Are Escape Rooms Scary?

It surprises most folks to learn that the overwhelming majority of escape rooms are not scary at all.

Yes, scary escape rooms exist.

However, the horror genre is a small subset of the escape room medium. Horror escape rooms are heavily desired by some and hated by others. Within the horror escape room genre, most are more creepy and intense than they are terrifying.

Creepy image of a person fearfully clutching the window of a door.

A few horror escape rooms are legendary in the escape room player community for their fear factor, but they are extraordinarily rare.

Escape room companies label horror games appropriately as horror. If you read a company’s website before you book, you won’t inadvertently book a scary escape room.

Let’s examine:

  • Why do people assume escape rooms are scary?
  • How can you determine whether or not an escape room is scary?
  • Where can you find some truly scary escape rooms?

Why do people assume escape rooms are scary?

There are 2 reasons why most people immediately assume that an escape room must be a horror experience.

SAW

It’s difficult to hear the words “escape room” and not think about the SAW franchise. Those movies are literally about a group of people confined within a space and forced to escape or die.

You can rest easy knowing that whatever escape room you visit in the United States is a proper business with insurance and a desire to not get sued or prosecuted for murdering a paying customer.

The Official SAW Escape Las Vegas logo depicting Jigsaw.
Image via Official SAW Escape

Escape rooms – even the official SAW escape room in Las Vegas – are not operated by serial killers hiding behind a literal puppet.

Escape Room Movies

While most escape rooms focus on puzzle and adventure, the movies with the name “Escape Room” are all horror movies (one was more watchable than the others). More specifically, these movies are basically low-budget SAW knock-offs… which is funny because SAW was a low budget flick in the first place, and the sequels are all SAW knock-offs.

A character solving a puzzle box.
Escape Room (2018)

How do I determine whether or not an escape game is scary?

Scary escape games are generally clearly marked.

Zoe, the scariest escape room that we’ve ever played, had this video advertising it on the booking website. It isn’t coy:

Companies like THE BASEMENT that specialize in horror experiences are direct about this on their websites.

Creators of horror escape rooms are targeting a specific audience. They aim to appeal to players who are excited for the experience.

That said, if a game tells you absolutely nothing about the experience, like Escape Games Canada’s The Unknown, you can also read the total lack of information as confirmation that it’s scary.

Where Can I Find Horror Games?

If you’re the type of person who found this post not out of fear, but out of excitement, here are a few places you can go to seek out the thrill of a horror escape room:

The Basement, Los Angeles, CA

The BASEMENT is one of the best-known horror escape room companies in the United States. In each of their games, you are trapped by the serial killer Edward Tandy, who toys with you, his prey, as you solve his traps. From their collection, we highly recommend The Courtyard and 2017 Golden Lock Award-Winning The Elevator Shaft.

DarkPark, Zoetermeer, The Netherlands

DarkPark is one of the leading escape room companies in The Netherlands. At their locations in Delft and Zoetermeer, they create “mysterious, immersive, and blood-curdling experiences that take you to new worlds.” Their games are dark and intense. We highly recommend Golden Lock Award-Winning games Honeymoon Hotel (2018) and The End (2019).

Single Games at Escape Room Facilities

8 thoughts on “Are Escape Rooms Scary?

  1. Loving this “Are escape room…?” Series!

    One of the challenges to scary rooms (as an owner) is that there is a very wide spectrum of what people consider “scary”. We’ve unfortunately had people upset about our “non-scary rooms” because of things like a hidden door opening automatically, or a pneumatic hiss when a prop operates, or a game master’s voice sending in clues creeps people out. Now, we are very clear about our truly scary room, but I’m surprised at what mild things people interpret as scary sometimes.

    1. Yeah, that’s a challenge. I think that there is a difference between being scared and being startled… But physiologically, they feel very very similar in the moment.

  2. Love this: “You can rest easy knowing that whatever escape room you visit … desire to not get sued or prosecuted for murdering a paying customer.”

    I would add (re Saw): if you’re cutting off a limb (your own or someone else’s) to try to escape, you’re doing it wrong.

  3. So true. Sometimes people use the word “scary” when the more accurate term to describe their feeling/experience is “surprise” or “startled”. You can be startled in a scary way and you can be startled in a dramatic or comedic way. All get loosely labeled as “scary” when the story is retold later on. Other experiences that are sometimes mislabeled as scary are “unexpected”, “unexplained”, “unnatural”, unknown” and “weird”. Since these games always involve mystery, there is no avoiding some people interpreting their apprehension as being the result of something scary.

    A briefing or description of the game that includes a reference that the game as designed is “not intended to be scary” may help. But, probably not.

    1. Agree with your perspective…a lot of emotions end up bucketed to “scary”. We have added this to our list of things that routinely gets ignored from our briefing/intro 😉

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.