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09 Jun, 2020
17 min read

10 Most Popular Escape Room Themes & Objectives

The Most Popular Escape Room Themes  | Questroom

There are hundreds of escape room themes to choose from, spanning everything from prison escapes to Old West train robberies. If you’re thinking of gathering up your savviest group of friends and braving one of these unique attractions yourself, you’ll need to decide ahead of time which theme appeals to you the most. Most escape room facilities will have multiple themes housed under a single roof, and you’ll often need to book your appointment in advance.

We’ve broken down the most popular escape room scenarios to give you a better idea of what to expect and hopefully make your decision-making process a bit easier.

The 10 Most Popular Escape Room Themes

Looking for escape room ideas? According to the 2018 Escape Room Industry Survey, these are the most popular themes you’ll find in escape rooms across the U.S. and around the world (in order of popularity).

1. Mystery

Mystery-themed escape rooms, such as the popular Polar Station escape room, often revolve around storylines involving Sherlock Holmes, murder mystery dinner events, or other police and detective narratives. These immersive attractions come in various forms but typically require participants to engage in deductive reasoning to solve a murder mystery.

2. Fantasy

Embark on a magical journey with our fantasy-themed escape rooms at Questroom! Immerse yourself in a world where magic reigns supreme, drawing inspiration from popular series like Harry Potter and Game of Thrones, or experience entirely original narratives that will captivate your imagination.

One of our standout fantasy-themed escape rooms is Warlocked. In this enchanting adventure, participants find themselves thrust into a realm where ancient spells and mystical challenges await. Channel your inner wizard as you solve puzzles and unlock the secrets of the magical world surrounding you.

3. Science / Laboratory

These complex escape rooms are perfect for science buffs. You may be required to conduct chemistry experiments, find the appropriate chemical mixture, create an alternative energy source to unlock a motorized exit door or use the periodic table of elements as a cipher to decrypt a coded message.

One of our featured complex escape rooms is Project Minotaur. In this intellectually stimulating adventure, participants unravel the mysteries of an evil facility.

4. Horror

Prepare for an adrenaline-pumping experience at Questroom with our heart-pounding escape rooms, specifically crafted for thrill-seekers who dare to face the unknown. Not for the faint of heart, these rooms draw inspiration from intense and chilling scenarios, sometimes reminiscent of popular films like the Saw series. However, each room boasts a unique and original narrative that will test your courage and quick thinking.

One such nerve-wracking adventure is the Resurrection escape room. In this spine-tingling experience, participants must navigate through a nightmarish scenario, attempting to escape a house of horrors and solve an evil mystery.

5. Future / Technological

Embark on a futuristic journey into the world of sci-fi escape rooms at Questroom, where cutting-edge technologies merge with immersive storytelling to create an unparalleled adventure. These rooms have become increasingly popular for their ability to integrate virtual reality (VR), touchscreen puzzles, holograms, and other cool technologies, providing an exhilarating experience for participants.

One standout among our sci-fi escape rooms is Kablam. In this high-tech adventure, participants are thrust into a futuristic scenario where every moment is filled with suspense and excitement.

6. Prison

The premise here is pretty simple: execute a successful prison break before time runs out. It’s the classic escape room model, but it’s still extremely effective. In most cases, all of the action takes place in your prison cell. In some of the more elaborate escape room experiences, you’ll need to first break out of your cell and then find a way out of the cell block before making your way to freedom.

One standout experience, Bloody Elbow, adds an extra layer of intensity to the escape room journey. As you strive to break out of your cell, the challenge extends beyond its walls.

7. Seasonal

Some escape room facilities will offer seasonal attractions related to Christmas, Easter, Halloween, and other major holidays. In some cases, non-seasonal escape rooms are modified with seasonal touches for a limited time. Often, the rooms are completely transformed with a brand-new storyline and new puzzles.

8. Military

A military-themed escape room may require participants to escape a POW camp, rescue hostages, or evade enemy capture in an active warzone. You might encounter puzzles that involve morse code (or other coded messages), military time, espionage, and foreign language translation.

One standout among our military-themed escape rooms is Project Minotaur, where participants become integral parts of a groundbreaking military experiment. Unravel the mysteries of a scientific facility intertwined with military challenges, combining science and strategic thinking for an unparalleled experience.

9. Steampunk

Steampunk escape rooms are similar to fantasy and sci-fi rooms, but they’re centered around common steampunk conventions like Victorian-inspired designs, steam engine technologies, and the melding of science and magic. Expect puzzles that involve lots of elaborate gears and clockwork—and, in some cases, even alchemy.

In the Perfumer escape room, participants find themselves surrounded by a world where clockwork intricacies and alchemy play a crucial role. Navigate through puzzles involving elaborate gears, mysterious contraptions, and the artful fusion of science and magic.

10. Crime

If you’ve ever dreamed of being the bad guy for a day, a crime escape room might be up your alley. A crime-focused escape room might allow you to simulate the experience of carrying out an elaborate heist, breaking into a bank vault, or destroying incriminating evidence that could put you away for life.

11. Missing Person

In this escape room theme, you must search through clues to figure out what happened to a particular person, who could be anyone from a damsel in distress to an important political figure.

In the Resurrection escape room, engage your detective skills as you piece together the puzzle, unraveling the mystery surrounding the missing person. Each clue takes you deeper into the narrative, challenging your observational prowess, deduction abilities, and teamwork.

12. Bomb Defusing

In this escape room, there is a simulated bomb that your team must defuse by solving puzzles and entering codes correctly. The scenario and props create excitement and realism, requiring you to stay calm under pressure and rely on reasoning, logic, and teamwork. Without defusing the bomb in time, you "explode" and lose the game.

13. The Search for an Antidote or Formula

This escape room theme is often based on a virus or zombie outbreak that could wipe out an entire country or planet. Players are tasked with finding the formula for the antidote by following clues left by the scientists in charge. Once the clues are pieced together and the puzzle is solved, the cure can be found, and the epidemic can be stopped.

Stay tuned for the launch of this intense escape room theme at Questroom, where the challenge is not just to escape but to save the world from a viral catastrophe. Will you be ready to face the impending outbreak and find the antidote in time? The countdown to this thrilling escape room experience is on!

14. Rescue Mission

The rescue mission escape room type involves rescuing someone from a dangerous situation, such as a young girl or a special agent. Players must search for clues left behind at the last known location or rely on intel delivered to their place to complete the mission successfully.

15. Treasure Hunt

The Ancient Egyptian pharaohs' tombs are one of the oldest and most popular escape room themes. The games are designed in muted colors and gloomy surroundings to recreate the culture of ancient burial rites of the pharaohs. You will wander through the catacombs, discover tombs, find unique relics, and look for secret passages.

In the Red Giant escape room, venture through the haunting catacombs, uncover hidden tombs, unearth unique relics, and seek out secret passages that will lead you to the ultimate treasure. This theme serves as an exceptional test of your ability and responsiveness in situations demanding quick decision-making, making it an ideal choice for both beginners and seasoned players.

16. Pirates

Pirate-themed escape rooms are a favorite among players who enjoy sailing on an old ship with a team, conquering the seas and oceans. An example of such a room is Pirates in the Caribbean in Redmond, where players have to escape from a crew of murderous pirates led by Captain Flint and capture the enemy ship.

This theme serves as an outstanding team-building tool, providing a unique and exciting perspective for friends, work colleagues, or family members. Stay tuned for the launch of our Pirate-themed escape room at Questroom in Culver City. Are you ready to embark on a pirate's journey, uncover hidden treasures, and face the challenges of the open sea? Gather your crew and get ready for an immersive adventure on the horizon!

17. Bank or Museum Robbery

Bank heist is a popular escape room theme that offers excellent training for your intellect.

The theme typically involves:

  • Breaking into a building.
  • Navigating security measures.
  • Stealing valuable items such as money, diamonds, or artifacts.

While the scenario may seem simple, plenty of puzzles keep players engaged and challenged. The heist theme is perfect for entertaining activities that exercise the mind.

18. Zombie Invasion

Zombie-themed escape rooms are increasingly popular and offer an exciting and immersive experience. With an apocalyptic design and a deadly virus causing an epidemic that spreads rapidly, players must find an antidote before humanity becomes entirely consumed by flesh-eating creatures. Players are tasked with finding safe places and evacuating people while searching for clues to solve the puzzle. This theme offers a unique way to get a psycho-emotional reboot and lift your mood.

19. Movie or Book Themed

Movie and TV series-themed escape rooms offer excellent story themes, authentic designs, and a chance to experience a living adventure in your favorite worlds. Examples include Game of Kings in Seattle, based on the TV series Game of Thrones, The Wizarding School in the Spirit of Harry Potter, and Jurassic Island, also in Seattle. These themes provide the best opportunity to escape from everyday worries and enjoy the cozy game atmosphere filled with positive emotions.

As a sneak peek, our upcoming escape room, Perfumer, promises to transport you into the realm of cinematic magic. Immerse yourself in the intricate world of fragrances, secrets, and mysteries, all set within the captivating atmosphere of a blockbuster movie.

20. The Haunted House

Haunted houses or rooms with supernatural themes are one of the most popular and terrifying escape room themes. They often feature plots where the players have moved into a new house cursed by an evil spirit. The players must search for clues and solve puzzles to escape the room before time runs out, or they risk being possessed by the evil spirit.

Resurrection at Questroom promises an immersive and heart-pounding encounter with the supernatural. Will you and your team unravel the mysteries, escape the clutches of the evil spirit, and emerge victorious, or will you succumb to the haunting forces within?

21. The Basement

The Basement is an escape room theme that involves players trying to escape a crazed serial killer who has kidnapped and locked them up. The goal is to break out of the Basement within an hour by successfully passing the difficulty levels and escaping safely. It is an intense and scary theme that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

In a similarly intense vein, Cannibal's Den awaits brave adventurers. This escape room theme takes horror to new heights as you face the challenges of escaping a den inhabited by a cannibal. The goal remains crystal clear—outsmart the danger within the allotted time and emerge unscathed.

22. Kidnapping

In this escape room theme, the players are blindfolded and handcuffed to a chair in a room, and they must figure out how to free themselves within an hour by using hidden clues, brainpower, and teamwork. Kidnapping is a thrilling and scary escape room theme that will pump your adrenaline throughout the game.

For those seeking an additional dose of terror, explore the ominous Cannibal's Den escape room. Face the horrors of escaping a den inhabited by a cannibal, testing your wits and bravery in a race against time.

In the Amnesia escape room, delve into a mysterious world where memory loss adds an extra layer of challenge. Unravel the secrets and overcome the obstacles within the allotted time, all while grappling with the uncertainty of a forgotten past.

23. Wild West

The Wild West escape room theme takes you and your gang back to the old country full of bandits, horses, and showdowns. Your mission would be to find out who robbed the bank in town. However, all players must be prepared because the bad guys will not go down without a fight, and clues might lead to traps. Players can dress the part in ten-gallon hats and sheriff's badges to immerse in the theme completely.

24. Submarine Survival

In this escape room scenario, players are in a submarine searching for lost treasure when the submarine hits a rock and begins to sink. With oxygen running out and water filling the hull, players must solve riddles, puzzles, and clues to find the exit and escape the submarine alive. This theme is full of mystery, thrills, betrayal, fear, and danger, making it cool for adrenaline junkies.

25. Plane Survival

This escape room background involves being locked into a plane-themed room. All players are passengers, and the plane is about to crash. The only way to leave is to win the game, but every player is strapped to a seat and must unfasten their seat belts in time. After leaving your seat, you must find clues that lead to a parachute, answer riddles, and solve puzzles to open the door. This escape room is full of adrenaline and fast-paced, so be sure your team is prepared before taking off.

There are countless other themes for escape rooms as well, ranging from school-themed to anime to Western. And new options are constantly emerging. Whether you dream of exploring ancient pyramids or traveling back in time to the 15th century, there’s an escape room out there for you.

For a twist on this gripping theme, explore Polar Station. Set in the aftermath of a plane crash, this escape room takes you on a chilling journey where survival becomes the ultimate test. Adapt quickly to the changing circumstances and uncover the mysteries within the icy Polar Station.

The 10 Most Popular Escape Room Objectives

The escape room objective refers to the actual role, task, or goal. This is separate from the theme, as different themes can carry the same type of objective. For example, if your objective is to locate a missing person, you may be dealing with a mystery-themed escape room, a horror-themed escape room, or a military-themed escape room.

When you know the type of objective that appeals to you the most, you can narrow down your choice of escape room more easily. The following are the most common objectives you’ll find in local escape room attractions, according to the 2018 Escape Room Industry Survey:

1. Locate or Create Something

You might have to locate an ancient artifact, a stash of gold, a dead relative’s missing will, or some other form of treasure. Alternately, you might be tasked with creating something like a magic potion or a liquid antidote.

2. Escape From Captivity

Depending on the theme, you might be required to escape from a prison, an asylum, a dungeon, a haunted house, a bunker, a pyramid, or even a school. The clues may be isolated to one room, or you may have to escape from multiple rooms, each with its own mysteries.

3. Be an Adventurer

This objective often overlaps with other objectives (such as locating something). If you’ve ever dreamed of walking in the footsteps of Indiana Jones and braving exotic locales in the face of certain danger (whether to collect an ancient amulet or rescue captives in distress), this may be the objective for you.

4. Carry Out a Heist

A heist escape room may involve capturing a priceless work of art, breaking into a bank vault, or slipping past increasingly complex security measures to access a millionaire’s hidden fortune. It’s a great opportunity for you and your confidants to live out your Ocean’s Eleven fantasies.

5. Solve a Murder

This is the classic whodunnit setup. You’re provided with the clues and the list of suspects, and your job is to then comb through every detail in the room and determine who committed the heinous crime.

6. Diffuse an Explosive Device

Common in military-themed escape games, this setup typically requires you to sort through clues and figure out the numeric code (or arrangement of wires) that will deactivate the bomb before time runs out. The visual countdown and incessant ticking sounds allow for maximum tension in this situation.

7. Locate a Missing Person

The missing-person trope lends itself to most escape room themes. You’re provided with basic background information about the individual, as well as key details surrounding their disappearance or capture. Your mission may be to rescue them outright (such as by opening a locked bunker) or to solve the mystery of what happened to them.

8. Gather Intelligence or Espionage

Some escape rooms are rooted in very specific information-gathering: Find out the name of the spy. Discover the coordinates of the terrorist cell (longitude and latitude). Find out which of your superior officers is making backroom deals with hostile foreign leaders. These escape rooms require meticulous attention to detail and can be tough to crack.

9. Just Survive

In horror-themed escape rooms especially, sometimes the objective is simply to run down the clock for 30 to 60 minutes before you get captured by hostile pursuers. Not every player can handle it, but if you’re up to the challenge, this type of attraction can offer quite the adrenaline rush.

10. Solve a Theft

Sometimes you’re the thief (e.g. heist rooms), but other times you’re the person catching the thief. This objective sometimes overlaps with the popular “locate something” quest noted at the top of this list, although in this case, the objective can sometimes be twofold: find the stolen goods, and discover the identity of the thief.

Other popular objectives include connecting with the supernatural, conducting military operations, and even carrying out an assassination.

How to Choose an Escape Room Theme for Your Team

Depending on where you live (or where you’re visiting), you might not have many choices in escape room games. If you’re lucky enough to be near a major city, though, you might have access to every type of escape room under the sun. For example, if you’re looking for a Los Angeles escape room, there are over 250 options to choose from.

When deciding on an escape room:

  • Consider the interests of everyone in your group.
  • Don’t just consider the themes that appeal to you; think about your preferred objectives as well.
  • Try something new; if you’ve already completed a mystery-themed escape room, it might be time to mix it up and try a horror or adventure - room.
  • Decide whether age appropriateness is a factor (or office-appropriateness); some escape rooms have recommended minimum ages.
  • Consider the level of difficulty; some facilities will include a difficulty rating or score for each escape room, and certain themes tend to be more challenging by design (like science and espionage, for instance). Whichever attraction you choose, you’re sure to have an unforgettable time as long as you gather your best crew, come in with a game plan, and just have fun with it.

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