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A Scavenger Hunt is a party game (played by individuals or teams) in which players have to find a list of items by a set deadline. Typically, the items do not have high monetary value, but some of them are likely to be highly specific and/or difficult to obtain. Purchasing an item is often forbidden or penalized. In some cases (usually large heavy or bulky items or even physical landmarks), a photograph of the player with the item is deemed sufficient to claim it.

Author and society hostess Elsa Maxwell popularized the scavenger hunt in the 1930s. Smaller scale versions for children and teens usually have very limited settings (say, the backyard of a house or a local shopping mall) and can require finding preprinted clues that are concealed in the area rather than actual items. Modern variations include online hunts (often for specific pieces of information) and hunts that have players use smartphones.

A Scavenger Hunt can serve as the plot device for a story, or as an incident in another plot. In mystery stories, the scavenger hunt frequently makes the investigators' job more difficult, since the game will mean many people will be moving near a crime scene or have sketchy verification of their whereabouts.

See also Fetch Quest.

Examples of Scavenger Hunt include:

Anime and Manga

  • Shows up in several anime that take place during a school's sports festival as a "fetch race", where each participant gets a piece of paper with what they have to find written on it, then everyone goes to find what they have as quickly as possible.
    • Shows up twice in Azumanga Daioh, both during the Sports Fest:
      • The first year, Osaka gets 'glasses'. She gets Yomi's and goes towards the finish...while wearing them. Kagura is also yelling in the background looking for a swimsuit.
      • The second year, Chiyo has to find 'an idiot'. She retrieves Tomo.
    • In Haruhi-chan, Kyon gets 'a barrier of the heart'. He gets Koizumi to come with him; when Haurhi asks why, Kyon proceeds to tell Koizumi that he loves him. Cue hilarity in the form of a Bishie Sparkle and the breaking of Haruhi's mind.


  • This Calvin and Hobbes strip has Calvin and Hobbes in a scavenger hunt. Hobbes is concerned for the legality of obtaining some of the items on the list.


  • My Man Godfrey (1936) has a socialite bring the title character to a scavenger hunt judge as a "forgotten man" to win the game. He takes a job as the woman's butler, and Hilarity Ensues.
  • Scavenger Hunt (1979) had the relatives of a deceased man participate in a scavenger hunt (according to the terms of his will) to determine who inherits the man's wealth.
  • The film Midnight Madness has a guy named Leon create a scavenger hunt called "The Great Allnighter". He picks teams of college students to participate in his night long scavenger hunt, going from clue to clue that Leon has set up all over town. The groups are made up of competing cliques.
  • Dead Scared (AKA The Hazing). A group of men and women must participate in a scavenger hunt in order to join a fraternity and sorority, respectively. Trying to obtain one item gets them involved with a professor who's actually a satanic sorcerer.


  • Ngaio Marsh's Hand in Glove has Lady Bantling's scavenger hunt covering the murder of one of her neighbours. The man's body is found in an open trench.
  • Agatha Christie used a variation called a murder hunt (following clues to various places leading to a staged murder scene) on the grounds of Nasse House in Dead Man's Folly.
  • Irene Adler uses a scavenger hunt at a houseparty as cover so she and her companion Nell Huxleigh can retrieve a jeweled belt called the Zone of Diamonds from under a cross in Oscar Wilde's garden in Carole Nelson Douglas' Good Night, Mr. Holmes.
  • A major part of the novel Leap Year has the characters go out on a scavenger hunt around town.

Live-Action TV

  • On a Halloween episode of The Addams Family, a couple comes to the Addams' home looking for a black bat. Gomez assumes they mean the animal.
  • On Parks and Recreation, Leslie sets up a scavenger hunt for Ben for Valentines Day. Ron, who helps Ben figure out the clues, claims to dislike riddles and other such nonsense, but at the end confesses that he likes it and asks Leslie to prepare a hunt for him in an underhanded way.

Tabletop RPGs

  • In Vampire: The Masquerade this is a party game of Nosferatu - the twist is that the items usually belong to someone else and its not so much a problem of finding them as acquiring them subtly enough.

Western Animation

  • There's a Simpsons episode where Burns loses all his goods after being defeated in a scavenger hunt.
  • One of the old My Little Pony cartoons had the characters go on a scavenger hunt.
  • In an episode of Animaniacs, the Warners go into Sherlock Holmes' appartment looking for items for a scavenger hunt, first prize being a walk-on on Baywatch. Holmes realizes that some of the items have been stolen by Moriarty and theorizes that he is on the same scavenger hunt.


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