5 Best Game Engines For Beginners

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Top Choice

Unity-Logo

Unity

Runner Up

GameMaker

Best Value

Construct

Best Usage

Unreal Engine

There are so many ways to get a game out there and make some money. Mobile games are steady cash if done right, while you can rake in some big money with console or PC games. However, unless you want to pay a team to make it, you have to learn to develop your game. 

Unfortunately, it’s not terribly easy to develop a game. A lot of engines rely on coding and advanced knowledge of the field. It often feels that, unless you’re willing to watch hundreds of hours of tutorials before getting started, it’s impossible to make a game. 

Thankfully, that’s not the case. There are some very professional and well-structured game engines out there that work for any game developer. Whether you know a bit of coding or have never touched a code before, these five game engines are perfect for you.

Check out this post on The Game Development Process

Key Takeaways

  • You won’t find a better game engine for beginners or experts than Unity. 
  • If you are a complete beginner with limited skills in development and coding, Construct 3 might be where you want to start. 
  • A single developer might find that GameMaker is the best option for their needs, though it is expensive. 

What Is the Best Game Engine for Beginners?

When picking a game engine, there are many options out there. Some offer dozens of features while others have low costs and more simple designs. There is the perfect game engine out there for everyone.

However, some beat out the others when it comes to choosing one that is easy to use and offers professional-level game development. 

Below are some of the best game engines for beginners. Though they are all good choices, this article will only be talking about the top five today. 

1. Unity

Unity is a game engine first created in 2005. It’s a game engine that’s quickly becoming a standard. It focuses heavily on 3D games and settings but it also works fine for 2D games. Much of Unity is intuitive to the point that even complete beginners can figure it out. 

Key Features:

  • Allows you to create games for over 25 different platforms including computers, consoles, VR, and smartphones
  • Works well with most game genres, especially the popular ones
  • Offers the chance to create high-quality, professional-level video games for free

User Experience:

Unity is an amazing tool to use when it comes to game design. Many companies, both large and small, use Unity.

Even AAA games use this game engine. It works with almost every genre of game, so there’s no need to have multiple game engines to create games across different platforms and genres. 

Check out this list of the Top Unity Courses.

For example, some of the game genres that Unity can create include:

  • Puzzle
  • Card
  • Action-adventure
  • First-person shooter
  • Sandbox
  • RPG
  • RTS
  • Roguelike
  • Third-person shooter
  • Arcade

Unity uses C# scripting for games. However, it has some options to make basic games without much need for scripting knowledge. 

Cost:

The best part about Unity is that it’s free for most users, especially those just dabbling in game development. As long as your game earns less than $100,000 a year, you don’t have to pay anything

Unfortunately, after that $100,000 per year, the cost gets rather high. You have the option to pay $180 per month or $2,040 per year. This is per seat as well. So if you are working with a larger company or just another person, the prices often double. Industry-level Unity costs even more at $4,950 per seat.

For big companies, it may be worth it, but smaller groups may struggle with the high price.

What We Like/Dislike About Unity:

Like:

  • State-of-the-art graphics
  • Rich asset store
  • Interface is simple and intuitive at a base level
  • Easy to use for both beginners and experts while still offering maximum adjustments
  • Works with most major platforms
  • Allows options for multiplayer gaming
  • Uses a common programming language, C#
  • For those that know the programming language, there’s a lot of flexibility in setting up your game

Dislike:

  • Can be slow
  • Power hungry
  • License costs after you hit their limit can be expensive
  • There are limitations with plugins and their store

Scoring:

Unity has a perfect mix of everything you may need. It’s free for beginners and companies making less than $100,000, is a professional-level game engine, and works for any genre or style of game you can imagine.

It might have its flaws, like running somewhat slowly. The price change is steep once you hit their payment range as well. However, these are small issues in the grand scheme. Because of this, Unity earns a 9.7 out of 10

2. GameMaker

If you’re looking to build a game, but don’t have much experience in the way of game development, you’re in luck. GameMaker offers you a way to make a game without having to learn how to code or watch hundreds of hours of tutorials before starting. 

It’s not made for larger games, like AAA games, but it still works for fairly large indie games. However, it’s a bit limited in design practicality. There are no AR and VR export options, and it focuses on 2D animation with little to no support for 3D games.

Key Features:

  • GameMaker offers exports to internet sites, mobile, PC, and major consoles
  • The engine is specifically focused on beginners to game development
  • Having been around for over 20 years, it’s easy enough to find tutorials and examples for anything you may struggling with
  • Offers scripting and visual scripting options so you don’t have to be experienced in coding to get a game out

User Experience:

As promised by the company, it’s easy to use GameMaker. You need no programming knowledge to get started. To compare it to another program, it’s rather reminiscent of Excel or Google Sheets. While using coding can make for nicer and more refined work, it’s easy enough to get what you want from a game without it. 

Even just a couple of tutorials will ensure you know what you’re doing and give you the confidence to get started. 

Cost:

GameMaker used to be a bit complicated when it came to the cost. However, it’s rather easy to figure out now.

To start, there’s the free option. With this version, you get to export to desktops, GX’s website, internet game sites, and phones. However, you don’t get a commercial license, so you can’t make money off of your game. 

Then, there’s the professional version. This one costs $99.99 and is a one-time purchase per game. It offers pretty much the same as the free version. However, you also get a commercial license. This means it’s the version you need if you want to make a profit off of your game. 

The final option is the enterprise option. This one is a subscription. You pay $79.99 per month or $799.99 per year.

It offers all the same benefits and a commercial license. So why would you choose the enterprise option over the professional one? It offers one extra benefit. If you want to export to consoles, you need the enterprise version. 

For those starting out making games, or who aren’t sure if they’re going to make a decent profit on their game, this is a pretty expensive option just to get your game onto a console. But it does save you money compared to other options if your game takes off.

What We Like/Dislike About GameMaker:

Like:

  • Offers their game platform to get your game noticed
  • One of the best options for mockups and prototypes of games
  • Comparatively powerful features to other game engines
  • Incredibly easy to use, even if you have no prior experience.

Dislike:

  • Is a bit outdated compared to GameMaker 2
  • A bit limited when you start scaling to larger, more professional games
  • Have to pay for a commercial license
  • The cost is a bit much for many users

Scoring:

Unfortunately, there are a few factors that stop GameMaker from reaching number one on this list. Though the price is relatively cheap compared to other game engines, its limited design features and up-front costs make it a struggle for anyone to use and publish a game where they’d make money. 

However, its easy-to-use features bring it up a bit. It’s a great option for people looking to understand games and game development. It’s also a great option to send out a few prototypes. Because of this, the game engine gets a 9 out of 10.

3. Construct

Construct 3 is a cheap, though not free, and simple game engine. It does have its limitations, and it doesn’t work well when it comes to bigger projects or a team of devs.

However, if you want a simple tool for 2D games that you’re making yourself, there’s not much better out there than Construct 3. Especially if you’re completely clueless when it comes to game development and coding.

Key Features:

  • Construct 3 works offline and online in the browser so can use it anywhere and at any time
  • Made for 2D game development and contains all the tools of the trade
  • Easy sharing features for your projects as a preview or via export

User Experience:

If you are a beginner not only to game development but coding as well, Construct 3 is a great choice. It’s the perfect option for simple, 2D games and requires no coding. However, it does have an option for coding via Javascript. 

This allows the users to jump right into game development. For those who want to hone their skills, you can start making practice games while you’re learning how to code and the details of game development. 

This is definitely a game engine that is made for a single developer. While it does have options for groups, the way the engine works doesn’t play out well for teams. Things easily get confused or messed up. 

Because of this, Construct 3 isn’t used by professionals. If you want to work as a game developer in the future, this is a great stepping stone, but it doesn’t offer you the experience you’ll need to get a job in the industry. For small developers who are just doing it as a hobby, the low costs and simple tools are perfect. 

Cost:

Unfortunately, like many software available now, Construct 3 works on a subscription base. For personal use, it costs $25.99 a month, or $129.99 a year. With the personal option, you get a fixed price, no royalties, demo projects, and all features are unlocked. 

There’s also the business option. This one doesn’t offer a monthly plan. However, you can get the annual option for $469. The business model offers additional benefits such as the ability to add and remove seats as needed, and easy seat management.

If you’re a student or a teacher, there’s an education option as well. The price starts at $9.99 per seat a month. The more seats you use, the lower the price per seat is, down to $3. The annual billing option is much cheaper. It starts at $32.99 per seat and goes down to $9.90 per seat. 

Construct 3 does offer a free trial, which is nice. You can use it right in the browser. It’s not completely open, but more of a guided tour. 

What We Like/Dislike About Construct 3:

Like:

  • No programming is required
  • Does have the option for javascript programming if you want to code
  • Strong support community in case things go wrong
  • Great for the solo developer focusing on 2D games

Dislike:

  • Very slow at fixing issues that arise
  • Unique quirks of the game engine make it a difficult tool for groups or a team
  • Doesn’t compete with AAA game studios like Unity or Unreal

Scoring:

This one was a bit hard to judge. If you’re looking for a tool for a single developer, this one could almost get a 10.

However, as a whole, there are enough limitations to the software that we don’t feel comfortable giving Construct 3 more than an 8.5 out of 10.

4. Unreal Engine

Unreal Engine is 4th on this list. Though it’s a great tool for professionals, some features make it a bit of a struggle to use as a beginner. It was made by Epic Games for first-person shooters. Over time, it’s expanded to be used for all sorts of 3D games and even photos and movies. 

The best part is that Unreal Engine is still the engine that Epic Games uses for their games. You can rest assured that you have a great product that was made and used by AAA game developers. 

Key Features:

  • Unreal Engine is made for 3D games and has all the tools you need to do that
  • High-quality graphics means you can compete with even the best games in terms of visuals
  • Access to the source code means you can change up the software as needed and make it a tool that truly works for you

User Experience:

If you’re wanting to make solely 3D games, Unreal Engine is the way to go. While technically, it can make 2D games, it’s a lot harder, and you don’t get many of the niche features that you would with other game engines. 

Start Learning Unreal Engine Today With These Courses.

This is a great engine to use if you’re looking to start as a beginner and use the same system as a professional. The ability to change the source code and get exactly what you want out of the development tool is another huge bonus that many people take advantage of.

Unfortunately, unless you have a very new model of computer with all the bells and whistles, this is going to hurt your computer a bit. While it can technically run on older computers, it will slow down your system heavily when you go to use it. 

Cost:

Like Unity, Unreal Engine is free to start. It’s also got a higher price before you have to pay the company. When your game earns over $1 million, Unreal Engine expects a five percent royalty. There are no upfront costs or hidden fees. 

This makes it a great product for beginners and professionals alike. If you’re just practicing, you don’t have to worry about spending any money. And if your game turns out well, you’re only paying royalties, and not flat prices. 

However, though the software is free, if you’re thinking about using plugins and assets, there is a cost associated with it. The costs change depending on what you want to use, but certain assets and plugins can hurt an unsuspecting creator’s wallet.

What We Like/Dislike About Unreal Engine:

Like:

  • There’s a community that’s more than happy to help beginners flush out problems with their game
  • The large library allows you to get a lot of pre-defined graphics quickly
  • Works with 3D modelers, like Blender or Maya
  • Quick to fix problems and bugs
  • The company constantly adds new features

Dislike:

  • Takes up a lot of space on the computer
  • Fairly complex to start
  • Doesn’t work well with 2D games
  • Little to no customer support
  • Plugins and tools from third parties sometimes add a heavy extra cost

Scoring:

While Unreal Engine is a great program to use and is used by professional game developers, it’s not the best for beginners. Though there’s a decent community, it’s sometimes difficult to find help with specific issues. Customer support isn’t to be relied on either. 

Because of these issues, and the stress they can put on beginners, Unreal Engine gets an 8 out of 10

5. Godot

Godot is a close runner-up on this list. It’s lightweight, making it perfect for those lacking a beefy computer. Like Unreal Engine, it’s open-source. It’s free as well. This means that anyone can use it and adjust the game engine to their needs. 

However, it’s heavily limited in 3D game design. There are also often issues with the software. There are quite a few bugs that are slow to fix. Some of these are pretty major bugs that can require a huge workaround to get a game set up like you want.

Made a list of the Top Godot Tutorials to help you get started.

Though it’s a great, and free, game engine for beginners, these bugs make it hard to recommend. However, it’s good enough that it’s still worth mentioning if you don’t mind working around a few hurdles on occasion. 

Conclusion

Game engines are a little intimidating to use. Many of them are very niche and require one of several programming languages to run. If you want to start learning how to develop a game, but don’t know much about the process or how to code, you need some of the more simple game engines out there. 

Thankfully, as you can see from the five tools above, simple doesn’t mean bad. You can use game engines made for beginners and those with limited knowledge and still compete with the best games out there. The five game engines above are sure to be just what you’re looking for, no matter which, if any, skills you have.

Game Engines for Beginners FAQS

Is Unreal Better Than Unity for Beginners?

Unity is the better option for beginners. It’s got a lot more user-friendly settings and a simpler interface. While Unreal Engine does work well for beginners, there are a lot of tools and systems that easily get overwhelming and confusing.

What’s the Easiest Game Engine to Use?

The easiest game engine to use that still allows you to make high-quality games is Construct 3. You need nothing in the way of coding or prior experience to get started.

While it doesn’t work well for 3D games, it’s a good program. And, though it’s rather simple, it’s a good starting place before jumping to a more professional game engine.

What’s The Easiest Free Game Engine to Learn?

If you want the absolute easiest game engine to learn, Scratch is your best option. It’s considered so easy that even children can make a game. It’s also focused on children, though, which means that it’s not made for adults and some information is a little too simple, as are the games you can make. 

As far as the easiest game engine to use that still allows you to make great games, Unity is the best of the best. It’s not technically free, but it works perfectly if you aren’t planning on developing a game that makes a lot of money. 

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