Absolute Best Escape Room Board Games in 2021 [Ranked and Reviewed]

Escape room board games have exploded in recent years and the number of brands offering an escape room game is quickly becoming uncountable. After the major brand success of Unlock, Exit and Escape Room the board game, many smaller publications also put out escape room games now. In this post, we ranked all these escape room games for you to help you pick the best escape room games for you.

Escape room games emulate real life escape rooms, in which players try to solve a series of puzzles to escape a building or room. Often escape rooms have an adventurous theme or story – ‘Escape this room and stop the bad guy to save the world!’ – to up the stakes a little bit.

Escape room games are kits that let you set up a mini escape room in your own living room. Usually, you don’t have to physically escape the room (since you could just do that with your own house keys). But, you still have to solve puzzles and riddles to find the next clue, which gives you the code to open the box, which gives you a new riddle, etcetera etcetera until you complete the game.

How Do Escape Room Games Work?

All escape rooms games are a little different, but there are some common mechanics and components:

Many escape room games rely on cards that give you clues to point you to the next card you need.

Some escape room games also contain physical components that you need to use, open or destroy to obtain your next clue.

And some escape room games come with an app that helps you to keep time and that can give you clues if you ever get stuck on a puzzle.

Depending on which escape room game you get, it may also involve a lot of time pressure, have a story line, or prompt you to move through different rooms in your own house.

What Are The Best Escape Room Games?

Nowadays there are very many escape room board games. There’s three major brands that all published numerous escape room games:

  • Escape Room: The Game
  • Unlock!
  • EXIT
  • Escape Room in a Box
  • Escape The Room

In our ranking we decided to list the escape room brands, rather than their individuel games. We think this is the most helpful because all the brands are very consistent in the type of game they put out, and it helps us to talk about the escape rooms in a higher level spoiler free manner.

However, in each brand listing we also tell you which is the best escape room in that series to buy first and which we think is the best escape room overall.

Escape Room In A Box is the newest series of escape room games, and it’s by far the best one in our opinion. It takes the successful concept of its predecessors of an in house escape room with puzzles, but it smooths out all the rough edges and adds many creative new types of puzzles and challenges.

Furthermore, this game contains many more physical components, such as locks, keys, and all kinds of other cool things that we won’t spoil here. These make the game far more immersive because you can touch and feel the items, hear them and see them from all angles. We can’t stress enough how much more fun this makes an escape room game.

Another stand out addition of Escape Room In A Box is that Alexa can host your games. She can keep time and give you hints when you need them. Note that this isn’t necessary (in fact you don’t need a host at all), but it’s a very fun extra little something that this game adds.

Currently there are three editions of Escape Room In A Box available: FlashbackThe Werewolf Experiment and The Walking Dead.

Our recommendation is that if you buy Flashback as your first escape room game. It’s tailor made for beginners with puzzles that aren’t too complicated and simple to follow rules.

If you’ve played an escape room game before, we recommend The Werewolf Experiment. This game specifically is the new gold standard for escape room games in our opinion. It has the best puzzles, components and story line of any escape room game we played.

Walking Dead is also great, especially if you watch the Walking Dead tv series. But even if you don’t watch this series you can play the game and enjoy it.

Escape the Room brands itself as the best the escape room game for families with children. It’s family friendly both in terms of its theme and its difficulty level, so it’s not too difficult and there also aren’t any scary or vulgar elements in it. It also develops the critical thinking skills of your children.

The game itself states that it’s appropriate for teens. We think this is fair, although children that are slightly younger can still enjoy the experience, given that the adults at the table leave them some room to play as well. You know for yourself whether your family members are up to this task!

Another thing that we’ll note is that this escape room isn’t way too easy for adults. Some parts are quite tricky, even for grown ups. Therefore, we recommend playing this with the whole family, rather than letting just the kids play it, because they probably won’t escape the room otherwise.

Another thing we really like about this escape room game series is that all of its games are reusable, because you can reassemble all the pieces to their original state. So what you can also do is play the game first yourself, and then reassemble it for your kids, who can then play through it themselves with your occasional guidance.

There’s three editions of Escape the Room: Mystery at Stargazer’s Manor, Secret of Dr. Gravely’s Retreat and The Cursed Dollhouse.

Mystery at Stargazer’s Manor is the only game that’s ages 10 and up (the others are 13 and up). It’s the least complicated escape room in this series in terms of its puzzles, and it’s not scary at all. So if you have young children this is your escape room.

Secret of Dr. Gravely’s Retreat is a bit harder and more mysterious than Mystery at Stargazer’s Manor. This one is recommended for children of ages 13 and up, and then still you really need an adult in the room to help them get through the toughest puzzles.

The Cursed Dollhouse is the premium edition in this escape room series. It contains a three story dollhouse, filled with secret compartments, 3D furniture and creepy dolls. This physical dollhouse centers everyone’s attention and makes the whole game much more immersive. Therefore, the Cursed Dollhouse is the best Escape The Room game in our opinion. 

Escape Room: The Game chrono decoderEscape Room: The Game is in our opinion the most immersive of the major escape room brands, because it’s not just cards. The game actually contains physical components, including the chrono decoder, which has a timer on it and requires physical keys to open.

Physical components like the chrono decoder also center the group and make sure everyone can always see the timer. This isn’t quite true when the timer is on someone’s phone. So although it may not seem so important, in our experience the physical components really help to promote team work and player interaction as well.

Like many other escape room board games, this one isn’t reusable if you obey all the commands of the game.

Of all the escape room games we ranked here, this one might feel the most authentic due to the nature of its puzzles and the fantastic looking chrono decoder.

Escape Room: The Game also does the best job in terms of tailoring its editions to a specific audience. They have a special family edition, a 2 player edition and a virtual reality edition. And all of them contain multiple escape rooms so they’re good value for your money.

And the Escape Room the game expansions are especially also good value, because they are much cheaper because they don’t contain a separate chrono decoder.

EXIT distinguishes itself from other escape room game series by its ease of use. The game has very little rules and doesn’t require you to download an app. Everything you need is in the box and is explained as you play the game.

If you want to reuse EXIT, you need to disobey many commands to destroy components of the game. For example, sometimes you might have to tear a component apart and rearrange it in a different way to get the code you need. Honestly, it’s doable to play the game without destroying it if you want to, but we think it adds to the game if you do obey its commands.

Due to its simplicity and low price point we often recommend EXIT to people that want to dabble their toes in the waters of escape room games for the first time.

EXIT is a successful series with many editions, which is why we wrote down our best Exit games ranking.

Unlock! tries to emulate the feeling of a real life escape room the closest. The series does this by focusing on riddles and time pressure, and a free companion app that gives you clues if you ever get stuck on a riddle. The app is also mandatory, as it’s the place where you enter the codes you find to advance to the next stage.

What’s also nice about the escape rooms in the Unlock! series is that they are reusable. This isn’t the game for most other escape room games, which require you to trash or destroy certain components of the game. Of course, you still can’t really play an Unlock! game twice yourself because you already know all the answers to the riddles, but you can give the game away.

The best Unlock! game we’ve played so far is Timeless Adventures, with Epic Adventures being a close second.

Conclusion: EXIT Vs Unlock! Vs Escape Room in a Box Vs Escape The Room Vs Escape Room: The Board Game

First off we want to say that all these brands make great games, and we’ve had fun playing all of them. We don’t think any of them is strictly better than another, but depending on your taste you’ll still have a favorite.

Escape Room in a Box is the new gold standard for escape room games. It’s more creative with the types of puzzles and challenges you have to solve. It also contains many more physical components, locks, keys, and so forth than its predecessors.

Escape the Room is most family friendly. And especially The Cursed Dollhouse is outstanding with it’s physical components.

Escape Room: the Game has more physical components which make the game more immersive and lively. The chrono decoder is a visual and tactile reminder of the mystery that you’re solving. You can pick it up to feel its weight, shake it to try to hear what’s inside it, and when you finally open it it’s a very rewarding experience.

Unlock! is by far the most beautiful series. It has the nicest looking artwork and all the cards are a treat on the eyes. Further, it deviates the most from your standard puzzles and comes with some out of the ordinary design ideas, which makes the game more exciting.

EXIT has the best puzzles and hint system. All the puzzles are solvable but not trivial, so they always stay rewarding. They never ask you to do the same trick twice. We also experience their hints to strike the best balance between being useful without giving the answer away.

So our recommendation is that if you want the best puzzles you get EXIT, if you want a beautiful gift or game for yourself you get Unlock!, and if you want to get that real life escape room vibe you get Escape Room: The Board Game.