A team of 3 male and 3 female contestants completed individual tasks throughout a maze, to collect time crystals. The team was led around the maze by their host, Richard O'Brian (The Rocky Horror Show) for the first four seasons (1990 - 1993), and Ed Tudor-Pole (Ten Pole Tudor) in the latter 2 seasons (1994 - 1995).

The Maze was split into four time zones, Aztec, Futuristic, Medievil, and Industrial, which became the Ocean zone in the last three series. Within each zone the team captain would choose between a "skill", "physical", "mental" or a "mystery" challenge for one of the other players. Each game lasts 2 to 3 minutes. The presenter would then open the door, start the time by keying in a code, starting the waterclock, turning over a sand timer, or starting a stop clock. the presenter would thenclose the doorand the game would start. The rest of the team could then help (or hinder) their teammate by shouting advice and suggestions, while viewing through monitors or gaps in the doors/walls. Completing a game correctly caused a contraption of some variety to release a time crystal. If the contestant failed to get out of the cell within the time limit (regardless of whether they had the time crystal or not) was locked in the cell. They could be release and play a further part in the show, but only if the team sacrificed one of the team's time crystals.

Each time crystal is worth five seconds of time inside the Crystal Dome. The time crystals could also be traded to release a player who had become "locked in". Inside the Crystal Dome are lots of gold and silver tokens (625 silver, 500 gold). The host shouts 'Can you start the fans, please!?' and fans underneath the Dome are started and the tokens fly about the Crystal Dome. On the host's first whistle, the contestants are to jump up and collect gold tokens by putting them in a letterbox at the edge of the Dome. On the host's second whistle, the fans are stopped and the tokens (inside the lettterbox) are counted. Gold tokens are worth +1 points and the silver tokens are worth -1 points. They would need to have got 100 or more points to qualify for the prize (and in the first season 50 - 100 points would have gained them a not so grand prize.) Any less than that, and they would only walk away wth a crystal engraved with 'I Cracked the Crystal Maze 199-'.

In the UK this tv game was adapted and crystal mazes were created at entertainment centres, like bowling/quaser/laserquest etc as a game to play.