Which were the UK’s best escape rooms in 2021? This list is based on many thousands of ratings from players of all levels of experience, as well as all the main UK escape room bloggers and reviewers, blended together by the Escape The Review algorithm; and as of the end of Dec 2021, these are the 50 highest rated rooms in the country, out of over 1,600. I’ve personally played 31 of these; the descriptions of the others are based on reviews, rumours, and second-hand reports.
In alphabetical order, the top 50 are:
Challenging and with a complex narrative that you may not fully grasp until the end of the game, this enthusiast-run sci-fi mystery mixes in twists and some creepy moments with impressive technology and some very original puzzles – best suited for experienced players.
Another sci-fi game with plenty of interesting tech, this story about an ambiguously menacing artificial intelligence remains one of my personal favourites. Particular strengths include its unusual technology and involving narrative.
Set in actual underground caves, Cave Escape’s two games have you hunting down Dracula in Carfax, and rescuing precious artwork from Nazis at the end of WW2 in Monuments. Carfax is pretty, atmospheric and fun; Monuments is sophisticated, atmospheric and tough enough to challenge even experienced players; you should absolutely play both.
Two of Clue Cracker’s games make the top 50, with very different styles: Diamond Dogs is a frantic heist game with a delightful start and a high-adrenaline finish, and Temple Quest is a romp through a lost temple, full of fun moments and physical puzzles, which has quickly become one of the best-loved games in the Southeast.
Originally due to close last July due to maintenance work on the railway arch in which it’s located, treasure-hunting gam Miyalock has survived through to January and may be back after March; which is excellent news since it gets rave reviews from pretty much everyone who plays it.
I played this game when it was Interstellar at Trapped In Bury, which was a clever and distinctive spaceship game; and by all accounts it’s lost nothing (and gained a pun or two) at its new home. (If you’ve played Clue HQ’s The Warp series of online games, you’ll recognise the set.)
One of the very first escape room companies in the country, clueQuest also offer what might be London’s best escape room. ORIGENES uses their world of cartoon mouse secret agents for a setting that’s both memorably different and executed brilliantly, stuffed with imaginative and smart puzzles.
Professor Dunstan and the Search for the Ancient Statuette is both the longest-titled game in the UK and also the best reason I know of to visit Swindon. Inspired by its creator’s archaeology background and meticulously hand-crafted, it’s been on enthusiast must-play lists since it opened in 2017. I haven’t played their follow-up Sub-Terra yet, but that also gets consistently excellent reviews and has also made the top 50 list.
The highest rated game in the northwest, in this game you’re salvaging treasure from a submarine. It’s score-based not a simple win/lose outcome, so you have to solve as many puzzles as possible in the time available – and by all accounts there is a mountain of puzzles to solve, and even the most expert teams can expect a full hour of game time.
Grab as much loot as you can, but make sure you get the Daylight Diamond before you leave! Daylight Robbery is also score-based, and has become legendary for the sheer quantity of puzzles to solve, with some teams booking two slots back to back so they have a chance of getting through everything. Nottingham’s full of great games, and Daylight Robbery is a must-play on all visiting enthusiasts’ itineraries.
Distinctive for its wildly creative premise (you have sixty seconds to fix the time machine…), The Time Machine is also disarming for charm and personality. I’m a sucker for humour and pretty aesthetics in games, and this has both.
This 90 min game is my top recommendation for the East of England region. Topically, you’re trying to stop a pandemic, and the ending laboratory section of the game is a particular stand-out. If you can’t get to Colchester you can also play this from home as an avatar game – but I’d recommend playing in person if you can.
Perhaps because the location is off the beaten track for most travelling enthusiasts, Impact is less well known as most of the rooms on this list, but so far every review I’ve seen of this spaceship game has been wildly enthusiastic. High on my list of games to try in 2022.
Not a medieval setting but another spaceship game, The Citadel is another room that doesn’t get talked about nearly as much as it deserves. Your mission is to unravel what happened to the space station and escape before the power runs out. Interesting puzzles, tight game design, and good world-building.
In a town full of first rate escape rooms, bank heist game Ram Raid stood out for the blast of pure adrenaline it managed to produce at a certain point – if you’ve played it you can probably guess where. (I also loved the venue’s Blown Away, though that narrowly missed out on this list.)
The now-venerable Curio has spent some years in contention for the title of best UK escape room, and continues to get top ratings, helped by its completely unique twist (no spoilers!). Robin of Lockskey is a lot newer, and takes advantage of its underground space to create an atmospheric adventure that’s accessible to less experienced teams and impressive for all.
I’ve played most of Exciting Escapes’ games, but not this one; and by most accounts it seems I’ve missed out on their best. It’s set in WW2 and requires you to retrieve documents without setting off a bomb, and I suspect the game title hints at the unusual type of challenge featured in part of the game.
Only a few companies have more than one room in this top 50 list, but all three games from Extremescape made the cut. Expansive set design, clever puzzles and great dramatic effects make them one of the UK’s top companies, with each new game managing to be even better than the previous one.
Having gained a loyal following for their original Southampton location, Houdini’s are now rapidly expanding across the country; but their highest-rated game is only available in their hometown. This Jurassic Park style dino romp is another one I’m overdue playing.
The only reason I haven’t played this room yet is because I’ve been saving it up. Both Hounds Escape’s games have received rave reviews since opening in 2020, but player consensus gives top honours to this escape from the nastier side of the US Deep South.
Every time someone asks for game recommendations in Leeds or York, the advice tends to be to head out of town and visit Kanyu. Both their main games are beautiful and clever; Follow In My Footsteps is the easier of the two, but currently has the higher overall rating, buoyed by lovely atmosphere and strong story.
Another high-energy score-based heist game, you need to get the diamonds but also as much cash as you can. This can also be played in digital form, though recommendations are much stronger for the physical game. The venue also offers Crystal Maze style experience Diamond Mine, which doesn’t yet have enough ratings to make this list, but should certainly be on your schedule if you’re visiting.
Another venue with two excellent games where one made the top 50 and the other just missed out, letsXcape are based in the lavish Kelham Hall, and their stories are inspired by the setting. In The Rig you’re exploring a WW2-era drill rig, now in danger of imminent explosion. It’s a cool space with a great feel of authenticity, and builds tension to a thrilling finish.
Of the many superb rooms in Scotland, only these two from Locked In Edinburgh made the top 50. The Secret Lab won acclaim and a TERPECA award when it opened, and its interesting, big machinery plus frenzied gameplay is still a winning combination; the more recent serial killer themed Cutting Room is by reputation at least as impressive.
Both branches of Lucardo are beloved of enthusiasts, but the top ratings go to the Rawtenstall branch. Dragon’s Heart is in the ‘inspired by Harry Potter’ genre, and one of the most gorgeous such games I’ve seen; in Corruption you’re a crooked cop quickly hiding evidence of your crimes. These are wildly different themes and game styles, but both boast stand-out game design.
Games with a great many puzzles that an experienced team can tackle with a divide and conquer approach seem to reliably get good ratings from enthusiasts; and Spellbound combines that with great puzzle design and lovely witchy theming. It’s not the company’s newest game but it remains their best loved.
Acclaimed when it opened and still blowing away players today, MARVO is gorgeously atmospheric from even before the game starts. Its reputation precedes it but it still gets fewer visits than it deserves, due to its location on the southwest coast away from the UK’s main escape room hotspots. With a story based around fairy tales and secret societies, you should make a point of playing this one.
Loot The Lanes currently holds the #1 slot for UK escape rooms. Shamefully I still haven’t played it, but even with such a ferociously high reputation to live up to, it continues to win consistently high marks from players. Pier Pressure’s games are inspired by different aspects of Brighton history and culture; all get high ratings, and with Modrophenia they have another game in the top 50.
The most full-on horror theme to make this list, zombie game Operation Clearsafe is a large-scale experience that’s strong on puzzles as well as scares. Not yet having played it I can’t really comment on how intense it is, though fear level will likely depend on your standards of comparison – and also on team size.
Renowned as one of the UK’s most reliably high quality companies, The Escapement has two games in the top 50. Pirates is on the easy side for experienced players, but is hugely atmospheric and entertaining. The Pit shouldn’t be missed, a journey to the Earth’s core (well, more or less) that really evokes a sense of being deep underground.
I’ve only played Operation Moonshine at The Escaporium, but the quality of that was such that I’m not at all surprised to see their two most recent games in the top 50 – including the only Christmas-themed room to make the list. Crux Codicillus is a secret society story with a Cluedo style mechanic, and in A Christmas Advent-ure you are of course helping Santa’s elves. The lovely hosts reliably add to the experience.
The Panic Room’s home base is Gravesend, but of their many games the current top rated is Carnevil at their other location in Harlow. I haven’t tried it yet, but it sounds like a blend of creepy and funny that makes great use of the carnival setting – definitely one I’ll be trying in 2022.
TimeTrap is one of only two companies (along with Extremescape) to have all three of their open games in the top 50. Pudding Lane is based on the Great Fire of London; Station X involves WW2 espionage; Curiouser and Curiouser is the sequel to their previous Lewis Carroll game Imaginarium. Everything this company does is worth playing.
With almost certainly the most lavishly gorgeous set design in the country, Tulleys also pack their games full of big, well-designed puzzles; in fact the most common criticism made is that they’re too full of puzzles (which is the main reason their Nethercott game narrowly missed out on the list). These are all huge, stunning games that provide plenty to do even for an expert team.
The Curse of the Golden Lion is designed and built by escape room blogger Brit of an Escape Habit, and that shows through in the excellent game design. An exciting game with great puzzles and an optional extension for experienced players, this is consistently the top recommendation for the Liverpool/Wirral area.
There are brilliant new games appearing all the time, and many superb games that narrowly missed out on inclusion in this list, so check the latest ratings at https://escapethereview.co.uk/location/uk. And do leave some ratings and reviews of the games you’ve played, to help decide which games will be the top rooms of 2022!