" /> 62 Handpicked DIY Escape Room Puzzle Ideas That Create Joy & Mystery

62 Handpicked DIY Escape Room Puzzle Ideas That Spark Joy & Mystery

Magical skull and apple

Are you foraging for escape room puzzle ideas to craft an amazing adventure? Bag the best from this year's bountiful puzzle harvest below.

So, you’re designing an epic, DIY escape adventure to captivate your friends, challenge your coworkers, or delight your kids.

Awesome! 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 forbidden magicks. In short, these puzzles are perfect for first-time overlords designers like yourself!

Key in padlock
lost-mummy-children-victory-balloons-400x400 (2)

Or, maybe you could start your epic escape room design journey with a printable escape room kit.

All of our kits are ready-to-play, simple to set up, and guaranteed to blow your players away!

The good news for you, Mr Mastermind? Each kit is completely editable, so you can customise the game with your own personal flair. Why not give one a shot?

The Single Biggest Mistake DIY escape room designers make...

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.

Puzzles

lost-mummy-players-solving-obelisk-3-400x400

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

rebel-revolt-circuit-puzzle-player-drawing-2-400x400

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

rebel-players-navigating-landmines-8-400x400

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.

The best DIY escape room puzzles:

Padlock on scissors puzzle

Padlock some scissors shut

Puzzle - lock - $10

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.

Door locked with chain

Chain two sliding doors together

Puzzle - Lock - $15

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.

Create a labyrinthian maze

Task - Navigating - Cost of Paper

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.

Coded message on mirror

Divine a ghost message into a mirror

Puzzle - Hidden Message - Free

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:

  • Stare at yourself closely in the mirror until your ghost speaks to you.
  • Wash the magical stone under hot water until it reveals its ancient wisdom.

You can combo this with any encoded message such as the popsicle stick puzzle.

Popsicle stick challenge solved
Popsicle stick challenge

Turn summer popsicles into ciphers

Puzzle - Coded Message - $1

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:

  • We've placed the popsicle sticks inside a cup that has the word JOHNSON on it.
  • Leave a large word hidden somewhere in the room such as using invisible writing in the Mirror Puzzle.
  • Mark each popsicle stick with a different color, then put those colors in sequence on a clue somewhere (like the colors of a rainbow or a packet of colored pencils).
  • Write the first letter in the Keyword quite large. Then decrease the size for each subsequent letter. Players will need to make the connection that size is the sort order.

 

Create a before and after photo

Puzzle - Observation - Free

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.

Phone passcode hides a clue

Use your phone as a lock

Puzzle - Locked 'Box' - Free

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:

  • A secret email that's on the screen when the phone unlocks. Just take a screenshot of an email you've sent to yourself and display it as a picture.
  • A photo of the room 'before' the thief broke into the room showing a vase that was in a different place. Then hide an object inside that vase. Usually, this would be too well hidden for a make your own escape room but this clue makes it solvable. Here's another example of a before/after photo.
Cup rotation cipher solved
Cup rotating cipher box cryptex

Make your own Cryptex

Puzzle - Coded Message or Lock - $1

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:

  • Poke 1 hole in the bottom of the first cup
  • Poke 2 holes in the bottom of the second cup.
  • Continue until they're all done. The sort order is the number of holes!

If you'd like to skip making one of these you can get one here. (but they're delightful to DIY).

Envy tmb title screen

Save the hassle - buy an escape kit!

Puzzles - Game kit - $29 For the complete escape game

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).

Normal key in locked door

Just lock a household door

Puzzle - Lock - Free

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.

REMEMBER: Keep the area safe!
Don't set up your 'minefield' near any sword racks, bottomless pits, or pools of magical goop! (We're still sorry goblin Greg...)

Watch those landmines!

Game - Communication Challenge - Free

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,

  • Set a Twister mat on the floor and challenge your players to cross it following your own creative rules.
  • With larger groups that are competing, you can get each team to sneakily design their opponent's obstacle course.
Bike chain on a box

Use a bike chain to simulate a lock

Puzzle - Lock - $5

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.

 

Lockable filing cabinet

Use the humble filing cabinet

Puzzle - Lock - Free if you have one

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...

Hide stuff

Task - Searching - $0-$20

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:

  • Rely solely on game cards for all clues and items in the game. In this scenario, no random objects will be mistaken for game pieces because all the clues are printed on paper. For example, all the clues in our printable escape room game, 'Escape Quest', get printed onto photos, so it's MEGA OBVIOUS!
  • Grab a pack of those little red dot stickers (or get more creative and go with something that fits your escape room theme) and place one on anything that relates to the game. Players can still enjoy the hunt, but they'll know for certain when they’ve succeeded in finding something relevant.
  • Use only props that clearly tie into your theme. Say you’re hosting a pirate adventure. Use a length of chain and an old-fashioned looking padlock. If players come across your house keys, they’ll know they need to keep hunting for something that jumps out and screams “Aaaarrrrrrrgh”!
  • Designate a specific area for the game and remove any random items from it. Tell players that anything inside those boundaries may be a clue (and anything outside definitely is not).
  • Make sure you define the rules before you start the game. If the art on your walls might have something hidden behind it, let players know that everything in the room is fair game except, say, the light fixtures. By specifying what’s not included, you give them a hint as to what is included.
lost-mummy-players-solving-obelisk-1-400x400

Print a lock from an Escape Room Kit

Puzzle - Lock - $29 For the complete escape game

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.

Cheap 2nd hand briefcase

Grab a rustic briefcase Mr. Spy

Puzzle - Lock - $5+

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.

Too many puzzles to choose from? Download a complete escape room:

Adults.

Casual fun.

4+ Players

1920's Gatsby style murder mystery of debaucherous luxury.

Family Activity.

10-12 year olds.

2+ Players.

Mysterious Egyptian adventure that brings the past back to life!

Teenagers.

Casual Fun.

4+ Players

Treasonous mission that takes you on a daring adventure.

Adults.

Very Hard.

2+ Players.

Comical Zombie thriller with a splash of virus-infected blood.

A safe costs about $50

Buy a cheap safe. Shut it tight.

Puzzle - Lock - $25

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.

Put a note saying 'locked' on a door

Puzzle - Locked Door - Free

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.

Outdoor key lock

Use a house key lockbox

Puzzle - Locked Box - $20

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.

Work lockers

Stash gear in workplace lockers

Puzzle - Locked Box - Free

What can store objects, have numbers to identify them, exist in a fixed layout and are available in your workplace?

Lockers!

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.

Hidden compartment box

Use an impossible box!?

Puzzle - Locked Box - $15

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.

Layout on table

Arrange objects in a pattern

Puzzle - Word Observation - Free

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...

Negotiating is key for your escape startup

You shall not pass! ... until checkmate

Task - Chess - Free

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!

Rearrange image

Rearrange a unique picture

Task - Sorting - $10

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:

  • PIN to unlock a mobile phone
  • Code for opening a padlock on a phone booth door
  • Phone number players dial on a landline to get an audio clue
Hidden message on jigsaw puzzle

Leave a message on a jigsaw puzzle

Task - Sorting - $5

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.

Lemon message hidden

Hide a message with lemon juice.

Puzzle - Hidden Message - $1

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.

TV remote missing batteries

Supply the wrong number of batteries

Puzzle - Logical Connection - Free

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:

  • A youtube video of yourself/friend explaining something. This can be recorded and uploaded from your phone. Then, simply visit the private video on your Smart TV/laptop and press pause so it's not playing. Then turn the TV off ready for players to 'find'.
  • A Netflix show whose title is the Keyword needed to sort objects like in the Popsicle Puzzle.

Another fun trick is to get a blacklight torch and use this in place of the TV remote. Always fun 😉

Swapped Keyboard Keys

Rearrange a known sequence

Puzzle - Observation - Free

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:

  • Swap keyboard keys so they're in different positions. Then write a note using the code which can be cracked by comparing to the normal layout. It won't work on a mac laptop, but on an old school keyboard you can pry the keys off and put them back in the wrong order.
  • Jumble a common title such as NEW YORK TIMES > NWE ORYK IMSET. This is perfect for giving players a hint for a more challenging puzzle since it's solvable without a needing its own clue.
  • Draw a rainbow with the colors in the wrong order, and place a letter/word in each color. When sorted correctly it reveals the answer.

Just make sure you use something that's mega well known to support different cultures, ages, and interests.

Dice code cipher

A cup of dice can tell a story

Puzzle - Sorting - $3

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:

  • You'll need 6 dice to make a 6 letter word. We're going to use JOHNSON.
  • Arrange them in order and write letters over the numbers 1-6.
  • When players arrange the dice in the correct order, they'll see your message.

This puzzle is amazing for giving a Cipher Keyword or a 4-5 digit letter combination for a bike lock.

Baked good brownie

Bake a puzzle of eeaatable proportions

Puzzle - Sorting - $3

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.

Yum!

Too many puzzles to choose from? Download a complete escape room:

Adults.

Casual fun.

4+ Players

1920's Gatsby style murder mystery of debaucherous luxury.

Family Activity.

10-12 year olds.

2+ Players.

Mysterious Egyptian adventure that brings the past back to life!

Teenagers.

Casual Fun.

4+ Players

Treasonous mission that takes you on a daring adventure.

Adults.

Very Hard.

2+ Players.

Comical Zombie thriller with a splash of virus-infected blood.

Hidden message with blacklight

It's a classic: Black-light messages

Puzzle - Searching - $5

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.

magnet-key-puzzle

Use the power of magnets!

Game - Dexterity Challenge - $5 + String

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!

Open power box

Your mission... fix the fusebox

Puzzle - Logical Connection - Free

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)

Online clue for real world escape game

Take your scavenger hunt online

Task - Searching - Free

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!

Minecraft escape theme

Here are some ideas for creating web content for your game:

  • Create a web page and include a puzzle on it or hide clues in the message. Here's an example of one that starts off a date night escape adventure.
  • If you’ve got some video-making wizardry in your toolbox, make a YouTube video. You can use it to set the scene, or you can demonstrate a task that players must accomplish, like mixing two liquids in a “science experiment.”
  • Create a Facebook post or Tweet that contains a clue or a coded message.
  • Provide a coded message (maybe in Braille or Morse code) and leave the link to a website that can be used to decipher it lying around.
  • Email Lock Paper Scissors with your clue, and I’ll create a subpage on the website for you!
  • Make a Minecraft puzzle
QR code puzzle

Hide a QR code in plain sight

Task - Logical Connection - Free

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?”

Puzzle stashed on USB key

Stick top-secret files onto a USB drive

Task - Logical Connection - $15

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.

  • An audio file of a conversation could provide a clue or puzzle (you can make one easily using the voice recorder on your phone).
  • Make a short video showing a corner of the room that the players are in but include one extra object with a number on the side (again you can make the video using your phone).
  • If you're making a super hard escape game, create a Word document and store an important clue or solution inside the author properties. This one won’t be at all intuitive, so give your players a hint to point them in the right direction.
Clock with no hands

Hide a message in a visual overlay code

Puzzle - Hidden Message - Cost of Paper

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!

Impossible metal puzzle

Steal metal brain-teaser puzzles

Puzzle - Brain-teaser - $15

Make sure to craft an epic story behind why your players need to solve these potentially infuriating puzzles.

For example, 'separate these objects to open the portal.'

A simple note along with an optional prop is all that's required, and it gives you a super easy DIY puzzle.

  • Attach a key to one of the pieces and tie them to something fixed. When players separate the parts they can use the key in a locked door. If your puzzle doesn't fit a key, just tie it to one of the parts using string and a note saying 'Can't use until separate.' After all, you're doing this for mates, not as an escape business.
  • Use the weight of one of the pieces as a passcode or combination. Just leave the combined puzzle on some digital kitchen scales next to the lock. Players will get the idea.
Police tape do not cross

Summon an invisible wall

Task - Searching - $10

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.

For example:

  • A key that's 'stuck' behind a shower door, with a note saying Magically sealed by the High WizardsPlayer's can immediately see that they need to find a way to get the keys without opening the door. If there's a magnet ominously left hanging from the key hook next to the front door it's quite clear what needs to happen.
  • Block areas with police tape, or even masking tape, and attach a note saying how players can interact with it. For example, Quicksand pit. Can't be crossed without a surfboard.

Maths?!

Puzzle - Math Problem - Free

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.

Shooting mini game

NERF everything up

Game - Accuracy Challenge - Free if You Have a NERF Gun

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 ...

The targets in this video are from our printable kit Escape Room Z.

Laser string game.

Lazer security maze

Game - Dexterity Challenge - $5 for String

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.

Kids love an obstacle course - and you can make one yourself!

Obstacle course

Game - Strength/Dexterity Challenge - Free

A little imagination can turn cheap and easy obstacle courses into a magical quest of epic proportions!

Here is a simple tutorial for an obstacle course for small children.

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Water

Game - Physical Challenge - Free

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).

A weapon from duct Tape??? MacGyver approves!

Marshmallow launcher

Game - Accuracy Challenge - $15

Really! Who wouldn't love a marshmallow launcher?!

Here’s a video that shows you how to make a marshmallow launcher from a pool noodle, a balloon, and some duct tape.

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Build a fort

Game - Building - $5-$30

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!

Now Go Finish Your Game!

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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'Get it done' by printing a ready to play escape game:

 In a hurry? Grab one of these printable escape room kits.

They download instantly and are ready to print & party.

You can even edit the game, using PowerPoint, to add your own style and puzzles.

Adults.

Casual fun.

4+ Players

1920's Gatsby style murder mystery of debaucherous luxury.

Family Activity.

10-12 year olds.

2+ Players.

Mysterious Egyptian adventure that brings the past back to life!

Teenagers.

Casual Fun.

4+ Players

Treasonous mission that takes you on a daring adventure.

Adults.

Very Hard.

2+ Players.

Comical Zombie thriller with a splash of virus-infected blood.