Have you ever had an idea for a game for years? Imagine if that idea could be brought to life. With the right software and some know-how, anyone can create a video game.
However, game development is not easy. If you want a game like Flappy Bird to look good, even a simple one, it will take a lot of effort. Game creation is now much easier thanks to the free game development software.
This list contains the top free game-making software that you can use to create your dream game.
1. Construct 3
No programming required. Construct 3 is the best game-development software if you have never written code before. The entire game development tool is GUI-driven. This means that everything can be dragged and dropped. The app provides the design tools that allow you to implement game logic and variables.
Construct 3’s unique ability to export to many different formats and platforms is what makes it so great. You don’t need to make any changes to your game in order to take advantage of these options. After your game is complete, you can export it to HTML5, Android and iOS, Windows, Mac or Linux, Xbox One, Microsoft Store and many other formats.
Construct 3’s documentation is some of the most detailed and comprehensive I have ever seen. There are also hundreds of tutorials to help you understand basic concepts, as well as a forum that is very active for any assistance you may need.
Asset Store. Many programmers have very little experience creating animation, music, and game art. You don’t have to be a programmer to use Construct 3. Instead, you can browse and buy ready-made assets from Game Developer Asset Store . While most asset packs cost only a few dollars, professional-grade models can cost you up to $30. Sample games can also be purchased with source. This can be useful for learning and studying new tricks and tips.
Although the free version includes all core features, it is limited to 25 events and two object layers. It cannot export to HTML5 and can’t be used for multiplayer functionality. All of these limitations are lifted by the Personal license, which costs $99/year.
2. GameMaker Studio 2
Drag and drop or code. GameMaker Studio 2 lets you create complete games with just its drag-and–drop interface for variables, game logic, and variables. GameMaker Studio 2, unlike Construct 3, gives you more power via its Game Maker Language. This is a C-like programming language that offers a lot flexibility.
After your game is complete, you can export it to any number formats and platforms without needing to modify your code. Unfortunately, the free version doesn’t support exporting to all platforms.
GameMaker Studio 2 is a rewritten-from-scratch version of Game Maker: Studio, which started way back in 1999. It’s still one of the most widely used and popular free game development engines. Regular updates bring new versions and feature upgrades.
Advanced features. GameMaker Studio 2 has a lot of great quality-of-life features. It supports in-app purchases, real-time analytics, source control, multiplayer network, extensibility through third party extensions, and allows for in-app purchases. You can also use the built-in editors to create images, animations, or shaders.
Although the free version is available for unlimited use, it has restrictions on how complex your games may be. The Creator plan is $39/year, and allows you to export to Windows and Mac. You can also unlock individual exports by making a permanent purchase for $99, HTML5 at $149, Amazon Fire at $149 and Android/iOS at $399. Exports for the Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and HTML5 are available at $799/year.
Unity was originally a 3D engine. In 2005, Unity added 2D support. Unity is ideal for creating games of any size, from casual mobile games to stunning graphical masterpieces.
Component-based design. Unity did not invent component-entity design. However, it was a major influence on its popularity. Everything in the game can be described as an object. You can attach different components to each object that control a certain aspect of its behavior.
You will need C# to make Unity work. Unity is so popular among both veteran and hobbyist game developers that you will find many great Unity tutorials online to get you started. Unity has many video tutorials for beginners, as well as excellent documentation.
Unity offers the most extensive export support of any free game design software. It supports Windows, Macs, Linux, Androids, iOS, HTML5, Facebook and all VR systems such as Oculus and Steam VR.
Asset store. Need a minimap system for your game? What about a commercial-grade network solution? Perhaps you require 3D models, HUD graphics and environmental textures. Perhaps you need a dialog system to run your action-adventure game. All of these and more can be purchased on the Unity Asset Store. There is a good chance that it will be free.
The Personal plan is completely unrestricted and free of any restrictions. However, you must earn less than $100,000 annually from your games. You will need the Plus plan to unlock the “dark theme” editor. This plan allows you to make up to $200,000 annually in revenue. The Pro plan allows unlimited revenue after that.
4. Godot Engine
Godot, like Unity, supports both 2D as well as 3D game creation. This free game maker has a 2D component that was designed from the beginning. This means faster performance, fewer bugs and a cleaner workflow.
Scene-based design. Godot is unique in his approach to game architecture. Everything is broken down into scenes, but not the type of scene you are thinking of. A scene in Godot is a collection elements such as sounds, scripts, or sprites. The ability to combine multiple scenes into one larger scene and then make those scenes into bigger scenes is possible. It is easy to organize and change individual elements with this hierarchical design.
Custom scripting language. Godot uses a drag and drop system to maintain scene elements. However, each element can be extended using the built-in scripting, which uses a Python-like language called GDScript. It is easy to learn and fun, so even if your coding skills are not great, you should try it.
Godot can be deployed to multiple platforms straight out of the box. This includes Windows, Mac, Linux and Android. There are no additional licenses or purchases required, but some restrictions may apply such as the requirement to be running on a Mac system in order to deploy a Mac binary.
Advanced features. Godot is able to iterate surprisingly fast for a game engine. It releases at least one major version every year. This explains why it has so many great features: physics and post-processing; networking; all-in-one editors; live debugging, hot reload; source control and much more.
Godot is the only free tool on this list. It’s free to use and you can even sell the games that you create because it’s under the MIT License. You can download the source code of the engine and make modifications! (The engine code is in C ++.)
5. Unreal Engine 5
Epic Games’ Unreal Engine 5 (announced June 2020) became available for early development in May 2021 and will be released in full in 2022.
Unreal Engine 5 (UE5), out of all the tools listed here, is the most advanced. The Unreal franchise’s geniuses created it from scratch. They know exactly what a top-shelf engine needs and how to deliver next-generation features. They are experts in what they do.
UE5 is designed to allow you iterate and create as fast as possible. This includes features such as live debugging and hot reloading. Instant game previews and hundreds of assets and systems, including artificial intelligence, cinematic tools and post-processing effects.
No need to code. The Blueprint system is a unique selling point for UE5. It allows you to create game logic without ever touching code. You can create complex games without opening any source editor. You can also create your own Blueprints.
These are the best tutorials available. The YouTube channel contains hundreds of videos that walk you through the entire engine. Most of them last between 20 and 60 min. This is more content than you would get in a semester-long university course! UE5 provides step-by-step guidance.
Are you starting to notice a pattern? All the top engines support seamless export to multiple platforms. UE5 is no exception. It supports Windows, Mac, Linux and Android.
You can access the whole engine, including source code, as a free user. Until you earn your first $1 million in gross revenue, royalty fees are waived for Unreal Engine 5. After that, you will be charged a five percent royalty for all sales.
UE5 is a stronger focus than UE4, and places a greater emphasis on videogame graphics, with movie-quality CGI. What is their plan to accomplish this? They have two core technologies: Nanite and Lumen.
When designing levels or creating characters for your game, polygon limits will be a factor. Your game won’t run smoothly if your character has 1,500,000 polygons.
Nanite claims it can, and it should. Nanite geometry lets you import source art with polygon counts in the millions or billions of numbers and make it work in your game. This is a great option for animators and 3D artists.
The way that computers represent lighting in video games has advanced a lot since its humble beginnings. The next step is UE5’s Lumen, and it’s a huge one.
Lumen allows for photorealistic light effects in dynamic environments. For example, imagine how much moonlight would diffuse through a valley if the moon is at different locations in the sky or is blocked by terrain such as mountains. The lighting responds immediately to changes in the scene.
Lumen’s ability to see lighting from different angles in Unreal Engine is another game-changing feature. Unreal Engine is a great choice if you are looking for free game-making software.
Note Unreal Engine 5 may be the most current software available, but it is still in early access and not yet production-ready. Unreal Engine4 is a better choice if you are looking to create a complete game.
Drag-and-drop code. Defold’s editor allows you to add custom logic, or to use the visual and scene editors to drop your assets directly into your game.
Defold is no exception to this rule. It allows you to export to a variety of platforms. You can publish your game to Nintendo Switch and Android, iOS, macOS Linux, Windows, Steam HTML5, and Facebook.
Defold, like GameMaker Studio 2, supports advanced features right from the start with no additional configuration.
Although the engine offers excellent 3D support it is best suited for 2D creation. You’ll be able to access a component-based system that allows you to use 2D sprites, map editors, 3D models, meshing, and many other particle effects. You’ll need to test out the rest of Defold’s features and tech to fully appreciate its capabilities.
Expert-Level documentation. The tutorials, manuals and forums of Defold are a treasure trove of information that every budding game developer should read. You can use the FAQ and forums to overcome specific obstacles. Many developers have faced the same problem as you and have created solutions.
Defold is free and open-source. You just need to obtain the license (free from Defold’s website), and follow the licensing’s guidelines. Defold does not take any commissions and is free to use, regardless of how much attention your game gets.
7. RPG Maker MZ
No programming required. RPG maker MZ is a great tool for creating games without any programming knowledge. You can create any RPG you want using the database, character generator, map editor, and database.
You can use plugins to add custom code, but most logic can be implemented using the Events system that is built into RPG Maker MZ.
Asset Shop. There are hundreds of asset packages available on the Market Place, in addition to the textures that come with your free RPG Maker installation. Here you can find music, character sprites and entire levels.
RPG Maker has fewer export options than other tools, but it still covers the major names: Windows, macOS and iOS.
You can try the software for 30 days before purchasing a license starting at $80.
8. Cerberus X
Lightweight and intuitive. CerberusX (CX), is a 2D game creator. Although it is not the most powerful client, it is a great option for beginners who want to learn programming languages.
Utilize the CerberusX IDE with the Mojo framework and powerful graphics APIs to create games that you can export to Windows PC, macOS (10.15.x or earlier), Linux, Android and iOS (13.x or earlier), and HTML5.
You don’t have to code much to make a game work.
CX’s tutorials are great resources for learning about the engine and the bustling forums are surprisingly well-maintained. You can use modules created by other authors to build your own game, or share code with other developers.
Cerberus X can be downloaded for free, but you can set your own price and help the developers if that suits you.
Get free game making software to improve your skills
If the tools listed above don’t suit your needs, there are many other tools for game development that might be worth looking into (such as Phaser, Stencyl or GDevelop).
Programming is a must-know skill if you are serious about game development. Playing coding games can be a great way to have fun and learn!