Top Ten Escape Games
Here’s something to try. Take a random stranger, throw them in a locked room full of strange mechanisms and obscurely interrelated objects, and tell them they can leave when they solve your puzzles. See how quickly that gets you thrown in jail and a bad made-for-TV movie on Lifetime made about you. Bonus points if you tell them you did it because some random woman on the internet told you. But, funny thing, make that into a video game and suddenly you’ve got fans galore instead of an unsettling Wikipedia entry about yourself.
Escape games are traditionally very straightforward in concept… you’re trapped in a locked room and must click around to find items and clues to solve puzzles that eventually lead to opening the door somehow. Some developers have toyed with the mechanics and definitions, however, and the results… well, we think they’re pretty fine indeed. Here are ten of our top escape themed games. What are your favourites?
Rusty Lake’s Cube Escape series hasn’t been around that long, but they’ve made a reputation for themselves for good reason. Beginning with Cube Escape: Seasons, and, played in order, The Lake, Arles, Harvey’s Box, Case 23, The Mill, Birthday, and Theater, they tell a story that spans decades and some seriously dark secrets. Imagine if you forced Quentin Tarantino, Clive Barker, and Hunter S. Thompson to make a game after a marathon session of Twin Peaks and you might have an inkling of what the Cube Escape games are like. Play them, but be warned that the games don’t shy away from trying to make you jump or showing you gore.
Red Herring Labs’s Morningstar is one seriously impressive story about trying to escape from a seemingly deserted planet after a terrifying crash, and once again proof positive that nothing nice ever happens in space. From its excited animated opening scene to its high-quality voice acting and presentation, it’s easy to see why Morningstar dazzled when it was released, but it’s not just about being easy on the eyes and ears. If you like a big, complicated game filled with tricky puzzles and twists and turns, Morningstar is worth the time and effort.
If you like free online escape games, then you’ve probably come across the work of Mateusz Skutnik before, and working as Pastel Games, he served up some pretty colourful titles like The Great Kitchen Escape. As the title might imply, you’re trapped in a kitchen, and to get out, you’re going to have to get a little creative with your culinary surroundings. It might not sound like the most exciting premise, but I guarantee that the soundtrack at least will have you feeling like you’re the protagonist in some direct-to-video tween spy movie on the Disney Channel. Be sure to play all seven games in the series… Bathroom, Basement, Attic, Living Room, Bedroom, and House!
You ever get suspicious of the real world? In Gregory Weir’s odd escape game Bars of Black and White, one day blurs into the next until the day you get a mysterious package that literally, like, opens your eyes, maaaaaaan! Admittedly, once you get past the initially obtuse navigation, Bars of Black and White can come across as a bit like the uncle who “lives off the grid” and corners you at Thanksgiving to tell you about teeth fillings, but hey, maybe a bit of paranoia is a good thing. Be sure and find all 30 barcodes hidden throughout the game to scan.
Studio Maarten’s Samsara Room might look stylistically familiar to you, depending on whether you’ve played other games on this list. In it, you wake up in a strange room, but you’re feeling even stranger. The more you explore and begin to pick apart your surroundings, the more you discover there’s something fishy going on here. (That’s a pun. I’m very witty. You’ll see.) It’s a game that’s great at layering its imagery and oddness with dream logic to make some clever puzzles, and well worth the constant “???” your brain will be putting out as you play.
In Big Loop Studios’s Escape from 26, you wake up in a cage. And not, like, you’re in some Liam Neeson movie and you have to escape the bad guys using only your gravelly voice and stubble. But a huge bird cage with a small house inside. How did you get there? Who is holding you captive? Why do you have to wash this smelly kid’s clothes? Then who was phone? It’s strange, sure, but that’s a big part of its Roald Dahl-esque charm, and it’s not too bad to look at either.
Okay, obviously you can’t make a list about escape games and not talk about Mateusz Skutnik’s Submachine. The Submachine series is one of the internet’s best loved for fans of mystery and adventure for over a decade, and for good reason. The plot is complex, full of twists and turns that will keep you guessing and theorizing throughout, and they’re wonderfully eerie and complex. As Submachine opens, you’ll be climbing through a series of rooms with cryptic notes and obscure machinery. At no point, sadly, does a drunken, profane grandfather and his nervous, awkward grandson stumble out of a green portal to help you, but the games are, despite that, still really great. Get your thinking cap on.
ImpendingRiot and Hyptosis crafted a beautiful and deliciously crazy spin on a classic with Alice is Dead – Chapter 1, as well as Chapter 2 and Chapter 3. It goes without saying that you should play them in order, but as the series opens, you wake up trapped inside what appears to be a giant tree with no memory of who you are or what happened. Your only company is a very prettily dressed skeleton, and she’s not much for talking. I’m not going to sugarcoat it… things are going to get freaky. But, like, in a good way. You’re into that, right?
You know that feeling when you think you’ve woken up from a bad dream but you’re not entirely sure? And everything in your room is mostly dark, especially that one heavy shadow in the corner you don’t want to look directly at, because, well, what if? scriptwelder’s Deep Sleep is like that. Followed by Deeper Sleep and The Deepest Sleep, Deep Sleep is a gloomy pixelated journey through a nightmare you’re struggling to wake up from. And no, not the kind where you realize somebody else ate that last piece of pizza in the fridge you’ve been saving. Whew! Scared myself with that one. Some forces shouldn’t be trifled with.
If you’ve never played a Bart Bonte game before, there are two things you should know. One, that you’re going to get a truly funktasting soundtrack no matter what it is. And two, that they’re both cute and clever in equal measure. 40xEscape plops you in front of what seems like the same door 40 different times, but each time you manage to figure out how to open it, the next time presents a new puzzle. You need to figure out what you’re expected to do each time, since you’re never given any instructions, and I like to imagine that the little yellow bird watching you is actually the evil mastermind behind all of it. The motive? Only the finest grubs and suet! Mua-ha-ha-ha! Take that, stupid hairless primate!