Updated: Jan 21
Something I used to think about when wanting to make video games was just how much money I would have to spend to even start. First you need a computer, then you need a game engine, but which one do I pick, will I need this software, or how will I accomplish this? You get the point.
Thinking about making video games and finding a good game engine can feel like a daunting task, but in all actuality it is a lot easier than you think. You have probably typed "Best Game Engine" or "Free video game design" trying to find which one to pick. I have done the same researching and in doing so decided I would make a list out of them so everyone else trying to build games can save some time searching.
The other thought that scared me was how much would everything cost just to try and start? Once I finally started researching, I quickly found out that game engines don't really cost all the much, and sometimes are free to use! After doing a little digging, not only did I find out there were tons of free engines to choose from, but even some of the larger and more well known were free or had just switched to free.
Now, depending on what style of games you want to make will influence what game engine you might want download. Maybe you like 2D or like the idea of RPG games? Apart from the features, programming language and everything that comes with a game engine, you should keep in mind that your choice should be centered around what you as a designer want to make.
With that in mind I have listed out game engines I have looked up when trying to decide on the best ones to choose from. Even though I have them numbered, don't feel that one is better than the other just because of that. Some may be a little less known than others, but they are still game engines and can be used to build a video game.
#1 - Unity
Unity is a very powerful Game Engine and should be one of your top choices when wanting to start building your very own video games. A nice feature with Unity is that it not only handles 3D games, but you can work on 2D games as well making it very versatile. Another really nice feature is the Unity Asset Store, where you can find thousands of templates, characters, textures, audio and more! So if want to start building games fast without having to spend too many hours learning and building your own content, you can download free or paid tools to accelerate your game design. This is a paid asset, but take a look at THIS tool to show you just what Unity is capable of and how fast you can build a game.
Now Unity is free to use, but there are a few more features with the paid versions, but you don't need them to build and sell a video game. Depending on how much your income is from games or assets you will need to upgrade to a paid version, but the income requirements are relatively high.
#2 - Unreal Engine
The next Ultimate contender in video game design is the Unreal Engine, and when you look at their site and see the games built with them you can see why. Unreal Engine is made and used by Epic Games, and you should recognize that name with the Fortnite craze. The Unreal Engine is a 100% ready to go engine with no extra purchases, they simply collect royalties on profits when they reach certain levels. If you are wanting to build a game and looking for the ultimate tool, check out the Unreal Engine! Another nice feature for someone who struggles with coding is BluePrints, a visual programming feature that comes with Unreal along with a Marketplace to download content.
Some games built with the Unreal Engine: Fortnite, Their big games are displayed on their homepage but Fortnite obviously needs its own link.
#3 - CryEngine
Another top tier game engine to get you started on your video game journey is the CryEngine, and it easy to see why it is high on the list. This engine is another one that is capable of building AAA games, and like Unity and Unreal, it is free to use and comes with its very own Marketplace. Similar to Unreal, the "only pay when you earn" mentality applies with its own royalty program. If you aren't convinced, just take a look at their website and see the awesome games that have been built with it!
#4 - Stencyl
As the image implies, Stencyl is a game engine that requires no coding. However, you will need to be familiar with how code works to build a game, but for the most part you just need to plug in the blocks of code and let the engine do the rest.
As the image above shows, it's coding is slightly different than the standard, but works just the same. Another thing to point out is that this is focused on 2D games for mobile and web and has no 3D capabilities. So if you want to build video games that are solely 2D, then Stencyl is a great free game engine to test out.
Blender is another free game engine you can use to build games. The amount of tools in this engine is incredible, you can model, rig, animate and build games all in one location, which makes it a very useful tool whether building video games and just wanting to make great characters and props. If you look at their website you will see just how popular this program is getting and why it is one to consider.
The other engine I have paired with this one is Armory, and that's because it integrates with Blender to add even more features between the two. Armory and Blender both are a well rounded package whether you want to use them to build games or simply use them to build assets.
#6 - Amazon Lumberyard
Amazon Lumberyard is a relatively new engine, but has a lot going for it. Like all the other engines shown before it, this one is free, and makes it an obvious choice when wanting to get started making video games. There is some paid content if you choose to get it like most engines, but you do not need to buy it in order to build a game.
#7 - Godot
Godot is another nice free game engine to build video games. Whether you want to build 2D or 3D, this engine can help you get there. Equipped with tools to help you start building games and not stuck starting from scratch it makes it a great choice for beginners who don't want to spend a lot of hours learning all the fine details. Just like Lumberyard, this engine is 100% free.
#8 - Defold
Defold is primarily a 2D platform with some minor 3D capabilities. Regardless it is a nice game engine if you are looking for one that won't bog down your drive space.
Some games built with Defold: Family Island and more!
#9 - Monogame
Monogame is a handy game engine that allows you to build games across ALL platforms, and utilizes only one framework to keep things simple. Like most engines, this one supports both 2D and 3D, making it a nice choice.
Something that was recently introduced was the "Xbox Live Creators Program" which allows anyone with a Windows 10 computer and an Xbox One to publish their games directly to the Xbox One store! So if you want to jump to one of the largest consoles out their with a top of the line game, take a look at Monogame and see if its right for you!