General Rainsford falls off a ship and swims to the nearest island in order to survive. On the island, he comes across a large mansion and inside two men greet him. The first man, Ivan is large and mute, and at the sight of Rainsford he holds up a gun as if to shoot him. The second man walks in, General Zaroff. Zaroff seems much more civilized than Ivan.
Zaroff shares what his life is like and explains to him his great desire for hunting. Unfortunately, Zaroff has realized hunting provides no challenge for him anymore and since the hunt is the best part, he has found a new game to go after, humans. Rainsford must choose to play Zaroff's game, where Zaroff hunts him on the island for three days, or be turned over to Ivan. If Rainsford survives the three days in the forest, he will be returned to mainland.
Rainsford runs out into the woods, with a three hour head start, and then doubles back. He hopes that his tracks out will fool Zaroff. Zaroff sees through the trick, but he allows Rainsford to survive - he is playing a game of "cat and mouse" with him.
Then, Rainsford sets a trap for Zaroff. Zaroff is minorly injured, and he congratulates Rainsford for the effort. He again allows Rainsford to run off while he gets fixed up. He sets another trap which is a pit with sharp stakes, but Zaroff's dogs ruin this trap.
The final attack Rainsford sets is a knife on a flexible branch, it is set to hit anyone who crosses it - hoping it will kill Zaroff on his way out to search for Rainsford. Ivan, however, falls victim and dies. Zaroff spends the last night Rainsford is out in the jungle, at his mansion angry that Rainsford has outsmarted him and costed him Ivan and a dog. Rainsford however is hiding in Zaroff's room. He doubled back to the mansion to again be on the attack. Zaroff congratulates him on winning, but Rainsford says they are still playing. It ends with Rainsford enjoying the night in Zaroff's bed.
The exposition of The Most Dangerous Game begins with Sanger Rainsford traveling to Rio in a yacht with his friend Whitney. They talk about a mysterious island nearby and how the world is made up of two classes: the hunters and the huntees. After their discussion, Whitney goes to sleep and Rainsford, startled by the sound of gunshots from a distance, drops his pipe and falls off the yacht trying to receive it. The rising action then takes place in Ship-Trap Island, where Rainsford swam to after falling off the boat. He makes his way around the island to a palace-like mansion inhabited by two Cossacks: General Zaroff and his big, deaf servant, Ivan. Next, General Zaroff invites Rainsford to dinner and tells him how he became bored of hunting and invented a new game hunting shipwrecked sailors. Rainsford discovers that he is to be hunted after declining Zaroff’s request to join him in his hunt and the hunt begins, leading to the climax: Rainsford’s fight for his life in the jungle. The falling action occurs when Rainsford uses traps that kill Zaroff’s hounds and Ivan. He then sets a trap, a Ugandan native trick, with his knife, killing Ivan, but not Zaroff. Afterwards, Rainsford dives into a cliff, making Zaroff think that he is a goner. The resolution reveals Rainsford waiting in Zaroff’s room, ‘a beast at bay’. Zaroff declares that Rainsford had won the game; however, only one of them will be able to sleep in an excellent bed. The story concludes with the assumption that Zaroff dies.