or "עודד אמר" ("Herzl says", "the King says" (thought to be King Solomon) or "Oded says" (Referencing Oded Menashe) respectively. Each of the phrases is typically used by different age groups, and sometimes it is even influenced by context.)
- Hungarian: "Simon mondja"
- Icelandic: "Símon segir"
- Irish: "Deir Ó Grádaigh" ("O'Grady says")
- Japanese: "船長さんの命令" ('Senchousan no meirei', "Ship Captain's orders")
- Korean: "시몬 가라사대" ("Simon says")
- Norwegian: "Kongen befaler" ("The king commands")
- Polish: "Szymon mówi"
- Portuguese: "O rei manda" ("the king orders"), or "O mestre mandou" ("The master ordered") in Brazilian Portuguese
- Romanian: "Răzvan spune" ("Răzvan says")
- Spanish: "Simón dice" or "Mando mi ("Gavilán Gato")"
- Swedish: "Följa John"
- Turkish: "Yakup der ki".
A version also exists in India, Pakistan, Germany, Slovakia and Hungary where an analogy to what can fly and what cannot is emphasized instead of Simon saying or not, i.e. "Chidiya ud" (Hindi) which translates to Bird fly or "Alle Vögel fliegen hoch" (German) which is "All birds fly high". The term 'bird' can then be replaced with a thing that cannot fly. These games are usually played more with gestures than actual jumping.
In a Swedish version, Gör si, gör så ("Do this, do thus"), the leader says either "do this" or "do thus" while performing an action. For failing to follow the correct command, "do this", or following the wrong command, "do thus", a child must sit down until a new leader is chosen.
A command starting with "Simon says" means that the players must obey that command. A command without the beginning "Simon says" means do not do this action. Anyone who breaks one of these two rules is eliminated from the remainder of the game. Often, anyone who speaks is also eliminated.
There can be very complex and difficult command chains, such as "Simon says: Arms up. Simon says: Arms down. Arms up." Anyone ending with their arms up is eliminated, because you cannot obey a command that doesn't begin with "Simon says".
A variation on the instruction phrases is used. "Simon says" is said once at the start of a series of instructions, and an action along with the phrase "do this" must be obeyed while an action with the phrase "do that" must not be obeyed. Obeying a "do that" command or not obeying a "do this" command will eliminate a player.
It is considered cheating to give impossible commands ("Simon says, lift both of your legs up and keep them there!") or phrase the commands in such a way that the other player has no option but to 'go out' ("Simon says, jump up. Come down."). However, at least in some versions, it is allowed for Simon to eliminate players by asking them to do something seemingly unrelated to the game (example: "Anyone remaining join me up here.").
- Various musical artists have produced songs with the title "Simon Says" including the 1910 Fruitgum Company, Pharoahe Monch, Clawfinger, Drain STH, Kidsongs, Judy and David, The Wiggles, Laleh, Jimi Hendrix, Clyde McKnight, Krizz Kaliko.
- The phrase has been used multiple times as a plot device in films and television dramas including Die Hard with a Vengeance, Police Academy, Demolition Man, The Gift and the TV series Underdog as well as being played in television game shows including 1970s show Superstars and Battle of the Network Reality Stars.
- The phrase occurs twice in Thelma and Louise for comic effect: "Simon says everybody lay down on the floor." First the outlaw on the run character J.D. (Brad Pitt) tells how he usually sets off to do an armed robbery. Later on we find out in the only flashback scene of the movie that Thelma (Geena Davis) uses exactly the same phrase when robbing a store.
- Simple Simon is a character in Shrek 2.
- In an episode of the Cartoon Network show Courage the Cowardly Dog, the title character (disguised as an eggplant) gives commands to the other eggplants after saying "The Great Eggplant says".
- The Peanuts special It's Flashbeagle, Charlie Brown includes a song/dance number called "Lucy Says" where Lucy plays the role of Simon, but uses "Lucy Says" instead of "Simon Says".
- In the Animaniacs episode, "King Yakko", Yakko, as king of Anvilania gets his men to take their seats, but when they were about to do so, Yakko stops them saying, "I didn't say 'Simon Says'!" Then he tells them, "Simon says take your seats!" which they follow.
- A stunt played on the game show Fun House also played Simon Says, but was changed to "Tiny Says" to match the name of the show's announcer giving the commands.
- The electronic game Simon is named for Simon Says.
- Jim Henson's Pajanimals has the Pajanimals play a similar game called "Cowbella Says." Similar to the Peanuts example above, Cowbella, one of the Pajanimals, plays the role of Simon and uses "Cowbella Says" instead of "Simon Says". Before they play, there is a short song that has the lyrics "If Cowbella says, 'Cowbella Says,' you must do what Cowbella says; and if she doesn't say 'Cowbella Says,' you must not do what Cowbella says!"
- Mickey Mouskersize, a short in Disney Junior has a game called Mickey Says. Mickey plays the role of Simon, once in the middle of the game, Goofy and Minnie did what Mickey said when he did not say "Mickey Says".
- In Let's Go Pocoyo, there is a game in some episodes called Fred Says. This is a simple game. Fred plays the role of Simon, however, the narrator always says "Fred Says" in each phrase. At the end, the narrator says "Fred Says: That's all."
- In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies, the game's main prosecutor is Simon Blackquill, likely named after the game. He's a master of psychological manipulation, and his acts of manipulating the minds of others is compared to as Simon Says by other characters.
- In an episode of Transformers: Rescue Bots, Cody uses the game to teach the Bots about obeying commands. He uses basic instructions such as "Turn right" and "raise your left arm". When he issues a command without stating "Simon says", Chase responds by stating "Simon did not authorize that last movement".
- A literal arcade-based smartphone adaptation of "Simon Says" was released exclusively on Android on July 11, 2016, titled Simon Says Mobile. In this version, bodily gestures are replaced with mobile gestures, namely tapping, swiping and tilting. It is free-to-play with in-app purchases.
- Arnold, Arnold, The World Book of Children's Games, World Publishing Co., 1972, ISBN 0-529-00778-9.
- Bancroft, Jessie H., Games for the Playground, Home, School and Gymnasium, The Macmillan Co., 1914.
- Forster, Sally, Simon Says... Let's Play, Dutton Children's Books, 1990, ISBN 0-525-65019-9.
- Grunfeld, Frederic V., Games of the World: How to Make Them, How to Play Them, How They Came to Be, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1975, ISBN 0-03-015261-5.