Top Escape Rooms Project – Enthusiasts’ Choice Award [Announcement]

The Top Escape Rooms Project is an attempt to find the very best escape rooms in the world.

Top Escape Rooms Project: Enthusiast Choice Award 2018 logo. A gold ribbon made of keys.

Award Winners

I have linked to our reviews, if we have one.

Note that since this blog post originally published with the top 20 rooms as the winners, the award creators uncovered a problem with the original data and updated the results. This blog post has been updated to show the (slightly reshuffled) top 25 rooms, all as winners.

Escape Rooms

  1. Ghost Hunter Ernie Hudson and the Wailing Woman – Skurrilum (Hamburg, Germany)
  2. Cutthroat Cavern – 13th Gate Escape (Baton Rouge, LA, USA)
  3. The Man From Beyond – Strange Bird Immersive (Houston, TX, USA)
  4. The Amsterdam Catacombs – Logic Locks (Amsterdam, Netherlands)
  5. The Lost Treasure of Alexander Humboldt – The Room (Berlin, Germany)
  6. The Edison Escape Room – Palace Games (San Francisco, CA, USA)
  7. The Vault – Sherlocked (Amsterdam, Netherlands)
  8. Lab Rat – Hatch Escapes (Los Angeles, CA, USA)
  9. The Lance of Longinus – Time Run (London, UK)
  10. Ghost Hunter Ernie Hudson and the Zoo of Death – Skurrilum (Hamburg, Germany)
  11. Catacumbas [Catacombs] – Golden Pop (Barcelona, Spain)
  12. An Avalanche of Oblivion – Claustrophobia (Escaldes Engordany, Andorra)
  13. The Secret Lab – Locked In Edinburgh (Edinburgh, UK)
  14. The Storykeeper – Locurio (Seattle, WA, USA)
  15. Stash House – Stash House (Los Angeles, CA, USA)
  16. Girls Room – Escape Room Nederland (Bunschoten, Netherlands)
  17. Atlantis – Teorema Escape Rooms (Sofia, Bulgaria)
  18. Alien: El Orígen [Alien: Origin] – Escape Barcelona (Barcelona, Spain)
  19. Insane Paranoid – Quest-Art (Moscow, Russia)
  20. The Honeymoon Hotel – Escape Challenge (Zoetermeer, Netherlands)
  21. La Entrevista (The Interview) – Cubick (Mataró and Madrid, Spain)
  22. Alice in Nightmareland – Claustrophobia (Moscow, Russia)
  23. Tomb of Anubis – 13th Gate Escape (Baton Rouge, LA, USA)
  24. De Ramkraak [The Ram Raid] – Project Escape (Nijmegen, Netherlands)
  25. Frankenstein: The Awakening – 60 Minute Escape (Murfreesboro, TN, USA)

Companies

  1. Skurrilum (Hamburg, Germany)
  2. Palace Games (San Francisco, CA, USA)
  3. The Room (Berlin, Germany)
  4. 13th Gate Escape (Baton Rouge, LA, USA)
  5. Time Run (London, UK)
  6. Escape Challenge (Delft and Zoetermeer, Netherlands)
  7. Sherlocked (Amsterdam, Netherlands)
  8. Cubick (Mataró and Madrid, Spain)
  9. Escape My Room (New Orleans, LA, USA)
  10. Locurio (Seattle, WA, USA)

By The Numbers

  • Only 3 companies have 2 top escape rooms. That would be Skurrilum (fittingly, it won top company), 13th Gate Escape, and Claustrophobia (although the winning rooms are in different countries).
  • 9 of the 10 top companies also had top escape rooms. The one outlier is Escape My Room, which has a unique, fully themed experience. They also have some fantastic games. 
  • Escape Room Distribution by Country: USA (8), Netherlands (5), Germany (3), Spain (3), UK (2), Andorra (1), Russia (2), Bulgaria (1)
  • Company Distribution by Country: USA (4), Germany (2), Netherlands (2), UK (1), Spain (1)
Image via Strange Bird Immersive

The Full Results

I encourage you to check out the Top Escape Rooms Project for more results, beyond the winners. Which room missed the podium at #26? Which room ranked #100? (Yes, there are more than 100 rooms ranked.) How many people ranked each room? There is a ton more interesting data available for you to pour over. It’s easy to get sucked in.

If not now, I highly recommend viewing this website when planning a trip. If your destination city – or a nearby city – has a room ranked by the Top Escape Rooms Project, even if it’s number 73, it’s probably worth a visit. (I’ve played #73 and it’s worth going just a bit out of your way for.)

Game 22 post-game photo features the Guinness judge presenting their certificate.

Map

Our friend Ken Ferguson from The Logic Escapes Me assembled a map of the results: 

Background

Rich Bragg, one of the Guinness World Record holders, created the The Top Escape Rooms Project to crowdsource the best escape rooms from the people who know and love them the most, escape room enthusiasts.

Other contests for “best escape room” have used public internet-based polls that can be dominated by the companies with the biggest marketing budget and spammed by bots.

The Top Escape Rooms Project required the voters to have credentials as escape room players and allowed them each just one vote. It actively sought out the most experienced players in the world (mostly North America and Western Europe) to participate.

Methodology

In phase 1, the participants nominated up to 10 escape room companies and up to 20 escape rooms. Any company or room that received 2 or more nominations moved to phase 2. In phase 2 the participants ranked the companies (where they had played at least two rooms) and the individual escape rooms (that they had played).

The final, mathematically sound, unbiased final ranking, was based on the Perron-Frobenius theorem with an adjustment using the Wilson score binomial confidence interval. In short, it’s about comparisons and aggregating lots of people’s comparisons to stack companies and escape rooms in a definitive order.

For more details, visit The Top Escape Rooms Project.

In-game: a large stone wall with a massive skull carved into it. The skull's eyes glow with fire.
Image via 13th Gate Escape

Community

The participants were largely from North America and Western Europe. On average, they had each played over 300 escape rooms. They found each other and this project through the “Secret” Escape Room Enthusiast Slack Chat. Bragg set up a “top_rooms_project” channel there. Throughout the nominations and voting, there was lively discussion about what makes for the best escape room companies and the best escape rooms.

Challenge

David and I participated in the Top Escape Rooms Project.

Nominating wasn’t too challenging. We have favorites. Our nominations were almost identical.

Stacked rankings were… mind-bogglingly challenging. I’m positive that if I ranked the same companies and escape rooms again today, without looking at my previous rankings, I’d rank them at least somewhat differently.

I’m confident that in my own rankings the best companies and rooms are on top and the weakest ones are on the bottom. David and I ranked the top and bottom pretty similarly to each other.

The middle, however, gets murky. Most escape rooms don’t deliver on everything. I had to stop categorizing puzzle design, gameplay, narrative, set design, production value and the like and rank them all against each other, regardless of where they shined. I tried to focus on fun – my own fun – which had its own biases. It worked against games that are objectively brilliant, but not so much my style. In the middle – where David and I pitted these elements against each other to create rankings – our rankings looked pretty different from one another.

No… we’re not going to publish our rankings. 

Lance of Longinus

Travel Plans

While the exact rankings might be more fluid than this list would lead the viewer to believe, the top rooms project developed an incredible set of escape room recommendations. It turned the opinions of the most enthusiastic players into valuable data for escape room tourists.

Hamburg, Germany will have to be one of our next international destinations. I’m sure we aren’t the only ones thinking this.

We clearly need to visit Spain as well.

We’ve visited 6 of the 8 top escape rooms from the United States. For the 2 we haven’t played, we’ve been impressed by the company’s earlier room. Even before this data set came out we wanted to go back to these companies to see these newer rooms.

It’s been 2 years since we visited Seattle. We’d love to see Locurio’s The Storykeeper. I think people ask us on a weekly basis when we’ll finally review it. 

We played escape rooms in Nashville this summer, just days before the folks who ranked 60 Minute Escape’s Frankenstein: The Awakening. When we visited 60 Minute Escape, the game was almost ready… but not ready enough. We’re pretty sad to have missed that game and hope to return to Nashville again soon to see it.

When I look beyond the top 25 escape rooms or the top 10 companies, there are so many more incredible escape rooms to visit.

Hidden Gems

Over the 4+ years we’ve been writing Room Escape Artist, we’ve waved a flag for many escape room companies who are off the beaten path. We love that these games have been uncovered, visited, and now ranked by many escape room enthusiasts.

That said, the Top Escape Rooms Project’s Phase 1 dataset is loaded with hidden gems that only received a single nomination. 

In-game: Skulls nested in one another beside a hammer within a fireplace.

For instance, David was the only person to nominate Piwnica Quest’s Midnight Killer MK II from Wroclaw, Poland… probably because he was the only person participating who had played it (although he won’t shut up about it). 

We are confident that there are many more hidden gems out there that the well-traveled enthusiasts haven’t uncovered yet.

Bias

As with any data set, this one is biased. These are the top escape rooms of this community. It’s a group of people mainly in Western Europe and North America. This community listens to each other’s recommendations. That created a bit of a feedback loop. (That’s not a knock against this community. It happens in any community where people like and respect each other.)

Purity

The Top Escape Rooms Project was created for the love of escape rooms. It wasn’t about the clicks, links, or ad revenue. It wasn’t designed as a marketing ploy. It was simply about the joy of finding the best escape rooms in the world.

We have so much respect for this.

The Question of Best

At Room Escape Artist, we don’t focus on “best.” Our award, The Golden Lock-In Award (2017, 2016, and 2015), focuses on “favorites.”

We think about how escape rooms – both companies and games – succeed and how they could improve.

We think about what aspects of the games fit individual preferences. What is most fun for me isn’t necessarily right for you.

We analyze escape rooms in shades of gray. 

That said, the internet demands “best.” We search for the best this and the best that, for a shortcut to the superlative in any one thing. There’s a place for it. We commend the Top Escape Rooms Project on its incredible achievement in conceptualizing and delivering an outstanding list of best escape rooms.

4 thoughts on “Top Escape Rooms Project – Enthusiasts’ Choice Award [Announcement]

  1. Your description under the heading “The Question of Best” is why REA is so valuable to the rest of us. “Best” is a flawed term for escape rooms but without question is not going away. There is no “Best” ice cream flavor though there are definitely favorites. What makes an ice cream flavor good? That requires a more nuanced exploration, depends on personal preferences, and so much more. That is what REA gives us readers. Thank You!

  2. Yup. This was an incredibly great project and I whole heartedly agree with the methodology and idea of “best”. It really is up to the individual, but I’m confident that with the level of experience of the participants, anything that made the list is going to be a good chance of being great for pretty much anyone (the rooms I’ve played on the list happen to by MY personal favorites as well). I am looking forward to playing a couple more of the top 25 rooms here in about a week. Thank you so much for this write up and of course to Rich Bragg for doing the Top Escape Room Project!

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