So, you're designing a DIY escape adventure to captivate your friends, challenge your coworkers, or delight your kids.
You're in the right place. (Have you read our step-by-step escape room design blueprint yet?)
These escape room puzzle ideas have been hand-selected by the High Wizards themselves. They are cheap, easy to craft, and don't require knowledge of any dark magic. In short, these puzzles are perfect for first-time overlords designers like yourself!
There's a massive haul of puzzlers here, so if you're short on time just download one of our ready to play escape room kits.
Each one is completely customizable, so you get to be the designer without all the grunt work.
Just download the game, print it out, and you're ready to party!
We've created an Escape Room Master Class to guide you through each step... and to transform game design into a captivating family activity!
The Master Class is fully-loaded with all the puzzles, templates, and printable props you'll need to design an epic escape room game.
Just what you need for holiday family fun, or your most engaging classroom lesson!
The most important part of your DIY escape room is not the puzzles, the theme, or even the pizza.
It's the Fun.
After all, no-one wants to head over to a mates place and do maths (except maybe our accounting trolls).
Instead, they want to be enlivened. They want a few good laughs with friends. And yes, they do want pizza...
This is where 99% of DIY escape room designers go wrong. They piece together a random mashup of puzzles that are not connected, and way too hard. This leads to brain drain. Brain drain leads to zombies. And zombies are just boring party guests!
But don't worry, this mistake is easy to avoid by including an equal balance of Puzzles, Tasks, and Games.
(You could also try designing your game with a mate, so that you can bounce good ideas off of each other. These kids did just that, and their game is amazing!)
Puzzles create those fist bump the air moments where players yell out 'A-ha' and feel like an escape room ninja.
They'll require some lateral thinking to solve, and a fair bit of thinking.
When a puzzle is coupled with a task it creates that empowering Flow feeling everyone loves.
Tasks get the game moving since players immediately know how to solve them. Like a maze or jigsaw puzzle.
Additionally, they avoid the 'Stuck feeling' by giving everyone a chance.
The best way to use them is to provide players with something they'll need to solve a Puzzle.
Games transform your escape room into an Escape Party and provide much needed relief from thinking.
Like shooting zombie targets with Nerf guns, or navigating a minefield while blindfolded.
When coupled with Tasks and Puzzles they'll make your escape room unforgettably enjoyable.
Simple. Yet delightful.
Players know what to do the moment they see it. The scissors just need to be for something logical like cutting out complex shapes. Or, add some imagination with a label like:
Plasma Cutters. Good for any size chain
Then have some string wrapped around a door labelled
Solid chain, you'll need something to cut me with.
Don't worry, your crew will roll with it and have a blast.
If 'dungeon' is more your style, a $10 length of chain from a hardware store and a simple padlock can be used to lock two objects together (or keep the French doors on a refrigerator closed).
Why would you want to lock two objects together, you ask? Maybe your players are trapped in a biolab and need to weigh something; wrap a chain around it, so it's too heavy to weigh until they can find a way to unlock it.
Give players a maze to solve, but add a curious twist. For example, this maze from our Envy escape room kit includes random letters in pathways or at intersections. Only finding the right path through the maze will reveal the combination of letters that spells a clue.
This one's great bang for you buck.
(Ok, we'll stop with the terrible jokes...)
Simply hide a clue, key, or prize inside just one balloon.
Then, inflate a bunch more and leave them all over the room as 'decoration' so players think they're just part of the theme.
With that all set up, point your players in the right direction by leaving a clue such a small note hidden inside another escape room puzzle. Personally, I enjoy a simple riddle like:
Then, sit back and watch the carnage as a room full of kids became a raging hoard of zombies out to taste the sweet essence of balloon... (ok let's face it, your adult friends will be just as into it).
Remember those hidden messages you've seen encoded on bathroom mirrors in spy movies? Well, today's your day to enter the world of espionage.
All you need is a bathroom mirror, and some soap or rubbing alcohol. When the room is filled with steam the message will appear in true 007 style. Here's a video on how to make it.
Filled with steam? Easy - just leave a clue somewhere such as:
You can combo this with any encoded message such as the popsicle stick puzzle.
Smash a secret code into pieces and scatter it across a jigsaw puzzle or an origami puzzle that needs to be folded a particular way.
When it all comes together, your players will definitely feel like a suave superspy or adventurous treasure-hunter! (This particular puzzle is from our Frost escape kit, and it's both a jigsaw puzzle and an origami puzzle!)
This is a great summer escape room puzzle because you can give everyone a popsicle at the beginning, and they only realise they're part of the game once they've chomped their way through!
It's also a great way to turn a short word into a longer message.
Start by writing a message on aligned popsicle sticks as well as a keyword along the top. The message is only readable if they're aligned this way. We're using JOHNSON, and even with only 1 stick out of place, the message is quite unreadable). If you'd like to make it harder, add a bunch of other symbols and letters but don't go overboard as it can be tedious. Lastly, make popsicles out of the sticks for extra flavor.
Players will need to work out the Keyword in order to solve the cipher. Here are some options:
This game is a sure-fire way to add some superspy-level fun to your DIY escape room game.
It's pretty simple: each player takes turns crossing a 'minefield' blindfolded, meanwhile, your other players must give them directions from the other hallway.
The obstacles can be anything - in this case, they're electronic security mines that players must navigate through after the power goes out in the W.A.R. Facility they've just infiltrated. It's part of our printable Rebel Revolt Escape Kit. You can see how to set this game up here (spoilers!).
The story can be anything really, as can the obstacles. For example,
Turn your phone into a magical combination safe in a matter of minutes. The way most phones work, your puzzle can be a traditional number sequence or one of those sliding patterns.
What do players get when they solve this? Try these:
This one's like the popsicle puzzle (above), but gives you the added benefit of giving someone a key or small object when solved. (wooohoo! Adventurers love loot!)
Simply find a set of stacking cups and write a message down one side by placing one letter on each cup. This is the 'unlocked' state. Add a bunch of other symbols and letters to the cups to hide the solution. Place a small key/clue inside the top cup along with a rolled-up note saying "Can't be accessed until the cup cipher is aligned. You'll know when."
Alternatively, you can deliver a message like in the popsicle puzzle. In this example, we've used JOHNSON as the solver word and the start of the message is 'Red Light'
Choose one of the solutions to the popsicle puzzle, or use this fun trick:
If you'd like to skip making one of these you can get one here. (but they're delightful to DIY).
Making a decent escape room game is tough! Seriously, our escape goblins spend hundreds of hours refining puzzles to perfection.
So why not save yourself the time and hassle, and just pick up a polished, tested, and ready-to-play escape room game?
Envy is a sure-fire way to up the classiness of your event and put smiles on faces, guaranteed! It's completely scalable to your group size, thrillingly thematic, and entirely customizable. You could even use the kit as a base for your own escape room game (just like this teacher did with the Lost Mummy).
Nothing says 'escape room puzzle' better than a good ol' fashioned steel door with keypad entry.
What?? You don't have one of those guarding your washing machine?
Okay, okay. We can't all be Bruce Wayne.
What you probably DO have are regular doors. With a little imagination, any door can just as easily be a portal to another dimension, a hatch into an underground mine, or the gateway to fairy land!
What's that you say? Your door doesn't have a lock on it? No worries. Try hanging a padlock - or a picture of a padlock - on the doorknob and rely on storytelling and thematic decor to bring your challenge to life.
This is the easiest combination safe on the planet. And, take it from a seasoned wizard, the humble bike chain is more stubbornly powerful than most enchanted amulets!
Sure, it's not the most authentic, but remember this is a party for mates, not a business. Add authenticity with a written label, or reference how it fits into your escape room theme during the intro.
Simply thread a bike chain around a door handle or a storage box. Or loop it through a prop your players need in order to solve another puzzle and secure it to something solid.
Turn your boring office furniture into a lockable mystery. Perfect for that escape room team building day that's coming up.
Just stash something deviously top-secret inside and then hide the key somewhere.
A sneaky spot is simply to put the key in the small space under the filing cabinet. Then, leave a note somewhere in the room with the message:
People place things on me. People place things in me. But you'll need what's...
Houses are full of junk. Your junk! Don't try and deny it...
Here's how you can make sure your players know the difference between a sneaky clue and a forgotten post-it note:
If you're in a hurry, save time by using a ready to play escape room kit. They download to your computer and then you just print them out and you're ready to play.
You can even customize them with your own diabolical puzzle ideas and creative flair using the game editor that comes with the download.
Chances are you've got luggage in your cupboard with a combination lock built in.
This just screams escape game puzzle.
If not, you can pick a briefcase or luggage up from a 2nd-hand store pretty cheaply. Just make sure the key or combination works before you purchase one! And don't worry if it's not that sturdy. Simply tell your mates to go hard on the snacks and easy on the furniture.
They're a bit more expensive than briefcases, but safes can also be useful in protecting your belongings when you're not staging epic escape games in your house!
Whether it requires a combination or a key, a safe is the perfect place to hide game elements, plus you can imbue your game with epic thematic mojo by using paint, chalk, stickers, or other decorative features to add character. You can grab the one in the picture on Amazon.
Don't let a lack of fancy hardware limit your creativity.
You can always hand your players a piece of paper that tells them they've encountered a locked door (or safe or briefcase, etc.) and gives some clue regarding what they need to do to open it (find a key, find a four-digit code, etc.).
This photo is one of the printable locks in our Escape Room Z party kit.
These lockboxes are designed to store a front door key, and are often used by real estate agents and Airbnb hosts.
But they can also be used to store other key-sized objects, such as gold pieces, batteries, or spring-loaded spiders...
I like them as a DIY escape puzzle because they feel like a combination safe.
What can store objects, have numbers to identify them, exist in a fixed layout and are available in your workplace?
Throw the 2-year-old snacks out and use these instant-puzzle-boxes in your escape room at work. Just give them a clue for which one contains what's needed and a rule that if they open the wrong one they'll all need to do 10 burpees or lose some points from their score.
The riddle can be as simple or complex as you like. For example, Start at the age of the youngest team member. Then move left for the numbers of players in your team. Then up by one-sixth of the oldest players age.
Provide a photo of your escape room, but include or remove one object. So long as it's obvious enough, players can spot that it's different, which calls attention to something.
This example, from our printable game Escape Room Z requires players to notice the zombie missing from the Polaroid, cut it out, and overlay it to read a message.
These are boxes with hidden drawers and compartment. They'll usually require some amount of critical thinking to work out how to open which makes them perfect for your DIY escape room.
You can buy these online, at puzzle stores, or from mysterious old men in cloaks. Often they're meant to hold money, but you can just as easily hide a key or a note inside one.
Some of these are extremely tricky to open, and you don't want your players to be stuck trying to access a single item for too long. So make sure you're prepared to provide hints if your players get stuck.
This is one of the best 'aha' moments you can make (without using forbidden magicks). Something is hidden in plain sight and no-one will see it... until they can. Then they can't not see it!
Simply place objects in a pattern like this kitchen table example. The more normal the better, so long as it's going to be noticed.
Can you see the solution here...
Set up a chessboard so it appears to be mid-game and leave a note challenging players to checkmate in one move.
In a professional escape room this would usually be attached to a magnet, or some other trickery, which would change something. However, this is a fun DIY escape game so just simulate all that magic by writing what happens when they solve it on the bottom of the note.
For example "You shall not pass the bedroom door unless you can checkmate me in 1 move."
P.S. Feel free to label the pawns and pieces with the names of players... mwuhahaha!
Divide a completed clue into a few different images and hang them or arrange them in the wrong order. Once players recreate the picture they'll see the completed puzzle, like in the picture.
You could just hand your players the pieces.. or use this as your diabolical opportunity to send them on a grand quest of Zelda-esque proportions!
This escape room puzzle is super fun when the image is logically connected with something else in the room. For example, this 4 digit code could be the:
This clever little number is one of the best ways to help players jump right in at the start of your escape game. After all, as soon as they see a jigsaw puzzle they know exactly how to solve it, which will give them their first clue and boost confidence for tackling harder challenges.
Start by writing a message, code, or hint on the back of a jigsaw puzzle. It's best to use a kids puzzle that has 30-60 pieces to avoid players rage quitting.
An alternate solution to a jigsaw is writing a note, or map, on a piece of paper then tear it into pieces.
Then either stash the pieces in a locked box or hide the pieces around your homemade escape room.
It's that old school magic trick from when you were a kid. When you hold a piece of paper above a candle a message appears like it's being written by a ghost.
This is DIY escape room magic at its finest.
Simply grab some lemon juice and a paintbrush or one of those cotton earbuds. Dip it in lemon juice and write whatever you like. You'll need to have a candle or lighter somewhere nearby, as well as a reason for players to join the dots. A good hint is writing 'I light the way to X' on the side of the candle (or something similar that fits better into your them than pirates 😉 )
Lastly, make your message a reward since players will have had to solve a puzzle just to read it. Remember, you want to keep everyone at a flow stage where things are challenging but not too hard.
This simple hack transforms a boring TV into an exciting 'aha' moment. It relies on the fact that when you're designing an escape room at home there's going to be junk everywhere. After all - it's in your living room.
This means that players will generally ignore things like a TV that's turned off, even if switching it on would reveal a clue on screen.
The way to set this up is to lock a set of batteries in a small box, which will stump players at first because there's going to be nothing to put them in. However, they also come with a clue for how to unlock another box that sneakily contains the remote. The moment both are seen players will make the connection and frantically scurry to turn the TV on, which will reveal a clue or solution.
Some good ideas to display are:
Another fun trick is to get a blacklight torch and use this in place of the TV remote. Always fun 😉
Presto chango! This task can totally trip people's brains out when they work out what's going on. All you have to do is take a very well known sequence and change it up. Such as:
Just make sure you use something that's mega well known to support different cultures, ages, and interests.
But no, this time we're not talking about roleplaying games.
This simple escape puzzle will give you a word from 3-6 letters long and is super tactile to solve. Just write one letter on each side of the dice:
Since everyone loves food and escape games, we're going to combine the two. The prize? Yummy mouthfuls of goodness.
Just get any simple recipe, like brownies, and encode the recipe in some way. Not the whole thing, as decoding that can take ages, but enough that players will need to work together.
You can even use this as the final puzzle when designing your own escape room - every other puzzle gives players a clue for decoding the recipe which they can then bake together.
Blacklights are the most overused puzzle in all of the escape room world.
If you're in a professional escape room then blacklights are about as novel as morning breakfast.
However, in the mysterious wonders of your DIY escape room, they're pure joy dipped in magic.
Write out a secret message using invisible ink (here's a recipe) that can only be seen under a black light. You can also Turn your phone flashlight into a blacklight with some tape and markers! This can be an amazing reward for unlocking a very small box as it's simply a piece of clear tape.
Drop something magnetic (a key, perhaps?) someplace where it can't be reached (either literally or because you told your players so). Provide a magnet and a length of string or wire. Require your players to combine items and unleash their inner MacGyver to solve this challenge!
Wanna feel like you're in Mission Impossible? Duh, yeah!!!
All those switches in your fuse box control different rooms in your house. This allows you to provide an electric device that isn't working as part of a multi-stage puzzle.
Make a puzzle that requires players to use an electrical device, like a laptop. For example, create a folder that's clearly labeled with something game-related ("BIO TOXIN" or "TROOP LOCATIONS") and include a clue inside it. Then let the laptop battery drain completely.
Next, plug the laptop into a power socket, but turn off the power to that room or outlet using your fuse box. When players go to look for the clue and the laptop doesn't power on, they'll need to figure out why.
Make sure it's clear to players that the fuse box is part of the game (lead them to it with a trail of blood or mark all game-related items with a red-dot sticker)
Picture this: you've cleverly hidden a URL amongst the newspaper clippings on your missing detective's desk.
Your players find the URL, boot up an ancient desktop, and click through to a website you've specially prepared for them, pointing them towards their next clue...
Sound too hard? Don't worry; with today's online tools, this is way easier than it sounds!
Here are some ideas for creating web content for your game:
Relax. You know what a QR code is, even if you didn't know what they were called.
QR codes are those weird, blocky square pictures you see on the backs of sauce bottles that nobody ever looks at … but they make for a super epic, high-tech escape game feature. And they're heaps easier for your players to use than a long website URL they have to type in.
Basically, you can link a QR code to anything online, which makes them great if you want to "hide" clues anywhere on the internet. For example, the QR code above is from the Escape Room Z kit. It takes players to an online safe they have to crack.
Cut your QR code into puzzle pieces (test it and make sure it still works after you do so!), hide it under an object or in a secret compartment, or leave it out in plain sight and wait for your players to ask themselves "What does this do?"
You don't need the internet to provide clues in a digital format. Putting a clue or puzzle on a USB stick and hiding it somewhere in your escape room gives you a ridiculous number of fun options.
These puzzles involve a piece of paper with a message that's obscured by "visual noise." When players set either a second page with strategically placed holes in it or a piece of colored acetate over the page, the "noise" is hidden, leaving the message clear.
Without the 'key', your message may as well be hidden by an elven cloak of invisibility!
Since this isn't a professional escape game, you can tape off areas and explain why the players can't access them. This gives you tons of options for requiring creative problem solving to retrieve items from your out-of-bounds areas.
If designing a game for children, you can always use age-appropriate mathematics equations to deliver a numeric code. Just remember to make it relevant and fun, only trolls enjoy maths for maths-sake!
In our printable escape room game, The Lost Mummy, players are given several equations to solve, followed by a riddle that reveals the correct sequence of the answers.
Just grab a NERF gun, some targets, and enough ammo to chew your way through the hordes of orcs at your doorstep.
You can invent any rules you like. For example, one shot each or points for different objects.
Make sure your players are aware of the penalty for friendly fire ... unless your escape room ends in a death-match ...
Make a string obstacle course like the laser detection systems in movies. Then it's a not-so-simple matter of ninja-flipping your way through it!
To make it really tough, hang little bells on the pieces of string and make players go back and try again if they cause one to jingle.
Is it hot outside? Does your crew need a fun way to cool off? Maybe the final challenge in your game is to shoot down enemies (with water guns)! Or make it across the yard without getting doused by sprays of acid (intermittent lawn sprinkler). Or run through an obstacle course carrying precious alien eggs (water balloons).
If players can't defeat a foe, maybe they need to protect themselves from one. Give players a collection of objects and a limited amount of time to build fortifications. Objects could be solo cups, marshmallows and pieces of spaghetti (uncooked), or playing cards.
Last fort standing claims victory!
So, did this list inspire some brilliant ideas?
Are you ready to finish your game and offer your friends, coworkers, students, youth group, family, and team a delightful, challenging, unforgettable experience?
You've now completed the hardest part, so give yourself some much-deserved kudos. Then head on back to the step-by-step tutorial and finish your game!
What are you waiting for?
Go on then!
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