It’s never been easier than now to embark on the journey of creating amazing games! Whether you’re an artist who is looking to turn your imagination into games, a student who is looking to start a game development career, or a complete newbie who does not know how to code at all but doesn’t want to spend a ton of money to hire programmers, there are always the right tools for you.
Let’s take a look at 5 game engines that will get you started on your journey. But before that, let’s talk about what a game engine is for those who have no idea what I’m talking about.
Topics covered in this article:
- What Are Game Engines?
- Common Features of Game Engines
- Popular Game Engines For Beginners
- Unity 3D – A super popular choice for indie developers, easy to use, and very powerful
- Unreal Engine – Best for 3D game development, great for first-person shooters (FPS) and action games
- GameMaker Studio – Popular and widely used choice by indie developers
- RPG Maker – The old-school Final Fantasy-style RPG engine
- Godot – The cool new kid on the block jam packed with features for both 2D and 3D
- Solar 2D – An easy 2D game engine for Lua programmers
What Are Game Engines?
Also referred to sometimes as the “game architecture” or “game framework,” a game engine is an integrated development environment that improves and streamlines video game development in a variety of applications.
Game engines come with various capabilities and specializations in different areas. Some are specialized in 2D games, and some are great at producing AAA-quality 3D games. They also have quite a few features that are common amongst the engines such as the ability to build your game for multiple platforms and devices and add monetization to your game.
The game engines do a lot of the heavy lifting for you and have been used to create some of the most unique and popular games on the market today. These engines make it possible to create a prototype very quickly and build your ideas from there.
The most significant benefit of game engines is the ability to create high-quality content without spending the massive time and expense required to build the underlying game engine from scratch.
Common Features of Game Engines
So, why are these engines such a great find? Well, it’s because they help you create kick-butt games faster – and with lots of features already included. Talk about an awesome time-saver! A lot of times, you’ll only have to deal with how you want your game to turn out while the engines handle the complex parts for you. Some engines even go as far as to let you make a fully working game with ZERO CODING.
Here are some of the features that exist in most game engines:
- Physics engine
- Artificial intelligence (A.I.)
- 2D/3D graphics renderer
- Animation sequence manager
- Build your game to various common platforms such as Windows, OSX, Android, and iOS
These tools allow you to spin up your ideas and turn them into reality without requiring cutting-edge technical and specialized programming skills. Yup, you don’t have to know rocket science to be able to make a game! It lets the game designers focus on the game and not constantly revamp the game.
Popular Game Engines For Beginners
Creating a video game can be a daunting task for even the most experienced developers. That is, without a doubt, very true.
BUT! With helpful resources, anyone can have success in creating their own games – even those who are just beginning or don’t know how to code! From 2D mobile development suites to 3D design software, these five solutions provide everything you need to get started on your path toward becoming a game developer.
Whether you’re an aspiring professional developer or just looking for a fun new hobby, these five popular (and FREE) game engines are sure to give you everything you need to make your dream game come true!
Unity 3D – A super popular choice for indie developers, easy to use, and very powerful
Also commonly referred to as just “Unity.” When it comes to game development, Unity 3D is an awesome option for all levels of game developers! Making 2D games is quick and easy, no matter if you’re a beginner or an expert.
That is NOT to say that Unity is bad for 3D games. It’s called Unity “3D” for a reason. It comes with 3D rendering pipelines fully capable of creating fun and good-looking 3D games. And if you’re skilled enough, you can even make it so your game looks hyper-realistic with it too. There are tons of 3D games made with Unity on the market. One of them is the phenomenally popular PC/mobile game, Genshin Impact. Yes, that beautiful game was made with Unity!
The Unity 3D interface is user-friendly, making it possible for developers of all levels to start creating without needing extensive coding experience. All of the tools built into this engine also give you access to powerful features such as physics engines and animation tools — perfect for creating unique gaming experiences.
And if you’re not a programmer and have no knowledge about programming, fear not. Unity Engine also supports code-less game development, or Visual Scripting, meaning you can make a game with Unity without having to write a single line of code. This can be done through its built-in visual scripting tool called Bolt as well as other paid options with more features. It is very much possible to create a fully-fledged game without touching on the programming side of things with Unity Engine’s visual scripting tools.
Unity 3D also offers an ever-growing library of assets for users to take advantage of in their projects and not to mention, a gigantic amount of tutorials online, including its own learning platform Unity Learn which contains courses and exercises for you to learn from. You’ll also get certificates for finishing them which is pretty neat.
Unreal Engine – Best for 3D game development, great for first-person shooters (FPS) and action games
If you’re an artist, Unreal Engine might be a perfect fit for you, especially if you’re an environmental artist or if you’re into architectural visualization.
Boasting insane graphical capability, it is one of the best game engines on the market in terms of how good it is at making hyper-realistic 3D scenes.
Unreal Engine has it all when it comes to making good-looking scenes. With the introduction of the Lumen, a real-time dynamic lighting system, and Nanite, an optimized visualized geometry system, making games with great graphics in Unreal Engine is now much easier than before.
It also comes with all the important features such as animation rigging, audio controls, a fully-fledged artificial intelligence system, a networking system, and much more. You can even do some 3D sculpting inside the engine itself if you wish so.
Unreal Engine is a C++-based game engine and that might put some people off.
But fret not, Unreal Engine has a built-in visual scripting tool called Blueprint that is very easy to use and you’re not required to know how to write code to be able to use it. It is an insanely powerful tool and a lot of people have released games made with it.
Furthermore, Unreal Engine isn’t just for games. It has also been used in film productions and architectural visualization, making it one of the more popular choices for artists and designers.
GameMaker Studio – Popular and widely used choice by indie developers
GameMaker Studio by YoYo Games is one of the most popular and widely used game engines for indie developers and is known as one of the oldest publically-available game engines in the world. It has a glowing reputation for being incredibly user-friendly, so even those new to coding can easily utilize it.
It’s got an intuitive drag-and-drop interface that makes it simple to use without having to write complex code. It also boasts impressive capabilities and functions that are optimally suited for beginners hoping to craft small-scale 2D games.
Plus, GameMaker Studio is constantly updating with improvements such as 3D support and HTML5 exporting capabilities so users can develop games for multiple platforms. With its ease of use and versatility, GameMaker Studio has become the go-to choice among many independent developers looking to create engaging interactive experiences with minimal effort.
Do note that, although it’s free to use, you’ll have to pay a small subscription price for a license if you plan to release your game.
RPG Maker – The old-school Final Fantasy-style RPG engine
If you like old-school turn-based RPGs, this one is for you. RPG Maker is a powerful tool in game development, especially for aspiring game developers and people who are not tech-savvy or programming oriented.
The workflow of the software makes it easy to use. This gaming engine breaks down game creation step by step. RPG Maker guides users through the tasks of designing the story setting, creating events without any prior programming knowledge, and using the database to manage game data and control aspects such as actors, enemies, items, etc.
RPG Maker is one of the oldest game-making software on the market that has survived through time and made a name for itself as the “RPG maker,” literally.
It is easy to use and you don’t need to know how to write code to be able to make games with it. Its user interface is easy to understand and you are presented with everything needed to make a production-ready 2D RPG such as:
- Dialogue system.
- Event system.
- Adjustable players and enemies parameters.
- Items and inventory system.
Basically, essential component of an old-school RPG.
Godot – The cool new kid on the block jam packed with features for both 2D and 3D
Godot is a public, open platform engine for creating 2D and 3D games. It is one of the newest additions to the game development industry.
Godot has swiftly gained widespread appeal owing to its open-source nature, allowing users to add or delete anything from the engine at their ease. Godot game engine is one the best game engines to make your first game, with a strong community eager to help.
Godot supports various programming languages such as C#, C++, and many more languages made available by its community, as well as its GDScript language which is similar to Python and is easy to learn. This makes it very appealing to all types of developers. Furthermore, Godot is also non-programmer-friendly as it has a built-in visual scripting tool that is easy to use.
It might be a new game engine that has just entered the industry, but it is evolving every day and is becoming one of the most popular game engines and there are already many games made with it on the market.
Solar 2D – An easy 2D game engine for Lua programmers
If you’re coming from a Lua programming background, this game engine might be a good fit for you. Solar 2D is a public free Lua-based game engine developed by Corona Labs Inc., which allows programmers to create a 2D mobile and desktop application for various platforms. It is straightforward to use and still regarded as one of the most popular open-source game engines available in the world.
Solar 2D is lightweight and fully open-source. And as the name implies, it is a game engine solely for making 2D games. It has a few game templates for you to get started on and its documentation is easy to navigate and read.