Analysis – 2019 Top Escape Rooms Project – Enthusiasts’ Choice Award

Congratulations to the Top Escape Rooms Project Enthusiasts’ Choice Award (TERPECA) 2019 winners!

TERPECA’s stated goal is an attempt to find the very best escape rooms in the world.

This is not the same silliness as some of the ad-supported or attempted SEO-boosting click-fests. It is not the utter stupidity that is averaging Yelp or TripAdvisor or Google reviews. This is not a pay-for-placement publication. This is not an aggregator with only a handful of users.

We believe that the project succeeded in generating an immensely useful list of outstanding escape rooms. The winning rooms deserve this recognition.

Top Room Escape Project Enthusiasts' Choice Awards 2019 logo.

At Room Escape Artist, we’re viewing this list as a collection. We hope that traveling escape room players won’t take the ordinal numbers as the gospel.

We’ll expand on these thoughts a bit more in this, our TERPECA Editorial Perspective.

2019 Award Winners

In its second year, the Top Escape Rooms Project expanded in many ways: recruiting more players, involving more countries, and updating the infrastructure to facilitate this.

The most noticeable change from 2018, however, might be the number of winners. The top 50 escape rooms are the 2019 TERPECA winners. We’ve reviewed 19 of the 50 winners; we believe they are all truly deserving.

In-game: The entry way for The Dome opened, a sign reads, "Butterfly Safe Zone.".
Image via Escape Room Nederland

Rooms

Here are the Top 10:

  1. The Dome – Escape Room Nederland (Bunschoten, Netherlands)
  2. Paradox Project 2: The Bookstore [Paradox Project 2: To Βιβλιοπωλείο] – Paradox Project (Athens, Greece)
  3. The Man from Beyond – Strange Bird Immersive (Houston, TX, USA)
  4. Cutthroat Cavern – 13th Gate Escape (Baton Rouge, LA, USA)
  5. The Edison Escape Room – Palace Games (San Francisco, CA, USA)
  6. Tomb Hunter: Akasha’s Legend [Tomb Hunter: La leyenda de Akasha] – Escape Barcelona (Santa Coloma de Gramenet, Spain)
  7. Chapter 3: The Morgue – Evil Genius Escape Rooms (Los Angeles, CA, USA)
  8. Abduction 3: The Exam – Abduction (Badalona, Spain)
  9. The Lost Treasure of Alexander von Humboldt – The Room (Berlin, Germany)
  10. El Exorcista – No Exit (Athens, Greece)
In-game: lisa, chris, and drew inside of a shark.
Escape My Room

Here are the REA reviews for games we’ve played that ranked 11-50:

*This review is coming soon. Join us at RECON 2020, our escape room convention taking place in Boston in August, and play this game as part of your trip!

For the full list of winners and finalists, visit the TERPECA website.

In-game: 3 players in orange flightsuits working at the Operations cabinet.
Image via The Last Defender

Companies

As another change for 2019, the company winners were derived from the escape room votes. The voters did not vote directly for the companies. Companies that created multiple high-ranking escape rooms rose to the top. Because math.

From our vantage point, this worked well.

The top 20 companies are the 2019 TERPECA winners, again, an expansion from last year.

Here are the Top 10:

  1. The Room (Berlin, Germany)
  2. 13th Gate Escape (Baton Rouge, LA, USA)
  3. Escape Barcelona (Santa Coloma de Gramenet, Spain)
  4. Skurrilum (Hamburg, Germany)
  5. Mad Mansion (Spain)
  6. Palace Games (San Francisco, CA, USA)
  7. Unreal Room Escape (Spain)
  8. Wyjście Awaryjne (Poland)
  9. Paradox Project (Athens, Greece)
  10. Locurio (Seattle, WA, USA)

Here are the REA Reviews for Companies we’ve visited that Ranked 11-20:

For the full list of winners and finalists, visit the TERPECA website.

In-game: an old dusty organ in a study, the walls are adorned with trophy skulls and taxidermy birds.
Image via Skurrilum

Hype

Our Story

When last year’s TERPECA winners were announced, we had played 8 of the top 10 escape rooms, but we hadn’t played #1 (and 10, both from the same company).

This year we took a trip to Hamburg, Germany specifically to play “the 2018 best escape game in the world.” We bought the hype of #1.

On that trip, we played a stellar game. As we wrote in our review, Ghost Hunter Ernie Hudson and the Wailing Woman “was a fantastic escape room filled with many dramatic and unusual moments.”

In the year leading up to that trip, however, we’d seen some of these concepts executed better. As much as we tried to check our hype, we’d set our expectations way too high. The game couldn’t live up to its ordinal ranking.

A Word of Advice

Whether you’re planning a trip to The Dome, Paradox Project 2: The Bookstore, or The Man From Beyond, we recommend approaching the game as a truly fantastic escape room, highly recommended by many escape room enthusiasts, rather than as 1 of the top 3 escape rooms in the world.

We’re going to play Paradox Project 2: The Bookstore in 2020. We had a trip to Athens in the works before the award winners were published. We’re beyond excited to play this game. We’re also excited to play the other games in Athens that won awards and ranked in the Top Escape Room Project. We trust that they will all be outstanding escape rooms in their own ways.

Image via Strange Bird Immersive

By the Numbers

I like to dive into data projects, but TERPECA creator Rich Bragg has done an amazing job with that already, looking into every potential data issue, as well slicing, dicing, and delivering stats. Here are some stats he collected:

  • 105 nominators (people who played 200+ rooms) from 15 countries
  • 1,445 individual nominations
  • 507 eligible rooms nominated from 31 countries
  • 11 new countries with at least one nomination: Brazil, Georgia, Greece, Israel, Italy, Malaysia, New Zealand, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan
  • 229 finalist rooms from 22 countries
  • 370 voters (people who played 50+ rooms) from 23 countries (over five times the number from last year!)
  • 82,865 rooms played combined from all participants
  • 10 countries with their first ever TERPECA winners: Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Greece, Israel, Poland, Switzerland

About the Project

The Top Escape Rooms Project is an attempt to find the best escape rooms in the world by leveraging the rankings of the most experienced escape room enthusiasts in the world. To learn more, read our call for nominators and voters and livestream announcement, and, of course, the Top Escape Rooms Project website.

What Do You Think of the List?

We think this is a fantastic list. We’re confident that all of the TERPECA winners (top 50) are worth playing. We know the ones we’ve played are absolutely worth a visit.

In fact, as we read through the list, we’re confident that you can find outstanding escape room recommendations past #200.

(There were a few rooms on the nominations list that baffled us as to why they were there, but these did not rise to the top, so other voters were probably confused too.)

The Top Escape Rooms Project delivered a valuable collection of games that are well worth playing.

In-game: Close up shot of a control computer.
Image via Crypto Escape Rooms

Are you Surprised by the Order?

The value is the collection of escape games. The precise ordering has far less value. This is an aggregation of subjective thoughts.

It’s fine if you prefer Tomb of Anubis (50) over The Observatory (41). The Observatory is one of the best humble games we’ve ever seen. Tomb of Anubis is anything but humble. They have different gameplay, scale, intent… and jaw-dropping moments. We’re thrilled we got to play them both. We enjoy experiencing what makes each one special, not whether one is better. If you’re near one of them, you really ought to play.

If you’re surprised by the order, remember that it’s a result of more than just opinions. It’s impacted by how many people have played the game (and when they played it). There are many variables at play here.

The Challenges of Ranking & Time

The challenge of ranking rooms increases with time.

We have more rooms to rank, yes, but also, different metrics to rank them against. Time passed since playing a game is a variable that’s difficult to account for.

The Vanishing Act won a Golden Lock Award in 2016. We played that game almost 4 years ago. It’s hard to rank it against the games we played this fall. Memory is a funny thing. Nostalgia, even more so. It’s difficult to rank memory against present-day reality, especially knowing that our rubric was so different when we created the memory.

Does that take away from The Vanishing Act? No. But it does make it very hard to rank it.

Up Next: The Golden Lock Award

It’s awards season. Although we sat on the advisory board for TERPECA, this award is not produced by Room Escape Artist and is not the same as our Golden Lock Award.

We’ll give out a different award on January 4, 2020. Tune in for the livestream. The Golden Lock Award is the Room Escape Artist award for our favorite rooms we played in any given calendar year.

It is an unranked list of favorites. Some of the games are newer than others, but we played them all in 2019. It’s a different rubric, a different voting system, and a different set of winners. It’s another collection that you can use as a guide.

Will there be overlap? Tune in on January 4th.

6 thoughts on “Analysis – 2019 Top Escape Rooms Project – Enthusiasts’ Choice Award

  1. Now I’m torn. I was going to make a Boston trip and do the Storyteller’s Secret game in the next few months, but now that I see it as part of the RECON event, I may wait… But I also don’t want to wait! Haha

    1. We don’t want to mislead anyone. This escape room – and other escape rooms in Boston – are not included in a RECON ticket. However, during RECON we will definitely be encouraging folks to go check out amazing games like Storyteller’s Secret. We working the Boston companies to try to make playing their games as easy as possible. We’re just saying… this game is another great reason to come to Boston in August for RECON!

  2. Fabulous list, and many awesome rooms that I’ve played on here (and many more to go!). Would be interesting to consider for future the discrediting of rooms that are clear IP infringement. While some of these I am aware are “officially licensed” – and kudos to them for doing things “right”, it appears that there are quite a few others that are likely not. Maybe it is just a pet peeve as a designer/owner, but I feel like stealing IP is “cheating” in so many ways and is a disservice to the industry.

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