Digital escape room games have exploded in popularity recently, as people explore the best ways to turn the fun of an escape room into something you can do from home. A lot of these games are free to play, or accept pay-what-you-can donations, so if you’re looking for cheap things to do from home that also involve puzzles, look no further! Here’s a roundup of some of the best free online escape games we’ve played.
Escape From Home
Play here • Length: 10-30 minutes each • Difficulty: Easy
This is a series of three quick games from Escape From Home, an Egyptian tomb, a pirate adventure, and a mysterious trip around the world. They’re linked together by a shared premise: you’re travelling through a mysterious wardrobe in your attic, only to find yourself in the middle of a puzzling situation. Work out the passcode on each page and enter it to access the next part of the adventure. Keep an eye on the format for entering answers — it can be a bit fiddly, sometimes requiring numbers as digits and sometimes as words.
The Egyptian Escape and A Pirate’s Problem are quick and easy games to get started with. Global Gateway is a little bit trickier, and uses a few more different types of media, including an audio puzzle and one that involves doing some origami.
Marty and the Thief in the Night
Play here • Length: 10-20 minutes • Difficulty: Easy
This short game offers a sequence of four puzzles to solve, in order to work out the details of a break in. It’s well-designed, with a polished interface, and it features perhaps the best character of any game on this list: Marty, a guard dog sporting some extremely cool sunglasses. One of the puzzles is a memory challenge, so don’t cheat!
Escape Room Herndon: Potter’s Escape Game
Play here • Length: 45-60 mins • Difficulty: Medium
This is a lovely sequence of twelve puzzles following the plot of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Solutions will either be numbers or words/phrases (although it doesn’t tell you beforehand whether the solution you’re looking for will be letters or numbers, so figuring out what you’re supposed to be solving for adds to the challenge!). You can solve the majority of the puzzles online, but one of them is tricky to do without printing it out. This is a good collection of puzzles, some easier and some trickier, set in a nicely designed interface. Note that the game contains spoilers for the plot of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, if that’s something that anyone at all cares about in 2020.
Play here • Length: 60-120 minutes • Difficulty: Easy/Medium
Medogan, by Modern Fables, is part escape game and part text-adventure story. It’s a beautifully designed game with a lot of narrative, drawing the player into some immersive worldbuilding. There are currently two parts, each one taking roughly an hour to complete — and, in a nice change of pace from many escape games, you won’t want to rush while you’re playing it. Instead, take your time and explore every bizarre, charming, slightly-sinister detail of the weird idyllic town that the game lands you in. The puzzle elements aren’t particularly difficult, though they’re enough of a challenge to keep you occupied. Where Medogan really stands out, though, is in the creativity of the design.
Google Forms games
The rest of our recommended games are examples of a different style for free online escape games. Rather than being playable in browser or built into a website, they’re playable via Google Forms — make progress through the game by entering the correct answers into the form.
Hogwarts Digital Escape Room (Peters Township Public Library)
Play here • Length: 10-15 minutes • Difficulty: Easy
This is a short game (about 15 minutes), and correspondingly easy. It uses multiple-choice options for answers, which makes it easy to crack or reverse-engineer puzzles, so for a better escape room-style experience we recommend trying to solve the puzzle before looking at the answer options.
Harry Potter Digital Escape Room (UTS Quidditch Society)
Play here • Length: 60-90 minutes • Difficulty: Medium
Yet another Harry Potter-themed game, this is a step up in pretty much every sense. It’s much longer, much more challenging, and much nerdier. This game is definitely one for Harry Potter lovers, leading through you a long and intricate adventure that draws heavily on the source material for its theming — one of the puzzles requires you to have a print edition of Prisoner of Azkaban on hand in order to solve it. The puzzles are a bit hit or miss: some of them dragged a little or were easy to crack, but some are great fun. This game’s strength is its use of the format: there are no multiple choice answers, and the first part of the game breaks the mold for online escape games in allowing you to explore the puzzles in any order, rather than requiring all the answers to be sequential.
Spy Apprentice Digital Escape Room (Washington-Centerville Public Library)
Play here • Length: 30-60 minutes • Difficulty: Tricky
This is a medium-length game (30-60 minutes), with some very difficult puzzles. A couple of the puzzles could have been better hinted, but the vast majority are very well-designed, and hard enough for anyone looking for a challenge. The game also handles the ‘online’ part of ‘online escape game’ well, managing to integrate links to relevant books and webpages in a way that isn’t clunky and doesn’t break the theming.
If online escape games aren’t your thing, discover some other ways to play escape rooms from home. Feeling inspired to create your own? Check out our introductory tips for setting up your DIY escape room!
We hope everyone’s staying safe, and looking after yourselves and others during these stressful times. While LockHouse is currently closed, we’ll be keeping up a series of blog posts on all things escape rooms, board games, tabletop RPGs, media recs, and more. Read all our LockHouse Lockdown content here. Plus keep an eye on our Facebook for everything from updates to brainteasers!