A History of Murder Mystery Games

murder mystery game history

Murder mystery games are hugely popular worldwide and have inspired generations of amateur sleuths. With a history of over 90 years, murder mystery games are not a novelty, but they are gaining more momentum each year. To better understand where murder mystery games come from, and why this game is still so popular in many cultures, we need to start at the very beginning.
Take a trip with us through the history of the murder mystery, and then join in the fun with our free murder mystery games.

The Beginning

It all started with the murder mystery fiction genre in the 1800s – when Edgar Allen Poe created the first fictional detective character “August Dupin” in “Murder in the Rue Morgue”. The book was published in 1841, one year before the London metropolitan police appointed their first detective force. Over a decade later, Charles Dickens brought out a detective work called Bleak House.

A Real Murder Case

The tipping point in the history of murder mystery fiction was the murder at Road Hill House which happened in 1860 in the UK. This was the first murder case that was extensively reported in the press and it was this case that turned normal citizens into amateur sleuths.
Road Hill House was a family manor set in the UK countryside. But on a June morning of 1860, this manor was the scene of an atrocious murder. Saville Kent, a 3-year-old child, was found with his throat slit. Having in mind the remote location of the manor, the only possible suspects were members of the household. This case was the blueprint for all murder mystery novels to come.

Sherlock Holmes Era

When you think about a detective or a murder mystery – you think about Sherlock Holmes. Created by British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, this fictional detective turned into a sensation in both the UK, as well as the USA. During his career, Arthur Conan Doyle wrote 4 novels and more than 50 short stories about this great character. It’s no wonder why the Victorian era was full of all types of parlor games such as murder in the dark, wink murder, and jury.

The 1900s – golden age of fiction

This decade opened the century with some amazing new fictional characters. Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers are just two names that could describe the golden age of fiction.
Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple are two of Agatha Christie’s most famous characters that are still loved by fiction readers. Poirot was the only fictional character to be given an obituary in The New York Times. ( August 6, 1975 “Hercule Poirot is Dead; Famed Belgian Detective”).

First Murder Mystery Games

The 1930s saw the release of the first murder mystery game known as Jury Box. In this game, the players or jurors have a scenario of the murder, the evidence presented by the prosecutor and defendant, two photographs of the crime scene, and ballot papers. The players need to make a decision as to who is guilty and who is innocent. After their decision, the real solution is read out.
Over a decade later, the first murder mystery board game enters the scene. Cluedo board game was released in 1948 as a murder mystery game where players race to identify a killer. This game is still popular worldwide.

Role Playing Murder Mystery Games

The ’80s brought the earliest form of role-playing murder mystery games in a „hot to host” box format. Back then, the game had a simpler scenario and the games relied on the guests being comfortable and ad-libbing responses to each other’s questions.
A huge difference was made by Dimitry Davidoff when he created the party game Mafia. This social game became a sensation worldwide and is still a popular game these days. In the „Mafia” game, the players sit in a room and a number of secret mafia members conspire to “murder” innocent players during eyes-closed night phases. With different fictional characters like police, judge, and witnesses, „Mafia” led to a genre of social deduction games where players attempt to uncover a secret subgroup.

Back in the present

Today, “murder mystery games” can refer to anything from DIY-hosted dinner parties to team-building events or birthday parties. A murder mystery game gives to the players the opportunity to live the experience of a detective investigation in the first person. The solution to the mystery behind the crime will be therefore a real intellectual challenge between the players and the perpetrator.
Are you ready to prove your detective skills? Then step into a fictional captivating world and find the killer. Check out our FREE Murder Mystery Games.

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