Video game creation software has become more democratic in recent years. They allow less technical among us to design games in a simple and accessible way. These programs are commonly called the best free game engines.
What is a game engine?
A game engine designates a set of pre-written codes whose software structure encourages its user to set up a specific architecture to design a game. An engine is therefore made up of several software libraries called “Framework.” This is the case for libGDX, which is composed of OpenGl (for the graphics part), OpenAL (for the sound part), and OpenCL (for the parallel processing). A graphical interface sometimes accompanies a game engine. This is the case for Unity, RPG Maker, and many others. The best free game engine is not required to develop a game.
However, this tool is highly recommended for two reasons:
- A game engine saves a lot of time. Indeed, the tool embeds a set of libraries managing the rendering, the animation, the sound, the physics, the components of a user interface… The developer does not, therefore, have to worry about the implementation of the code. low level. (The low level designates a degree of programming close to machine language. Without abstraction). The software structure is also predefined; no need to think too long about the architecture to adopt.
- A game engine provides expertise. The algorithms of market engines are optimized to develop games with good performance (Some on several platforms). Thus, pre-written methods are very often designed to be more (or at least as) efficient than those a game designer could have written. (However, it may be interesting to learn about engines’ concepts to understand how games work entirely.)
Its price, features, multiplatform capacity, 2D / 3D orientation, and the programming language chosen are all criteria to consider when deciding which game engine to use.
What are the main gaming drivers in the market?
Now let’s review the main game creation software (with and without GUI).
The best free game engines list:
- Unreal Engine
- RPG Maker
- Other Engines
Unreal Engine is a free, cross-platform 3D game engine developed by Epic Games. It is recognized for its performance and graphic effects. Indeed, the Engine is capable of generating millions of particles in an environment composed of dynamic lights. Since version 4.3, Unreal Engine has a hybrid 2D and 2D / 3D game creation system called “Paper 2D”. The Quixel Megascan library contains over 10,000 assets that can be used for free in Unreal Engine. Major AAA studios use the software. Among other things, the BioShock Infinite video game developed by Irrational games was made with Unreal Engine 3.
- Developer: Epic Games.
- Language: C ++ (since Unreal Engine 4). The language previously used was called UnrealScript, which is discontinued today. UnrealScript is syntactically similar to Java. It aims to be easy to use, but the language is 20 times slower than C ++.
- Price: Free. 5% Royalties from the moment your game exceeds $ 1,000,000 in gross revenue! (Suffice to say that we have the margin).
- Released games: The Bioshock series, Alice madness return, Antichamber, XCOM 1 and 2, Outlast, SMITE, Life is Strange, and of course, Paragon, the EpicGames MMO.
CryEngine is a free, cross-platform 3D game engine developed by Crytek. Originally used to create the Far Cry series (and first-person shooters more generally), the software aspires to become a powerful and increasingly accessible general-purpose game engine.
- Developer: Crytek.
- Language: C ++.
- Price: Free.
- Released games: Far Cry, The Crysis series, Evolve, Prey.
Unity is a 2D and 3D video game creation software. It offers a level editor and a development framework. Unity also has a store of assets, free and paid, quite varied. The free version (called “Personal”) allows you to sell your products. However, from 100,000 € of income per year collected by your games, you must upgrade to a paid version.
- Developer: Unity Technologies.
- Language: C #.
- Price: Free as long as the income does not exceed 100,000 € per year.
- Released: Hearthstone, Super Mario Run, Furi, Firewatch, Keep talking, and nobody explodes.
New on the market since January 2017, Godot is a free, open-source, multiplatform, and promising game engine. Equipped with a graphical interface, the software is able to design 2D and 3D games.
Some complaints that said: GDScript, the language used by the tool, is specific to the software and is not yet well known. Features present in competing engines (including artistic effects) are also missing. However, the software continues to develop, and a C ++ and C # implementation should see the light of day soon.
- Developer: The Godot Engine community.
- Language: GDScript (syntax close to Python).
- Price: free (MIT license).
- Released Games: Anthill, Running Nose, Project Carnival.
Designed for making Japanese-style 2D RPGs without programming, RPG Maker is ideal for developing games similar to old Final Fantasy. With a little development, it is possible to achieve a Zelda like those of the Game Boy Color. The software slogan can be translated as “Childish to use, powerful enough for a developer.” The latest version, RPG Maker MV, allows you to import plugins.
- Developer: Enterbrain
- Language: Ruby.
- Price: Paid and free versions. From $ 24.99 to $ 79.99 depending on the version. Free trial version.
- Released Games: To the Moon.
GameMaker is a cross-platform 2D game engine allowing the use of 3D entities. The paid version is required to easily export a game to mobile, Ubuntu, Mac, or the web. The software has its programming language called GML (Game Maker Language).
- Developer: YoYo Games.
- Language: GML (Game Maker Language).
- Price: Free version (for exporting to windows) and paid version from $ 149.99 (excluding the cost of export modules). Count $ 449.98 to export to Android).
- Games made: Undertale, Hotline Miami, Nidhogg, Rivals of Aether, Spelunky.
MonoGame is a free and open-source 2D / 3D framework that takes the abandoned library classes: Microsoft XNA. It is based on the Mono library making it cross-platform.
Image of the game Bastion developed by Supergiant Games with MonoGame.
- Developer: MonoGame, Team.
- Language: C#.
- Price: Free.
- Released Games: Bastion, Fez, Terraria, TowerFall Ascension, Apotheon.
LibGDX is an open-source, cross-platform Desktop, Android, iOS, and HTML5 framework. Based on LWJGL, which is based on OpenGL, it offers graphics classes that allow us to realize 2D and 3D games.
- Developer: Badlogic Games.
- Language: Java.
- Price: Free.
- Released Games: The demos of Five Nights at Freddy’s and my game: Lights.
Other Best Free Game Engines
- Construct 2: Cross-platform HTML5 based 2D game engine developed by Scirra, the limited free version
- Clickteam Fusion: Multiplatform 2D game engine developed in France. The Engine’s principle is based on drag and drop and the creation of events (like Construct 2)—limited free version.
- Xenko: Open source, Xenko stands out as Unity’s direct competitor. It implements the C # language.
- jMonkeyEngine: 3D Java game engine with a graphical interface.
- Blender Game Engine: The game engine is integrated into the 3D modeling and animation software: Blender. It implements the Python language.
- PyGame: PyGame is a free cross-platform Python library built from the C: SDL library.
- MUGEN: 2D fighting game engine implementing the C language.
- Dreams: At the border between a game engine and a video game, Dreams is presented as a fun way to learn about game design.
Conclusion on the best free game engines
An engine thus makes it possible to fill your gaps. It saves you from studying the components of a computer thoroughly, and its software structure guides you in the architecture to adopt. An engine is optimized, reusable, and saves time. So there is no reason not to use a game engine. That wraps our article on the best free game engines.
If you’re interested in creating graphics for video games then check our article The Best Drawing Software.