BEST 14 FREE GAME ENGINES FOR VIDEO GAME CREATIVES

In Apps and Software review, Review by Toni Justamante Jacobs

Playing video games has fast become one of the best ways for people to pass time. Anyone with a device, smartphones or laptops, can pass time during leisure by playing video games, which are equally as enjoyable as outdoor games.

Creatives have now taken to developing video games as a source of income. In light of this, certain tools known as Game Engines have now been made available for game designers to code and develop games apps.

Game Engines sort out the artificial intelligence, physics, input, scripting, rendering, and collision detection without a need to program them yourself, thereby giving you the liberty to focus on other essential components of the game.

Now that you know what game engines do, imagine a world where game developers had to do all this work without game engines. You’re right; games would probably be non-existent because they would take longer to design, and it would be an excruciatingly difficult task.

If you’re a video game artist or a game designer who has no idea how game engines work or is finding it difficult to choose the perfect game engine to work with, you must know that some game engines are more suited for specific tasks than others.

If you already know this but still encounter difficulty making a choice, you should have a solution to this problem by the time you’re done reading this. Here’s a list of the top 14 game engines for video game creatives.

1. Unity

It is one of the most versatile game engines that you will find. Its functionality and ability to develop almost any game type has made it one of the most preferred options for game designers.

Unity allows you to create interactive 3D games with ease and is available in two different versions; The free and professional versions.

Its free version is known as the ‘Personal Edition’. It is available for free download and contains features that allow it to be used on almost every platform, while the professional version, which requires you to make a monthly payment to gain access, also has other notable features; such as team license, beta access, and customizable splash screens, which are not available on the Personal Edition.

If you opt for the professional version of the Unity game engine, which allows you to publish games and earn money, you can be sure you’ll get enormous value for your money.

2. Corona

This game engine is a 2D cross-platform game framework that is very easy to learn and is excellent for developing mobile and desktop platforms.

It is beginner-friendly and allows for a one-time development of your project, after which you can then proceed to publish for a wide range of platforms such as Windows, Apple, Android, Mac, and others.

It is a Lua based game engine which provides open-source codes, and it has been used in the development of several well-known games like Angry Birds and Warcraft.

With Corona game engine, there are no fees, no hidden royalties or charges; it is free to use and does not require you to pay any subscription fees for any of its features.

It also boasts of a marketplace where you can find excellent resources such as soundtrack or effects, project templates, and a vast range of plugin options.

Alongside its marketplace feature, it also allows you to publish your games and not have to worry much about promoting or earning from your work; all you have to do is focus on making games.

3. Defold

If you’re a game designer in need of a 2D game engine, Defold is everything you need in one place. It is usually described as the best tool to use in designing games for web and mobile platforms.

It runs on LUA programming language and can pass as one of the most amazing tools available today as far as 2D game design is concerned.

If you’re using Defold for the first time, you have nothing to worry about; there are detailed tutorials in the editor to guide you through your first game design project. It might take a couple of hours or even more, but you’ll definitely get through the basics.

What’s more? Defold is open source and free to use. So, If you’ve been looking for a suitable 2D game design engine, you’ve found what you need here.

4. CryEngine

Unlike the unity game engine, this game engine platform developed by Crytek is absolutely free to use. You get to have access to programs or source codes, learning resources, and other excellent features without having to pay any subscription fees.

Contrary to what is usually expected of free platforms, the CryEngine’s aesthetics are top-notch, and the features it offers are quite mind-blowing, though it is one of the most challenging engines to learn.

Developers who have plans to go into high-level design should consider learning CryEngine, its efficient editor and design tools are great to work with, and even beginners with average skill sets will do well using these tools.

CryEngine can be used to develop games for a couple of platforms such as; Windows PC, Oculus Rift, Linux, OSVR, Xbox One, and a host of other platforms.

The CryEngine platform also provides a marketplace that offers you access to in-game assets and other packages such as ‘space soundtrack’ for a little amount of money.

5. Godot

The Godot engine, developed by Juan Linietsky and Ariel Manzur, is an equally functional and versatile game engine, which can be very useful in the developing 2D and 3D games.

It is free to use and offers you access to great features such as open-source codes and an active community- always working to answer any questions you may have concerning using the Godot engine.

Godot can develop games for Linux, macOS, Windows, Android, IOS, and several other platforms.

Godot provides you with realistic designs that look great with little or no effort. It also functions as a 2D engine with many in-built tools and is designed to effectively cater to the needs of designers who work as a team.

Godot also provides some fantastic easy-to-download resources for beginners, so you can be sure you’ll have something to guide you towards your desired result even if it’s your first time using the engine.

6. Phaser

Phaser game engine, developed by Photon Storm, is a Flixel based game framework suitable for developing 2D games for desktop and mobile.

If you have a previous idea of web development and have background knowledge of Adobe Animate, it would come in handy, and you’ll surely fall in love with using Phaser.

This game engine is excellent for game designers who are looking to learn 2D game development.

Beginners and professionals can use Phaser. However, your funds determine the features you will be able to access and make use of. Phaser’s license is free, and any games developed using the engine can be released or sold if the developer decides to.

If you’re a beginner considering trying out the Phaser Engine, it would please you to know that there is a website with detailed tutorials and examples to help you ease your learning process, now go ahead and give Phaser a try.

7. Game Salad

Game Salad is a game engine that is very suitable for beginners and teaches programming using a fun and easy to learn approach.

This engine offers a straightforward way to design and publish games. Its drag and drop feature is very easy to use, and even total beginners will be able to create behaviors while using this feature.

Game Salad might not offer you all the complexities that engines like Unity and Unreal will offer, but you will definitely be able to find your way around programming and maybe create some fun projects while at it.

If you find your way around building a game with Game Salad, it allows you to export your game to your PC, mobile or web platforms for playing at absolutely no cost at all.

8. Armory

This a 3D game engine or game development tool that uses the Haxe programming language and is one of the most popular choices for 3D game developers.

It is integrated with the 3D animation software, Blender, and due to this feature, it can save you the stress of shuffling between programming and developing your games.

Developers with previous knowledge of the blender software will find it easier to use Armory. If you would like to try out Armory for your next 3D game design project, today is not a bad day to learn blender first.

If you’re a 3D game developer looking for a game engine that is open-sourced and doesn’t require you to pay any royalties, Armory is your go-to guy any day. Armory also has a visual programming language that favors beginner developers.

Although the game engine is still relatively new, there is a helpful and active community behind it, and you’re sure to get answers to all your questions.

9. MonoGame

This engine is a cross-platform, open-source game framework that uses C# programming language, designed for creating cross-platform games, and is an implementation of Microsoft’s XNA Framework.

If you have a basic idea of C# and Microsoft NET, you will find this game engine very easy to use. MonoGame is, however, not easy to use for people who have no background experience in coding, as it does not have enough features to make it easy to use for non-coders or absolute beginners.

Unlike other game engines that help you with the physics and collision detection aspects, this engine does not help with those and will require you to code yours or get libraries to help you with that.

However, there is an active community available to help you learn how to use this game engine if you are a beginner. MonoGame currently supports Linux, Windows, PS4, Xbox One, iOs, Android, PSVita, and a host of other platforms.

10. Amazon Lumberyard

Yes, you guessed right.

Amazon Lumberyard engine is a product of Amazon, your favorite online store, and its features are definitely enough to make it your favorite game engine too.

It is free to use, and due to its main features of; quality visuals and performance, it’s sure to help you build games that are pleasing to the eyes.

If you have been in the game design field for a while, Amazon Lumberyard’s features are going to blow your mind. These features include; Cloud integration and an in-built multiplayer feature.

Lumberyard uses the C++ programming language and allows game designers to have full control over their games by providing them access to source codes.

If any of these features have piqued your interest, now is an excellent time to check out this engine.

11. Unreal Engine

Unreal Engine, developed by Epic Games, is an open-source game engine with an active community behind it, who are continually working to make it better.

Unreal Engine uses C++ programming language but still possesses a visual editor for aspiring game developers who have no previous programming knowledge. It also features an easy to use drag and drop feature known as Blueprint, which also doubles as a visual editor.

Unlike a game engine like TIC-80, Unreal Engine comes in handy when you want to build large and relatively complex games.

However, the Unreal engine has fewer resources available to help you learn, it does not have a community who can help beginners out with learning the engine, and it is not totally free to use.

So, if you’re not using the paid version of the Unreal Engine, you’re most likely missing out on some of its juicy features.

Unreal Engine also has a marketplace feature that allows you to find tools and models suitable for your projects.

If you put in the work and go through learning to use the unreal game engine, it would be a lot easier to use other game engines if you decide to switch to using any other engine.

The Unreal Engine is the game engine behind popular games like Fortnite and Unknown battlegrounds, and it just might be what you need to design the next most popular game.

12. Game Maker

Game maker, known initially as Animo,  is primarily a cross-platform 2D engine developed by YoYo Games and runs on Windows or Mac OS.

It is written in Game Maker language, and it is supported for a wide range of platforms like macOS, Windows, HTML 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, iOS, Android, Ubuntu, and many others.

Though this engine was developed to help beginner programmers – with basic or no knowledge of programming to develop computer games, it is not restricted to only beginners; professional game designers can use this engine too.

The Game maker engine has been used to design exceptional projects, including AM2R, Alone with You, Drifter, Orphan, Another Perspective, Bamboo EP, Blackhole, Clean Asia, and several others.

13. TIC-80

It is often quite difficult for beginner developers to find an engine that caters to their needs effectively, so if you’re a beginner currently facing this problem, TIC-80 is here to save the day.

TIC80 is a 2D game framework suitable for developers who aren’t ready to handle the complexities that come with other game engines. TIC-80 will come in handy for beginners who are just starting learning programming and game design tools.

It uses LUA programming language and is perfect for anyone who wants to get a feel of coding and coding principles before moving on to more complex languages and engines.

While you may be unable to take up significant projects or make big bucks using TIC80, you can be sure of gaining hands-on experience in game design from it.

14. Unigine

Unigine is an easy to learn 3D game framework developed by Unigine Corp that supports C++ and C# languages.

Beginners will find Unigine very easy to use; its list of comprehensive video tutorials and an active community of individuals willing to share their knowledge and expertise with others makes it very easy to learn.

Unigine, like several other game engines, is free to use, and if you’re not a complete beginner, you should be creating projects in as little as a week or two.

Unigine can be used on Windows, Mac, and Linux platforms and is responsible for many virtual reality projects and popular games such as; Cradle, Oil Rush, Sumoman, Demolicious, and many others.

Contrary to the regular assumption you probably have about game development, it does not have to be a tedious, technical, and highly complicated process.

Choosing a game engine to learn or design with can be one of the most confusing tasks for beginner programmers or game designers. However,  if you select any of the game engines listed here, you’re sure to not only learn game designing in no time, it also promises to be an enjoyable and worthwhile experience.

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BEST 14 FREE GAME ENGINES FOR VIDEO GAME CREATIVES
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BEST 14 FREE GAME ENGINES FOR VIDEO GAME CREATIVES
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Game Engines: Unity Corona Defold Cry Engine Godot Phaser Game Salad Armory Monogame Amazon Lumberyard Unreal Engine Game Maker TIC-80 Unigine
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Improve Your Drawinhgs
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Toni Justamante Jacobs

About the author: Hi, I’m Toni Justamante Jacobs. I´m a professional Concept Artist and Illustrator with more than 10 years of experience in the industry. Some of my clients are Gameloft, Fantasy Flight Games, Kunlun Games and Games Workshop. Currently, I´m working at Socialpoint as an in-house Senior Concept Artist.