Genuinely exciting escape games are few and far between these days. Most games can be finished in a day, with the same repetitive puzzles to go through. Though some attempt to have stories woven in, the plot often comes out as half-baked and almost mechanical. The lack of innovation can be tiresome, especially for those looking for a true escape experience.
Lucky for us, indie game developers have a spark that pushes them to make fresh, new content. They create games with stories that can blow our minds, with puzzles that feel familiar, yet foreign. The smallest deviations they make from mainstream escape games are what make their own game a step above the rest. Check out these indie developers and their amazing games!
Adventure Escape Mysteries by Haiku Games
Adventure Escape Mysteries was created by Haiku Games, an indie game startup that started in 2013. Haiku Games claims to have the best escape games out there, and I can’t say I argue with that statement.
Along with their many stand-alone games, they created the Adventure Escape Mysteries. It is essentially a compilation of their most popular games, plus some newer stories and harder-to-beat puzzles. Most notable among the games is their iconic Trapmaker series, starring the amazing Detective Kate Gray.
Each game on AE Mysteries revolves around a protagonist who solves all the puzzles and conflicts that come. The story progresses by chapter and varies on the level of difficulty per development. These chapters are opened using keys that get refilled regularly for free.
The puzzles in all AE Mystery games range from classic to innovative, there’s no shortage of challenges to face! Adding to the fun are the great storylines they created. Some games even have choose-your-own-adventure themes, so expect major plot twists ahead.
To date, there are fifteen different adventures to choose from, and Haiku Games is constantly adding more to the list.
Adventure Escape Mysteries is available for free on Apple Store, Google Play Store, and Amazon Kindle.
Cube Escape Series by Rusty Lake
Rusty Lake created a special world for Cube Escape that is also called Rusty Lake. The Cube Escape Games seem like stand-alone games at first, until you reach the end where you encounter cliffhangers relating to the next game.
In reality, this series is comprised of multiple escape games that mostly center around protagonist Dale Vandermeer, a homicide detective looking for the truth. The games involve ingenious puzzles that vary in complexity.
What’s truly remarkable about Cube Escape is the way the games link together. Every game aligns to a chronological order, but players have no clue which game comes first. The timeline of the story doesn’t follow the release dates of the games, making it another mystery for the players to solve. Side note, these games are loaded with a few minor jump scares, so you might want to hold onto your seats.
As of now, there are nine Cube Escape games to play, with probably more on the way. Rusty Lake (the company) also has other escape games that are closely intertwined with the Rusty Lake world.
If you’re curious, here’s the “correct” order to play Rusty Lake games:
- Cube Escape: Seasons
- Cube Escape: The Lake
- Cube Escape: Arles
- Cube Escape: Harvey’s Box
- Cube Escape: Case 23
- Cube Escape: The Mill
- Rusty Lake Hotel (premium)
- Cube Escape: Birthday
- Cube Escape: Theatre
- Rusty Lake: Roots (premium)
- Cube Escape: The Cave
- Rusty Lake Paradise (premium)
Cube Escape Series and other Rusty Lake games are available for free on Apple Store and Google Play Store. Prices may vary for premium games.
Tiny Room Stories: Town Mystery by Kiary Games
I think this game should gain more recognition for its ingenuity. Kiary Games’ two-person team made a game that tests parts of our minds that have rarely been tested by escape games before.
Tiny Room Stories stays true to its name. This is not the typical point-and-click we encounter in escape games. Not only does it make good use of tiny rooms, it relies on players’ ability to adapt to a fairly new style of gameplay. In a way, this game tests our mind’s capacity in a method that’s never been done. The surprising use of spatial skills can make or break your gaming experience here.
The story itself is intriguing enough that it will make players want to push through frustrations. Here, we follow our protagonist in search of their missing father. On the way, they discover secrets that should have remained in the shadows.
The pacing of the story, plus the atmosphere, makes for a very satisfying overall experience. Despite its arguably simple graphics, Tiny Room Stories challenges the mind in the best way.
Be warned though, this story ends in a cliffhanger, unless you’re willing to shell out a small amount. The majority of it is free, but the latter half, which includes the ending, needs to be purchased. Totally worth it though, I swear! This game was declared the best indie game by multiple platforms back in 2019.
Tiny Room Stories: Town Mystery is available for free on Apple Store and Google Play Store. In-app purchases may apply.
NOX Escape Adventure by Everbyte
NOX is another escape game with a captivating storyline. The game revolves around a single character who wakes up in a strange manor. Your goal is to escape while unraveling the mysteries of the place.
The gameplay makes it feel like playing with a dollhouse; there are multiple floors and rooms to explore. Each room you discover has its own problem that needs solving, which takes you deeper into the story. The gradually increasing search area makes the game more complicated as the end nears.
It gets confusing and frustrating at times, but I think the confusion is intentional. It makes the players share the turmoil and conflict experienced by the character as they find out why they got trapped in the manor.
NOX Escape Adventure is available for free on Apple Store and Google Play Store.
Strange Case: The Alchemist by Labeledman
This is a game that is truly indie to its core. Though it has a few bugs to work out, this game sets itself apart from the rest through its unique art style and uncanny ability to creep players out.
Strange Case: The Alchemist displays an eccentric style that enhances the gaming experience. It factors into how much you’ll want to actually escape the game.
The way Labeledman stitched the physical and spiritual realm together was flawless; the atmosphere gets heavier with every change of scenery. This could largely be due to the creeper that lurks and pops up now and again. Beware of that ghoul, it made me yeet my phone out of shock! I think that’s a testament to how well the game paces itself.
Strange Case ends in another cliffhanger, and Labeledman has yet to release a sequel. Despite the non-existence of an ending, this escape game is worth trying out for a taste of novelty.
Strange Case: The Alchemist is available for free on Apple Store and Google Play Store.