Escape Room puzzle ideas for your game
Here they are, unique and extraordinary puzzle ideas for your escape room.
How to build a good puzzle in escape room?
Let's start with some general information and try to answer what a great puzzle actually is. I would say it's something which makes people work together, gives some ‘Aha' effect, it is UNIQUE and also fun to do. You should also remember that the quality of escape rooms is constantly rising, so you cannot just do ‘something' and hope people will appreciate it. Sure, there are those great, simple puzzle ideas and preparing them will not take a lot of time and effort. You can't, however, build a fantastic game based only on that. Instead, put a lot of work into it, be as creative as possible, and make sure your puzzles are not only exciting but also look great and fit your theme. Remember to keep the balance between the puzzles in the room – make sure there are different things to do in your game. Don't focus only on one or two types of puzzles. Forget about the scenario based on: get a code – open the padlock, get another code – open another padlock. Diversity matters. A good game should include logical riddles, manual and physical puzzles, and some great electronic elements, which add a bit of magic and mystery into your room. Make sure you have puzzles which can be only solved by at least 2 players, so people actually need to work together to solve it. I also do not recommend copying those ideas 1:1. The list is very complex, and the number of escape room puzzle ideas included is large, so try to get inspired, instead of making it all the same.
I Escape Room Puzzle Ideas: Mazes
One of the most common puzzles in escape rooms are mazes. There are plenty of exciting ways of creating the riddles with them:
1. Getting an object (for example a key) out of the hanged maze
Just okay: give people a magnet to let them get the object out of the maze.
Better: hide a magnet in the object which fits your theme, make sure people will make a connection and figure out they need to use that object to get something out of the maze.
Best: require players to work together. Attach the maze to the wall, make it possible to move the object in the maze only from the back side (for example from the other room). That means a person who stands on the front side will have to tell how to navigate through the maze.
2. Getting … yourself out of the maze!
That fits some scary themes, where players are entering the room with blindfolds. Attach a players hand/leg to the beginning of a significant size maze to let them free themselves at the beginning of the game. Make sure it's easy.
3. Getting an object from the maze by using long metal rods.
That works with a horizontal maze. Separate your maze, and let people move an object from the beginning up to the end. The metal rods should be thin. Make some small holes in the external walls from the maze (that is the place for the rods) and one big hole (that's an exit). The other big holes should be in the internal parts of the maze (those are for the object to be moved). The picture below explains it clearly:
There are so many ways you could work with that puzzle idea! It fits many scenarios – all you need to do is just decorate it well. There are also a bunch of ways you could improve or variate that riddle, for example:
- Let people move an object (a statue for example) which is inside from one place to another in the correct order to let something happen. So that is not really a maze, but the idea is that players cannot move that object just by their hands, but with a bar/wooden stick with a hook, etc. You could make some holes on the side for placing the rod to move the statue.
What could be the result of that action? Releasing an EM lock, hearing the sound clue, activating a light - a great element that will be explained later, a blower or even a ventilator. There are so many creative riddles you can make with that.
4. The next one is one of my favorites!
You can do it only at the beginning of the game. The game is started by leading players inside with blindfolds. Separate the team members and place one person on one side of the maze, and the rest of the team from the other. The single player cannot really see the maze, and the others will have to explain how to go through. The pictures illustrate one of the ways you could do it:
5. Make an escape room maze invisible for players.
Let them navigate through it with a magnet/magnetic object. To do that players need to find a map which shows the way to go through.
6. Maze in escape game on one large spring attached to the floor (or 4 small ones on each corner of the maze).
In that case, people will have to move the whole maze into a different direction to get out what is inside. You can make it more challenging for your groups by making the holes on the way out. Players will have to not only go through the maze, but also avoid the holes (if the ball falls then they would have to start from the beginning).
7. An upside-down maze to make the team change their perspective - literally!
Put your maze on the ceiling and attach it with 4 springs (each one in a different corner). By pulling the strings which would be hanging down the group has to get something out of the maze.
II Escape Room Puzzle Ideas: engaging the floor/ceiling
Well, the size of the puzzles matters, so using the whole floor or ceiling for a riddle will give an excellent effect. When you make it an integral part of the room, it somehow makes the game more complex. So why not using the space which you have anyway to add something extra to your game? Here are some ideas:
1. Make a sign on the floor, and let people find a description of how to follow it.
Let's say that is your floor looks like (draft):
The group finds a map with directions to follow. Beginning with the star (which in that case is in the middle of your floor), they will have to follow the arrows to get onto the right sign. When they have 4-5, they can either stand on the signs or place some object on it. It's good when you have signs further away from one another so that it will have to be solved by a minimum of 2 players.
Yeah… it's a big deal to wire the whole floor, but I promise that it is totally worth it.
You could also use a compass for that riddle, so people will have to figure out where the north is and then follow the directions.
2. That one fits some Egyptian (or similar) theme.
Make wooden blocks with different Egyptian signs on it. When players step on them in the correct order, the riddle will be solved.
3. Let one of the ceiling parts open to reveal a secret message.
For that use a crank which will be somewhere in the room (for example on the wall/locked in some box etc.). After spinning the rope attached to the part of your ceiling will become longer and will reveal some mystery. If you want to include a similar riddle in your room, this usually needs to be planned in advance to hide all of the essential elements (reel, rope) in the wall.
4. Similar to the idea above, but that time players will let the box go down from the ceiling.
5. Make a chess field on your floor
By putting the large figures at the right place (or moving them from a particular area to a different one), players will solve the puzzle.
III Escape Room Puzzle Ideas: Maths in escape rooms
In general, I would recommend to avoid math in escape room. Why? This is nothing special to do in an escape room. If the group of people loves to count, they can also do it at home, right? There are, however, some exceptions I believe. When you prepare it, make sure the difficulty on your riddle is NOT about the counting. I mean, make the maths part super simple, and focus on, for instance making the challenge about putting the next steps in the correct order to make your players find the cues they need to follow to solve it.
In that case, the steps are:
a) Find out the numbers are all different, and between 0 and 9.
b) Blue Dragon needs to be 4.
c) Red Dragon need to be 8 or 9 (ups, it can't be 8, so it has to be 9).
d) Red Lion is a number between 7 and 4 (but it cannot be 4, because that is a Blue Dragon already). So it can be only 7,6 or 5, but we need to divide it through some different number and get 2, so it has to be 6.
e) Blue Lion is 3.
So in that riddle calculating something is not an issue at all (3+4 is not really a mathematical problem, and every 5-year-old child can do it). So it is a logical puzzle when you need to select relevant information at the right time to move forward. When you do maths puzzles, try to make them somehow special. It really should not be only about counting some numbers together and finding out the code at the end to open the padlock. Don't make riddles which check if players know the right order while counting like dividing before adding etc. Blah, that would be just horrible!
IV Escape Room Puzzle Ideas: Sound riddles
Everybody loves sound riddles! Easy to prepare and very effective. Let's come up with some ideas:
1. Record a knocking sound (or falling drops sounds).
That should come in some order, let's say 2-3-1-5 which would be a code to open the padlock, wooden box or in general leads somewhere further (people could also repeat the sound they heard by doing the same with a door knocker which is inside of the room).
2. Let people hit the gong/ knock with door knocker/ use whatever fits your theme.
Duplicate it in your room, and each time people use it, there is a sound coming (different sound from a different object). Let people do it to let something happen.
V Escape Room Puzzle Ideas: Hiding things
Let's first say what is cool and what is not cool in general. Don't hide stuff in some ridiculous places nobody would look into. Don't let people search for a symbol which is somewhere on the wall, surrounded by hundreds of other similar symbols like this, on every wall you have in your room. This is not cool. Losing the time for random searching in the room is not what you want your players to do, and that's not what players want to do. I would say that searching should not take a very long time during the game. Well, let me leave the most obvious places. I guess you are not here to find out that you can hide something in the book or wall clock. Probably everybody knows that already. I would have only one suggestion: Require smart searching. I had a code hidden on some place on the table which is attached to the ceiling. (yeah, table attached to the ceiling, that is not that crazy, come on). When you look through the mirror on the ceiling at the right angle, you can actually see the hidden code, which is a password to the computer. Only 30% of groups were finding that on their own, so we decided to make it a bit easier for players to know where to look. Then next to the keyboard, we placed the information that PW=(here the picture of the table). While some players desperately try to use the world TABLE for the password, others make the right connection and know where to look. Nice 'Aha' effect. That works well in every room. The idea is simple: Give people a small hint where to look for a hidden object (for example at the edge under the table, behind the second rock from the left on the wall, in the eye socket from the particular skull surrounded by 50 other skulls, removing a piece of a floor, blah blah blah I am sure you got what I mean. Sure, you should not leave the searching part at all. It's evident that in the game objects should be placed somewhere. Just make sure the places where you are hiding things are quite distinct, and most of your groups will not have troubles finding them. It's not a well-designed game when players cannot move forward because they didn't see some essential element which is hidden somewhere nobody would have found it.
VI Escape Room Puzzle Ideas: Liquid substance
Rule number 1 – Don't include any riddles which require people to drink (or eat) anything in your room. I would feel uncomfortable about that, and I am sure some people think the same. Even if not so many – you still don't want somebody to feel uncomfortable in your room, right?
1. Water reverses the directions of arrows.
Place glasses at some spot, and arrows behind them. Let people pour water in particular glasses (only a few from all which are in the room) and let people find out a right directional code considering water.
2. Different liquid substances placed at the right place.
Let's say perfumes or whatever fits your theme. It can help to keep them apart by adding some signs or colour on the bottle (please make it clear, there is not much difference between the light blue and dark blue) – when you do riddles connected with colours don't mess up with them. Even if it seems to be clear for you, there might be people who have troubles with defining the colours. Remember that especially if your game doesn't have a robust and bright source of light. Go for the obvious ones, if people understand the idea of the puzzle, they should be able to solve it, instead of struggling to find out the right colours.
3. Pouring the flower
4. Transporting water from one barrel to another up to a specific water level.
I guess using a pressure sensors would be my choice how to handle that idea.
5. ‘Cooking' substance (that fits some magical topic like a witch hunt).
Easy to do, you just need a mist maker (or a couple of them). By turning it off, people could see the hidden clue inside of the pot. How to turn it off I will leave for your imagination.
6. Canister and water
By pouring the water into a canister, the object which was at the bottom will raise, and people will be able to get it.
VII Escape Room Puzzle Ideas: Light
1. Make a use of a blackout window film
You will need a blackout window film which you apply on the glass (plexiglass would be best). The general idea is to let players turn on the light behind the glass. When the light is off, players will not be able to see through the glass. Get a stronger blackout window film, or apply it from both sides to make sure players cannot just use flashlights from outside to see what is in there (or make it a part of the game to do it this way, if you wish!). Other ideas:
- Just let players find a switch to turn on the light inside of the glass cabinet, which reveals a hint for some other task.
- Let people use a crank (or just a handle which will have to be placed inside of it). While spinning the light inside of the cabinet will turn on.
- Let people find a couple of wooden torches, and after placing them at the right spot, the light turns on. Of course, the glass can be located everywhere, it does not have to be a cabinet. It could also be a part of a huge pipe, pillar or whatever fits your theme.
- Make a hole on the side of the cabinet and let people use the flashlight to see what is inside.
2. Use paint which glows in the dark.
Let people use a strong flashlight on some specific symbols in your room – the one covered with paint will start shining like crazy :) You need to be careful with that, if there is a source of light in your room, the paint will glow on its own.
3. UV paint.
That is becoming less and less exciting in escape rooms because everybody knows it already. Whatever you do with UV paint - be sure to make it look spectacular. Draw a maze on the floor/ceiling/walls and let people activate a big black lamp to reveal it. Don't give people a small UV flashlight and enable search through some random places/objects etc. Like I wrote before – searching is ok, but it should not take to long!
Playing with the reflection of light sources provides uncountable amazing option to create fascinating riddles. One possibility would be that the players move either a mirror or a source of light in such a way that they find some new information or discover something. By connecting the precise placement of a ray of light into a certain point to a light sensor in the room, you can create breathtaking effects!
VIII Escape Room Puzzle Ideas: Physical puzzles in your game
If your room has some tasks that not everyone will be able to perform, specify that on your homepage before players will book your game. When you prepare those elements, I think it's good to do them in the way that not everybody has to participate if they have some limitations (for example if there is a tunnel in your room, perhaps you should consider making an additional path to the place where the tunnel leads). Then only one player will have to go through it, to open the other way. In case nobody is able to go through the tunnel, your game master will open the path for the group. It's important to find some right balance – if everybody can participate, that's great! If not, have a plan B.
1. Make a laser maze (fits into break-in themes, or secured places)
I would say it should not be very hard – but still a bit challenging. Right to engage more than just one person into it. You could have 2-3 buttons at the different places of the room, so that at least 2 players will have to press them to activate the panel to apply the code in, and turn off the lasers.
2. Make a tunnel and require players to crawl through it into a different room. 3. Let people use a ladder which will lead into a room above.
Naturally, you could also make a small space above the room with a low ceiling. Players can also place the ladder at the right spot and just get something down.
4. Let people carry some object to a specific place in the room (missing piece of a statue, part of a filar decoration, etc.)
IX Escape Room Riddle Ideas: Other ideas
1. Weighing scale
Put a small, digital weighing scale so that people can check the weight of different items in the room. That could also be an old, balance beam scale.
2. Require players to blow in, or blow out candles in the right order.
3. Make a hint for people where to look for the information in the book. In that case, the idea is:
- Select the right book from the ones you will find in the room (picture on the left).
- Look for the particular pages and lines to see the vital information in the book (picture on the right).
4. Let people activate a blower in the room:
- When the fan is strong players could connect the pipes together and blow something out which is located further away from the actual blower.
- Players find a small blower and plug it into an electrical outlet to blow something out of the pipe located next to it.
- Require players to use a gas pump. The air which goes out moves thin strips of a small curtain which reveals the information behind it.
- Let players use a fan for a fireplace to ‘set fire' which would reveal a mystery.
5. Send a morse-code message via telegraph
6. Separate your players to different rooms at the beginning of your game:
- Let them communicate through pipes which connect their rooms (by exchanging the vital information they will be able to solve some puzzles)
- Let players from one room not be able to see and talk to the other part of their group. The others will be able to speak to the group which is in the first room, and be able to see them – so again they should find a way to exchange the information others will need.
7. Provide a telephone, after dialing the right number players will get a sound clue.
8. Substitute Morse code sings with letters/numbers/random signs.
Let players find with decryption of the code to move forward.
9. Let people place books on the right place on the shelf.
You can draw a book shape on the shelf to let people know how to order the missing books.
10. Let people identify the object only by touching it
For example, place it in the box with sand inside. Players will have to put their hands through the hole, move the sand and feel the object inside. Can be easy – like feeling the numbers or letters, which will be used to open the padlock). Another good option would be to let people feel, and somehow move the object inside – something to rotate or spin. That could cause some effect out of the box.
That is not so spectacular anymore since a lot of escape rooms are doing it. The ‘half code' which is basically about noticing something evident in the room. In that case, the mask is about helping people to understand that they are supposed to look both ways. Under the mask, we placed some symbols, so the aim would be to pay attention only to the right side and get the numbers.
12. Change a verbal code into one of numbers or signs, which you can then use to solve a riddle.
This is possible the other way around, too! But Make sure that the group has to think around the cornet twice, as just providing a 'translation key' will be rather boring. This one could be combined with a part of the game in which two parts of the group are not seeing each other amazingly!
13. Make a use of your interior
Include parts of the interior of the room into the riddles that would otherwise seem as if they were just part of the decoration. An example could be doors or (fake) windows. They can literally open up into a different world!
Last update: 03.03.2021