Top Escape Room Theme Ideas

2021.01.20.

Here at ExitTheRoom we are obsessed with escape room games. Their design, narratives, puzzles, and clues, along with their successful implementation are the life-blood of our business. Though the number of games on offer is limited by the physical size of our locations, we are always on the lookout when it comes to the possibility of creating new and exciting games. 

All games start with a concept and then work their way from the idea to the practical solutions needed to make a working game that can be conquered within the allotted time limit. 

Make it too long, and the players can't finish. Make the game-play too short, and the players will have too much time to spare. You want the games to be challenging....but not too challenging. At the same time, you want them to be exciting, unique, and fun. Those playing will need to put their brains to work as they make their way through the scenarios towards a tense conclusion. 

Here we're listing some more common themes you might come across in many escape room games. Though you might have played some of these narratives before, the number of ways the stories can be upgraded or changed allows for them to be re-played many times. When the game master is telling the narrative you must pay close attention as missing just one tiny detail can be enough to derail your efforts to escape within the time frame. So, without further ado, here are 10 scenarios for your escape room game experience.

Chernobyl: Nuclear Disaster

Nothing quite beats being trapped underground in a control room beneath an out of control nuclear reactor. Well, except cancer from radiation! The clock gives the players just one hour to prevent a nuclear disaster. There's going to be some mathematics, and lots of cryptic instructions to follow. it's great if the game introduces some power outrages, along with loud sirens now and again, to keep all the players on their toes.

Jailbreak

Yet another typical escape room scenario, this could be developed in any number of ways to make it a killer theme. Probably the best ideas involve something pretty left-field, that the players won't see coming. We like the idea of locking all team members in different cells, so they have to make their individual escape before moving on to try and escape the jail together. The rest is down to the use of props and structures to create a prison-like ambiance.

Classic Puzzles

Here you want to hide parts of the puzzles in hard to find places. Maybe show just one team member exactly what they're looking for. To move forwards in the game, then they'll need to complete the puzzle. Or by completing it, the puzzle will show the location of the next clue or even a key. 

Alice in Wonderland

We guessing that many escape rooms will go "trippy" with their decoration and props. Lots of mirrors and strange lighting to help add to the effect. Likewise, use objects and clues in an unusual manner, like placing them upside down or in unusual positions. There's a great opportunity for creating optical illusions here, either with the room space or with the clues. Brew up some shroom tea and see where that takes your design efforts! 

Pyramid Tomb

This is probably going to work best in a maze-like structure within the escape rooms. You'll need many doors and many paths. Plenty of period props and hieroglyphics on the walls. Try to play with the lighting and sound design. We suggest starting the game with players split up, with some in the tomb room and others in the ante-room, with each lot having to solve their own set of clues before being able to rejoin the others.  

Murder on the Orient Express

This Agatha Christie novel has been inspiring murder games for many years. Now putting it to good use with the escape room genre is an ever-popular choice. First thing is that you're going to need the luxury train setting. These games will involve a lot of detective work style clues and puzzles, in keeping with the novel's theme. This is probably one of the only escape room games where you can introduce a "red herring", as that was very much in keeping with the plot structure of the original Christie novels.

Save The Plane

This is either going to be a bomb on the flying aircraft or a malfunction. Either way, when the hour runs down, all will perish in a crash. They can either be tasked with finding the bomb or fault, or finding out who planted it or caused the damage. If you want to take the more police route, then that could involve researching the past of all the passengers. A more practical approach might involve finding and then defusing the said bomb, or trying to fix the potentially fatal fault.

Gold Hunt

This can be tales of the Spanish Conquistadors in Central America or searching for pirate treasure on some tropical island. Various encrypted messages and concealed clues are there to be found and deciphered. Decoration-wise, lots of plastic fake tropical plants, coconuts, etc. Use the rooms as a trail for exploring. Solve the clues to find the gold. 

Classroom Game

This can work well for players of all ages. Essentially the escape room game is built around school skills. So that means solving riddles and puzzles. These exercises can make use of coloring books, Lego, or any other sort of mechanical toys. You can always use superheroes as part of the game.

Conclusion

It's very important, that when you decide on a theme, you stick with it. For the games to work at their best, then there needs to be total inversion. This starts with the narrative given by the game master at the very beginning. If you include items or decoration that doesn't belong within the context of the story, then all immersion will be lost. Also, keep in mind that part of the experience for the player is to take them out of their comfort zone. There needs to be a sensation of stress as they approach the final straight. You want to be creating new and taxing experiences for them, where they are forced to struggle a little. Something they've never come across before or conversely, something familiar shown in an unfamiliar manner. Their sense of fulfillment and satisfaction is very much dependent on their overcoming the hurdles you place in their path. Oh...and one final thing, please make sure everyone has fun!

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