People enjoy playing escape rooms for many different reasons. Some like the challenge of the puzzles. Some prefer playing into the story of the escape room. Others really just want to solve a good mystery. Many more enjoy all of those things and more! The following TV shows all incorporate some aspect of escape rooms. Whatever you like most about escape rooms, you’re sure to find something that you’ll enjoy watching here! If movies are more your thing, you can also check out our recommended puzzle movies.
Race to Escape
As a pure expression of escape rooms, Race to Escape checks most of the boxes. This TV show pits two teams of strangers against each other and the clock. Each team is stuck in identical rooms and they have to solve puzzles in order to escape and win the cash prize. However, the longer it takes, the less money the team wins. It’s the concept of escape rooms made directly competitive and optimized for TV!
The puzzles in the show are not groundbreaking, but they are usually still interesting. While it can be frustrating to not get to play the room yourself, especially if you can see the answer, there is still something fun about watching other people go through the puzzle-solving process. It can really make you think about your own behavior and strategy in escape rooms!
The Amazing Race
The Amazing Race is a reality competition show that has had more than 30 seasons. In it, teams of two race around the world for a chance to win one million dollars. At each new location, the teams have to find their way to the Pit Stop and check in as quickly as possible or risk being eliminated. Along the way, they have to complete various challenges related to the locale. These challenges vary widely, some requiring physical ability and others mental acumen or people skills.
Much like escape rooms, the core of this show is about teamwork and problem-solving skills. The pairs really have to trust each other and communicate well or everything can fall apart. Teams get lost, argue, disagree about the best way to overcome an obstacle, and more. There is also strategy involved, as teams work together or try to slow their opponents down. Beyond the interpersonal drama, however, there is also something fun about deciding who you would pair up with and how you would complete a particular task if you were on the show. In that way, it has a similar draw to escape rooms!
Gravity Falls is a two-season-long animated show technically directed at kids. However, it really is one of those “kids shows” that everyone can enjoy. Set in the strange small town of Gravity Falls, Oregon, the shows focuses on the adventures of twins Dipper and Mabel Pines who were sent to live with their great uncle for the summer. While their “grunkle” runs a scam of a roadside attraction regarding supernatural phenomenon called the Mystery Shack, the kids soon discover that there is a lot of actual strange happenings going on in the town, including everything from magic to cryptids.
The story starts off in a “monster of the week” comedy format, but there is a through-line of underlying mystery that coalesces into intense and emotional moments. The characters are endearing, the setting is fascinating, and it really does stand as just genuinely great TV.
But there is a draw specifically for escape room lovers in the secrets scattered throughout. Codes and messages are hidden within the episodes and end credits, and solving those extra secrets helps ramp up the tension before big twists are revealed. While the show was on the air, there were forums dedicated solely to theorizing about what was really going on. Without spoiling anything, this is a must-see for anyone who loves puzzles, mystery, and a great coming-of-age story.
The White Lotus
If you’re looking for a mystery show that caters to adults, The White Lotus is a good fit. Set in the fictional White Lotus hotel resort chain, this show is a dark comedy that unravels the lives of the hotel guests and staff. Ultimately a meticulously-crafted socially commentary, the first season opens with the ending: a box of human remains being loaded onto a plane. This non-linear storytelling sets up a mystery to be solved as the episodes progress.
For escape room fans who love story and team dynamics, the underlying mystery of the show (who died and why?), and the contentious personal relationships highlighted throughout are a great reason to watch. The show gradually unveils a complexity that can scratch the itch of puzzle-lovers and mystery buffs. With an entirely new story in the second season, and a third season already announced, there is plenty to keep you coming back for more.
One of the most famous reality competition shows of all time, Survivor places a group of strangers in a “survival” situation. The contestants have to provide themselves with food, fire, and shelter. In addition, the participants are split up into “tribes” and compete in various challenges in order to gain rewards. Over the course of a season, contestants vote to eliminate other players until there is just one survivor remaining.
Like The Amazing Race, this show focuses on problem solving and teamwork. Unlike The Amazing Race, however, the games all take place in one location. This means that the focus is on the different tasks and strategies employed by the participants, rather than the creation of location-specific challenges. While only one person can win in Survivor, it still hits a lot of escape-room-like themes while the contestants are put to the test.