It’s one thing to read a mystery novel or watch a mystery unfold in a movie. It’s another thing entirely to be immersed in a mystery and be the one who gets to play detective. If you’re good at deciphering clues and love all things whodunit, these clever mystery story and escape room subscription boxes are the adventures you need.
Like most other subscription boxes, these arrive once a month. Some offer standalone monthly stories while others offer longer series that take multiple months to work through. Most of the companies that make these boxes do a good job of stating upfront how many players they’re designed for, how long they’ll take to play, and what the basic plot is. They’re also crystal clear about content warnings, in case they contain subject matter that may not be appropriate for younger kids (like murder).
These immersive mystery story boxes are tons of fun and a great way to shake up date night or family get-togethers from the comfort of your living room. They’re the perfect gift for anyone who loves true crime shows, police procedurals, or, naturally, well-crafted mysteries.
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Standalone Detective Mysteries: The Deadbolt Mystery Society
The Deadbolt Mystery Society (starts at $24.99) is standing by waiting for your help in solving a tantalizing mystery every month. Each box contains original interactive mysteries complete with immersive scenarios, intriguing characters, and compelling plotlines. Puzzles are written and designed by expert escape room creators and include a variety of physical and online components for you to work with.
The clever boxes typically contain clues like replicated pictures, newspaper clippings, journal entries, and puzzles, and it’s up to you to solve the mystery. The service also has one-time boxes up for grabs, which start at $12.99. These are typically rereleases of older boxes you might have missed out on the first time around. You can also opt to gift a subscription or one-time box to a friend who might be interested as well.
Most stories include a brief plot summary online along with a difficulty level rating. You can also find hints for each story online to reference in the event you can’t figure out a particular clue. The upcoming box is titled “The Inheritance,” and past boxes include “Museum Nocturnus,” “Lair,” and “The Circle.” The Deadbolt Mystery Society’s unique boxes work equally for solo sleuths or family game nights.
Great for Multiple Game Nights: Hunt a Killer
Love the idea of solving cold cases? Then Hunt a Killer (starts at $25) is the murder mystery in a box box for you. It’s a six-episode series that’ll send you one box full of clues and other important information each month over the span of six months. Hunt a Killer recommends setting up a dedicated space for your investigation, if you can spare it, complete with a Murder Board for organizing your clues and theories.
You’ll receive your first batch of clues in the first box, and from there the plot will thicken each month. In fact, the first box includes a combination of letters, forensic reports, newspapers, archival documents, and other items for you to sift through. Hunt a Killer’s current season is entitled “Curtain Call,” which is about solving a cold case from the 1930s whose consequences are still present today.
With each box, more of the plot will unlock and you’ll get closer and closer to cracking open the case. And once you’ve parsed through the clues in one box, the service allows you to order the next one right away—you won’t have to wait an entire month for your next box to arrive (unless you want to). Hunt a Killer can be solved solo or with up to six people, and takes anywhere from 90 minutes to three hours to work through a single box.
Best for Lovecraft Lovers: The Crate of Cthulhu
Anyone who loves the pulpy cosmic horror written by H.P. Lovecraft will love The Crate of Cthulhu ($196.66). The box is inspired by one of Lovecraft’s most iconic creatures, Cthulhu, and puts you up to the task of playing detective and deciphering each of the mysterious objects found within the crate (and reckoning with the cultists who will inevitably have something to do with it).
The experience includes “an uncooperative wooden crate,” filled with curiosities and clues like a bas-relief, typewritten documents, manuscripts, other documents, and a statue. The narrative experience is one of horror, and is not recommended for young audiences due to material that might be considered sensitive or disturbing. However, it’s the perfect gift for fans of Lovecraft’s outer god abominations and weird fiction in general.
The Crate of Cthulhu is created by The Mysterious Package Company, and is just one of their many clever and unique mystery experiences. They have several other themed boxes you might enjoy as well, like horror, adventure, sci-fi, and murder mystery.
For Escape Room Enthusiasts: Escape the Crate
Escape the Crate (starts at $29.99) gives you an experience that closely mimics escape rooms, where you’ll find clues, crack codes, and decipher riddles to solve puzzles. But unlike escape rooms, which can be pricey and only offer a one-off experience, Escape the Crate offers a new experience every other month for you (and your friends or family) for about the same price as a single ticket to an escape room.
Escape the Crate encourages large groups for the best experience, as teamwork is essential to succeed. It also states that you’ll need roughly an hour and a half to get familiar with the game, sort through clues (like ciphers, letters, and other neat items), and complete your mission.
Games each have an “Escape the X” set up, with past themes including The High Seas, Murder in the Forgotten Tomb, The Ripper, The Mardi Gras Murders, The Mothman, Alcatraz, Inferno, Escape from Ice Age Park and The Games of Olympus. It’s the obvious choice for anyone who’s ever wanted to unravel alien languages, defuse time bombs, escape from a pirate ship, or solve gruesome murder mysteries.
Based on Real Life: Madmen & Heroes
Any history buff worth their salt knows that there are countless unsolved mysteries and curious happenings that have occurred throughout human history. Madmen & Heroes (starts at $29.50) ties each of its mystery puzzle boxes to a genuine real-life historical event. It’s the ideal mystery subscription box for anyone who is always watching the History Channel.
You have two storyline options to choose from: The Resystance, which is based on stories about resistance movements throughout history (like the American Civil War); and The CRAAAFT, which is based on folklore from around the world (like Tibetan hungry ghosts). Each month, you’ll get a box filled to the brim with puzzles and ciphers, and once you’re done, you’ll receive additional information just for fun about the specific story your box was based on.
Each box is a standalone adventure, and there’s no particular order you need to complete them in. In addition to sorting through the clues that come in a box, there are also online activities you’ll need to complete. You can solve a box alone, or team up with your other history-loving friends if you want more brilliant minds on the case. They’re even fun to do with your kids!
Challenging Virtual and Physical Clues: Dispatch
With Dispatch (starts at $44.99), every month you’ll receive a new interactive puzzle with physical and virtual components to work your way through. Boxes are designed to have you go back and forth from physical and virtual clues as you work to unravel mysteries. Dispatch suggests bringing in your friends and family for each box, rather than working through them alone, too.
Currently, Dispatch offers four games to choose from, each varying in story and series length. Some, like “The Cat’s Eye,” only run for two boxes while others, like “On the Run” or “I, Spy,” run for at least five. You’ll also find a guide in your box that’ll provide you with some help should you get stuck on clue. It’s intriguing fun for the whole family.
Options Rookies and Experts Alike: Sleuth Kings
Whether you’re new to these types of puzzles or a hard-boiled veteran, Sleuth Kings (starts at $14.95) offers exciting and challenging standalone mysteries for all skill levels. Master Detective boxes require two to three hours in order to solve and contain a reward for solving the case. Rookie Detective boxes only take about one hour and include an epilogue letter.
With Sleuth Kings, you’ll be using your sleuthing skills to parse through clues and emailing back and forth with Lead Detective Sullivan King to discuss things. Think you’ve finally cracked the case? Email Detective Sullivan with your guess in order to uncover the truth. You can also opt to buy one of the past standalone mystery cases—like “Death of a Stuntman,” “Black Magic,” “The Haunting,” “Framed,” or “Midnight Secrets” and work through them. All boxes can be solved alone or with up to four people.