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How to Choose the Perfect Murder Mystery Party Game


An Evening of Murder, Mystery, and Mayhem!

You are startled by the sound of a gunshot as the lights abruptly go out. Once the light is back, you notice a dead man lying on the floor next to you. You spot some very shady characters as you scan the room. The murderer must be one of them, but who is it?

Though it might sound like a movie, this is not one. In actuality, you're taking part in a thrilling murder mystery party game.

Murder Mystery Parties are a popular entertainment choice for Party Hosts looking for a unique experience to offer their guests. Party planners want their event to be talked about in excited conversations for weeks afterward. Your run-of-the-mill food, music, and social gathering don't generate excitement.

For about 40 years now, murder mystery games have been popular in the UK. Due to increased exposure, there has been a tremendous increase in interest in the United States over the past 20 years. The actors who played the characters in the first murder mystery games followed scripted roles. They would mingle with guests while dropping clues. These are still performed today at fundraising events and murder mystery dinner theaters.

The next generation of games let the guests play the characters, but the parts were still scripted. Later, scripted boxed sets were introduced, which were played out in rounds, much like a board game. While these could be enjoyable, they lacked spontaneity or the ability to be creative. Everything went exactly as scripted.

Over 20 years ago, we launched a new genre of Murder Mystery Games in the USA. These are Interactive murder mystery games. In the older versions, solving the murder was the game's sole purpose. These interactive murder mystery games have many subplots, and guests have their own nefarious agendas. Parts are no longer scripted. Instead, characters receive detailed backgrounds describing their fictional relationships with other characters at the party. They also have secrets of their own, which may have nothing to do with the murder that occurs. Participants will take on their character's persona and use the information they are provided or the acquire.

After the murder, they learn specific details of the crime through evidence, eavesdropping, and questioning other characters. Some games include play money, which can be used for buying information, blackmailing, and other devious schemes. All of this leads to extensive social interaction, which is the real point of a party.

How many boring parties have you been to where small groups of people gathered together in clusters? Or even more horrifying to the host are people standing around, not conversing at all. This doesn't happen with a well-written interactive murder mystery party. With a good game, the guests can get so caught up in their own schemes that they may even forget to investigate the murder!

Each murder mystery game usually takes place in exotic locations and timelines. These can include gangsters in Chicago during the roaring twenties or maybe sock hops in the fifties. You might even be placed in fictional settings. These settings allow participants to don great costumes and immerse themselves in the scene. This will enable guests to fully experience the ambiance of the game.

When you decide to host a murder mystery party, how can you be sure you choose the perfect murder mystery game for your party? We are here to help you navigate this choice, as it can make or break your party. Here are some things you should look for in the game you choose:

  • First and foremost is to stay away from scripted games. These allow no imagination or spontaneity and play more like a board game. For true enjoyment, your guests need to feel immersed in the world and theme your chosen game has created.

  • Look for a theme that you think your guests would enjoy. My best-seller is Murder at the Four Deuces, which takes place in 1920s Chicago. The reason this game is so successful is very simple and something many people don't think about. Men are usually the first to balk at participating in this type of event. When told that they will be playing a gangster, they become excited about the idea. It is effortless for men to costume for this theme, and they get to play powerful characters. It also allows them and the other guests to be bad without actually being bad. It is exciting to unleash our usually suppressed tendencies without suffering any guilt. Something we don't want to do in real life but relish doing in a make-believe scenario. Whatever game you choose, choosing one with strong characters for your guests is a good idea.

  • Look for a game that is easy to host. Most of the good games are purchased from the internet. I operated a murder mystery dinner theater before I developed the Dinner and a Murder game system. I know how important it is to be able to have easy-to-follow instructions. The night of the party, the last thing a host needs is to scramble around trying to run the game while ensuring all the guests are happy, food is served, and cleaning up. You get my point. A good game will have very few hosting duties associated with it, allowing them to participate as a character. If the host guide reads like a technical manual, move on.

  • Only purchase a game with an introductory file you can read before purchasing. All games are not created equal, and there are good ones and bad ones out there. You do not want to risk harming your reputation by hosting a lousy murder mystery party. If a site cannot give you a partial glimpse of the actual game, they are likely hiding something. This introduction should contain the host guide and other details about the game, giving you a good feel for how it will work.

  • While you are on the website, also look for real customer reviews posted by the customers and not quoted by the company. Customer feedback can also give you great ideas for throwing your own party. I am constantly amazed by my customer's creativity.

  • Murder Mystery Party Game Kit Contents: A good kit will have everything you need to play the game. You should not have to go out and purchase elaborate props, and it should have a host guide, character info, and evidence, at the least. Game money is a plus that adds a whole new dimension to the game experience.

  • Either the kit or the website should also give you party theme ideas. Everything from menu, recipes, decorations, hairstyles, music, and costumes can provide a host excellent ideas for their party.

  • If your kit does not contain certificates (boooooo), you can design some yourself. It is always nice to be rewarded in the game for solving the murder, best costume, best performer, etc...

  • Next, I will give you some tips on planning and hosting a murder mystery party:

  • Try to plan your event at least 2 weeks in advance. 1-3 month's advance planning is most optimal. You can throw a last-minute party, but careful planning will make things much less stressful. Order a printable kit if your party is within the next 2 weeks, because issues can happen. Whether it's shipping delays, printer malfunctions, supply issues. I've seen them all, so if you can't plan a month in advance, I highly suggest a printable game, or at the least contact your supplier to ensure you can get your game in plenty of time.

  • Before assigning characters, sending an invitation and receiving an RSVP is very important. Let your guests know that you are counting on them to attend when they confirm.

  • When it comes to food, easier is better. I have thrown murder mystery parties where I did all the cooking, making for a very stressful day and party. The most manageable menus are a potluck, taco bar, spaghetti, or some other easy-to-prepare menu unless you can have your party catered. The first time I decided to do this, I worried about what my guests would think about a potluck, but to my surprise, they loved the idea. It allows them to contribute to the party and show off their culinary skills. Just about everyone has a special dish that they excel at. If not, there are always needed items that don't require cooking skills. Drinks, ice, cups, etc. If you decide to cook, think simple and have everything ready before the party starts.

  • After the solution has been read, it is always fun to go around the room and let each character reveal their secrets. Your guests will be amazed at what they didn't know was happening under their noses.

  • This tip isn't a requirement, but I have found it adds a fun element to a murder mystery party. If your party utilizes game money, I ask guests to bring a small, inexpensive item. I also cruised the dollar store and spent about $30 on butterfly houses, wind chimes, scented candles, unique picture frames, and other whatnot. After the party ended, we held an auction with all the items. Guests used their play money winnings to bid and purchase items. Everyone left with a small remembrance and a smile on their face.

Using this advice, your next party is sure to be one people will talk about for weeks. So be brave. Plan a party your guests will be DYING to attend!


Written by Mary Lee, owner, and writer of Dinner and a Murder Mystery Games. Visit our website at to learn more.

This article may be reprinted on the condition that this Author box, with the link, remains intact with no changes.

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