2018 Golden Lock-In Awards

2018 Golden Lock-In Award features an open REA padlock with a golden ring around it.

We played and reviewed 191 escape rooms in 2018.

This was an invigorating year of escape games.

We throttled down our playing a little bit (255 in 2017) and put an emphasis on hunting down amazing and unusual games in the markets that we visited. As a result of that decision, we have a diverse pool of Golden Lock-In winners that broadly span styles, budgets, and geography.

There is no such thing as the perfect escape room, but these are the ones that we wish we could play again.

There were plenty of other amazing escape rooms, but we can’t honor them all. In the end these 13 rose to the top.


  1. We only considered games that we both played in 2018.
  2. We both had to agree to award the room the Golden Lock-In.
  3. We established no arbitrary minimum or maximum number of rooms that could appear on the list.
  4. A company could only win once for the year.

2018 Golden Lock-In Winners

Listed chronologically in the order we played them.

The Blind Pig

Murfreesboro Escape Rooms – Murfreesboro, TN

In-game: a boarded up business with a sign out front that says, "Hammer Realty, the secret is in the name."

With its intimate setting, great puzzle flow, and hidden surprises, Murfreesboro Escape Rooms designed a remarkably tight and balanced adventure game. The Blind Pig was a traditional escape room where everything gelled.


Escape the Netherworld – Stone Mountain, GA

In-game: A wood door chained shut.
Image via Escape The Netherworld.

What began as  a traditional cabin escape room became so much more as Sasquatch’s narrative hiked to a magical finale. Escape the Netherworld told an unusual story that was intense, exciting, and unexpectedly charming.


Logic Locks – Amsterdam, The Netherlands

In-game: a wall of human skulls lit by a lantern.
Image via Logic Locks

In the depths of a church, we unearthed Logic Locks’ theatrical story of crypts and demons. As the puzzles built tension and the scenes became more dire, win or lose, Catacombs careened towards a commanding conclusion.

The Experiment

The Great Escape – Zwolle, The Netherlands

In-game: the lobby with a magazine wrack, chairs, and a stack of in-take forms.

Intimidating yet funny, The Experiment made us feel like we were truly escaping, more so than in any other game in our memory. The Great Escape designed around character building, both theirs and our own, which added depth to the experience.

Honeymoon Hotel

DarkPark – Zoetermeer, The Netherlands

[At the time of this review, DarkPark was called Escape Challenge.]

In-game: A wooden bellhop's desk with a bell and a note.

Escape Challenge builds games that feel alive, haunted, and out to get you. Honeymoon Hotel transformed from mundane to insane as it pushed us through an exquisitely detailed reimagining of the H.H. Holmes “murder castle” story.

Cutthroat Cavern

13th Gate Escape – Baton Rouge, LA

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

With towering ceiling and wet depths, Cutthroat Cavern was breathtaking. For 60 minutes we frolicked in our own Goonies adventure. The scale of this escape room is unrivaled. 13th Gate Escape’s latest creation is in a class of its own.


The Escape Game – Nashville, TN

In-game: a bright and colorful jungle gym on green turf.

Who would have guessed that returning to the classroom would be as joyful as it was at The Escape Game? With a playful premise, whimsical setting, and well-rounded gameplay, Playground had us frolicking through school.

The Edison Escape Room

Palace Games – San Francisco, CA

In-game: an unusual room lined with lights, wheels, and gauges.

The invisible adaptive intelligence within The Edison Escape Room floored us. Palace Games took ambitious design to another level by hybridizing escape rooms and video games into something  beautiful and new.

Lab Rat

Hatch Escapes – Los Angeles, CA

In-game: a massive hamster water dispenser, lit purple.

As we ventured through Lab Rat’s whimsical yet imposing world, we journeyed through a story. Hatch Escapes put narrative in the driver’s seat with gameplay that supported it… humorously, intensely, and ridiculously.

Stash House: A Los Angeles Crime Story

Stash House – Los Angeles, CA

In-game: the Stash House apartment.

Story-driven and puzzle-focused, expansive and intimate, challenging and fair, Stash House achieved a balance that few escape rooms deliver. Through these oppositions, we were immersed within its imaginative and cohesive world.

Over the Falls

Escape City Buffalo – Tonawanda, NY

In-game: a rusty and weathered sit of dials and gauges.

With an over-the-top build, Over the Falls was light on puzzles and high on adventure. We were engaged and enthralled with Escape City Buffalo’s vessel and its seafaring woes.

The Grand Parlor

13th Hour Escape Rooms – Wharton, NJ

In-game: The two story grand parlor featuring a door chained shut under a a large balcony.

In the vast expanses and the tight nooks of The Grand Parlor, we played a challenging puzzle game with a beautiful set that continually surprised us. Plus we  met 13th Hour Escape Rooms’ delightfully rambunctious actors (who only roam when the haunt is operating).

The Observatory

The Gate Escape – Leominster, MA

In-game: The number "2 5 8" mounted to the floor.

Marvelously eccentric, The Observatory taught us how to unravel its mysteries through the act of playing. The Gate Escape crafted a fair and challenging game for experienced escape room players, with great  interactions to boot.

Congratulations to the 2018 Golden Lock-In Winners!

Past Golden Lock-In Awards

About Room Escape Artist

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  1. Ouch! None in the NYC area? We have to pick up our game!

    1. Yeah, there were a couple of games great NYC games that were considered.

  2. Thank you for sharing the “cream of the crop/your favorites” for the rest of us. Can’t wait to add some of the winners to my “travel to play” list. Which brings up another query.

    In making a travel plan it is key to finding companies or locations with a “cluster” of really good rooms. Since the rules are set so that a company can only win once for the year, the winner companies who have several qualifying rooms (i.e. cluster) may not get the recognition that “out of towners” could use to plan trips.

    For example, 13th gate won an award (deservedly) yet they have several rooms that were awesome. They are their own “cluster” (in my opinion). Is there a way that REA can share an assessment of this phenomena (when it occurs) for the benefit of travel planning for the enthusiast? Like you need another thing to do – therefore, maybe behind a paywall you could respond to requests for a cluster when provided the destination city, room theme preferences, set vs storyline, etc.by the enthusiast?

    Obviously, going on an REA tour is the best way but since you are not doing that every month some of us need a “fix” before the next tour 🙂

    Thanks again for all you do and I hope you receive the support from all the folks who enjoy the benefits you provide.

  3. We’d love to have you check out our newest escape room at ConTRAPtions in Fort Collins, Colorado. The newest room has simulated teleportation and multiple outcomes based on real-time decisions made in the game. Let us know if you’re in the area, we’d love to have you check it out!

    1. We’d love to get out there. We haven’t covered Colorado in years, and we’re looking for an excuse to visit.

  4. I enjoy all your reviews. Have you considered changing the term “Lock-In” to something else given the emphasis on safer room designs?

    1. Yeah… we’ve been thinking about this a lot.

  5. I can’t come up with anything yet either. Maybe you could run a contest.

    1. We aren’t sure how we’re going to adapt. A contest could be fun.

    1. We’ve only played a single game in The Philippines.

      We would love to see more of what Asia has to offer.

  6. You must try ones in Tokyo! SCRAP, the biggest escape room company in Japan, offers several games in English😚👍

    1. We’re really love to get to Tokyo (both for escape room and regular tourism).

  7. tried Stash House & Hatch in LA last week! Both of them were really good! I really enjoyed their rooms😚👍

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