Best Game Development Software Shortlist
I’ve created a list of game development tools that cater to a wide range of developers, from beginners to professionals:
- O3DE - Best high-fidelity, open-source software for 3D game development
- Blender - Best for all-in-one 3D modeling, animation, and game development
- Construct 3 - Best for beginners and non-programmers creating 2D games
- GameMaker - Best for indie developers and small studios creating cross-platform 2D games
- Maya - Best rigging and animation features
- CryEngine - Best for high-fidelity visuals and creating visually stunning game worlds
- Godot Engine - Best for open-source development and flexibility in 2D and 3D game creation
- Unreal Engine - Best for creating cutting-edge, professional 3D games
- Unity - Best for versatile development and wide industry adoption
- PixiJS - Best for browser-based 2D games
- Gamefroot - Best for educators and beginners in web-based 2D game development
- GDevelop - Best for fast game development
In the competitive game creation industry, you need software that will help you synchronize your team, improve processes, and speed up production. I’ve listed the top game development software solutions to help you meet your development goals.
What Is Game Development Software?
Game development software is a set of applications and frameworks designed to assist game developers in creating, designing, and producing video games. It encompasses a wide range of software components that enable developers to build immersive gaming experiences for various gameplay platforms.
Overview of Best Game Development Software
Below is my assessment of the top 12 game development software solutions to help you and your team streamline the development process and make high-quality, profitable games. I’ve included why I chose them, their key features and integrations, and a breakdown of their pricing.
Here are my top game development software recommendations:
1. O3DE - Best high-fidelity, open-source software for 3D game development
O3DE is Amazon’s new game development software. It was created to replace Amazon Lumberyard and is a much-improved application over its predecessor.
Why I picked O3DE: I chose O3DE for its high-fidelity 3D game development capabilities. It ensures lossless audio and visual graphics that present games to players as they were envisioned. The fact that it’s open source means it’s ideal for development teams on a budget. It’s also attracted a large developer community that works behind the scenes to add new features.
O3DE Standout Features and Integrations:
Features I like in O3DE include its real-time global illumination abilities. It can create realistic light bouncing, which helps build realism in my projects. Another great feature is the landscape painter, which allows me to create life-like landscapes and backgrounds for my games.
Integrations are native for Atom, FlexMatch, and EMotionFX. It also offers an API to connect to more applications.
Trial: Free plan available
- High-quality and free asset packages are available
- Can utilize the AWS cloud to store game files
- A modular system makes it easy to use
- Updates are slow
- Relatively new, so they are working out some bugs
2. Blender - Best for all-in-one 3D modeling, animation, and game development
Blender is a software used to manage the entire pipeline of 3D graphics creation from end to end, including game development.
Why I picked Blender: I picked Blender as a top choice for 3D artists wanting software that can do it all. From sculpting to painting to rendering to game creation, Blender can help with each step of the game development process. I liked the focus on creating beautiful designs and assets that will create engaging and dynamic games.
Blender Standout Features and Integrations:
Features that really stood out to me in Blender include its real-time rendering engine; it’s extremely fast and allows me to see changes to my 3D designs as soon as I make them. The other highlight of this software is the animation engine, which works for everything from 2D sprites to motion on 3D objects to produce more convincing movement.
Integrations are pre-built for V-Ray, Character Creator, D5 Render, RebusFarm, and Kasm Workspaces.
Trial: Free plan available
- Active community
- Cross-platform compatibility that allows for game deployment anywhere
- Enormous range of plugins and features
- Learning all the features and how to use the software takes a while
- Not suitable for novices
3. Construct 3 - Best for beginners and non-programmers creating 2D games
Why I picked Construct 3: I picked Construct because I like its focus on beginner game developers who may not know how to code but want to create engaging games. I like its straightforward interface and the large library of available assets.
Construct 3 Standout Features and Integrations:
Features I really like about Construct include the drag-and-drop feature of game creation. This is a functionality that I, like many people today, am familiar and comfortable with. Bringing it into the game development space makes for a more beginner-friendly experience.
Integrations are pre-built for Steam and Google Analytics. It also offers custom API and SDK, allowing developers to customize plugins and add-ons.
Pricing: From $22.99/month
Trial: Free demo available
- Great for beginners and game creators not familiar with coding languages
- Intuitive user interface and design
- It can be run directly in your web browser
- Can be slow to load sometimes
- Rudimentary 3D capabilities
4. GameMaker - Best for indie developers and small studios creating cross-platform 2D games
GameMaker is a 2D game development solution that can create indie and professional games for all current, major gaming platforms.
Why I picked GameMaker: I chose GameMaker because it's a great quality game engine focused on 2D development, a popular niche for indie development teams. GameMaker allows you to create, import, and edit 2D-specific assets, such as sprites, backgrounds, and tilesets, with granular control on functions such as animation and collision.
GameMaker Standout Features and Integrations:
Features that stood out to me in GameMaker include how it allows you to choose a code or low-code game development experience. This allowed me to learn and scale with the program, starting in low-code mode and moving to pure GameMaker Language (GML) coding as I became more comfortable with the software. I also like the built-in debugger, which allows me to find bugs and coding errors while building the game.
Integrations are available if you use GameMaker’s API to link it to third-party tools.
Pricing: From $4.99/user/month
Free trial: Free plan available
- User-friendly interface that scales with learning abilities
- Built-in asset and event library
- Supportive and active community
- Image editing functionality is limited
- GML is specific to GameMaker and can be difficult to learn
5. Maya - Best rigging and animation features
Maya is a 3D design and animation tool from Autodesk, a company that focuses primarily on computer-aided design (CAD) products such as AutoCAD.
Why I picked Maya: I chose Maya because it provides several advanced rigging capabilities that any game developer would find useful for bringing characters to life. One such feature in this category is the IK (short for inverse kinematics) handle functionality, which you can use to create joints and simulate more realistic movements for parts like arms and legs.
Maya standout features and integrations:
Features that make Maya ideal for animations include Bifrost, a framework that I used to simulate complex effects such as fire, water, and explosions. You can work from a library of premade effects or create and share your own.
Maya also provides a graph editor that you can tweak if you want more granular control over animations and effects that you’d otherwise not get from editing the models directly.
Integrations are pre-built for OpenCities Planner, Houdini, V-Ray, ftrack, Adobe Substance, Amazon RedShift, and RenderMan.
Pricing: From $235/month
Trial: Free plan available (for students and teachers)
- Free plan for educational institutions, including students and teachers
- Bifrost makes it easy to simulate complex effects
- Advanced character rigging and animation features
- Limited plugin and integration library
6. CryEngine - Best for open-world game development
CryEngine is a powerful game engine for creating professional, high-quality 3D games with realistic and interactive worlds.
Why I picked CryEngine: I chose CryEngine for its world-building functionality. This game engine allows me to create extremely life-like worlds and automated characters to fill my games. CryEngine contains built-in AI modeling programs that allow me to create non-player characters (NPC) that look and act like real people.
CryEngine Standout Features and Integrations:
Features I liked in CryEngine include the built-in logic for NPCs that allow for extremely realistic game creation. Another thing that I like is that CryEngine offers services such as marketing assistance that can help you get your games to market.
Integrations aren’t available natively, but you can use the CryEngine API to connect to your preferred tools.
Pricing: 5% royalty after the first $5,000 annual revenue
Trial: Free plan available
- Good for small teams looking to scale up
- Intuitive user design and game engine features
- Reliable and high-quality graphics and design
- Documentation can be outdated and not available in many languages
- Not recommended for beginner game developers
7. Godot Engine - Best for open-source development and flexibility in 2D and 3D game creation
Godot is a simple game engine that allows for 2D and 3D game creation and cross-platform distribution.
Why I picked Godot Engine: I picked Godot Engine because I love its modular style of game development. This low-code way of building games saved me a ton of time and allowed for a more streamlined development process. The flexibility of the process made game creation enjoyable and simple.
Godot Engine Standout Features and Integrations:
Features that really impressed me in Godot Engine include the asset pipeline. This feature allows you to grab entire scenes, including the animations and lighting, and modify them holistically. Another great feature of Godot Engine is how easy it is to switch between 2D and 3D creation and to export games and different quality rates for different types of devices.
Integrations are pre-built for GitHub. There’s also an API that you can use to connect to other tools.
Trial: Free plan available
- Great for beginner game developers
- Straightforward and friendly user design
- Active open-source community
- The 3D physics engine is lacking
- Limited support for console development
8. Unreal Engine - Best for creating cutting-edge professional 3D games
Unreal Engine is a game development software solution that offers a comprehensive suite of tools for creating professional 3D games.
Why I picked Unreal Engine: I put Unreal Engine on this list for its industry-leading graphical capabilities and remarkable versatility. It has a built-in asset library and marketplace with ready-to-use assets, including 3D models, textures, audio files, and animations. This saves me valuable time by reducing the need to create assets from scratch.
Unreal Engine Standout Features and Integrations:
Features I really liked in Unreal include the Blueprint visual scripting system, which allows me to prototype and develop gameplay mechanics, interactions, and logic without needing to write traditional code. This helps streamline my development process and create consistency across my team’s development.
Integrations are pre-built for Autodesk Maya, ftrack, V-Ray, devtodev, Houdini, Helix Swarm, STAGE, and Adobe Substance.
Trial: Free plan available
- Cutting-edge graphics capabilities for visually stunning games
- Comprehensive set of tools for game development and real-time visualization
- Active community and extensive documentation for learning and support
- Steeper learning curve compared to some other game engines
- Royalty fees for commercial game releases
9. Unity - Best for versatile development and wide industry adoption
Unity is one of the most popular real-time game development engines. It allows you to create 2D and 3D games for wide distribution across all major game platforms.
Why I picked Unity: One feature that immediately stood out to me while evaluating Unity was its visual scripting function. With this feature, you can map out scripts visually with tables and connectors, allowing you to program complex game logic without needing to write any code.
Unity Standout Features and Integrations:
Features that stood out to me in Unity include how its usefulness doesn’t stop when the game is finished. Unity offers real-time dashboards that allow me to track my game downloads and revenue. Unity also supports multiple different coding languages, so you can choose how you want to build your game.
Integrations are pre-built for Discord, Jira, Trello, and Slack.
Pricing: From $399/year
Trial: 30-day free trial + Free plan available (for students and personal users)
- Large library of ready-made assets
- Comprehensive documentation and supportive community
- Easy-to-use interface for beginner and expert developers
- Requires third-party plugins to run many advanced features
- Performance can lag with large and graphics-intensive game creation
10. PixiJS - Best for browser-based 2D games
PixiJS is an open-source 2D renderer for WebGL that allows you to create interactive content, such as games that work right within the browser.
Why I picked PixiJS: I chose PixiJS because of its support for various types of filters for WebGL, such as blurring, pixelation, and displacement. You can use these to create different effects and add more fidelity to your projects, so you don’t need to worry about them looking bare-bones just because they’re 2D and browser-based.
PixiJS standout features and integrations:
Features that made me recommend PixiJS for development on browser-based games include the ability to build a multi-platform experience from a single code base. This way, you can account for users on desktop and mobile devices without needing to do standalone projects.
Integrations are pre-built for WebGL, Adobe Photoshop, and React.
Trial:Free plan available
- Monorepo support
- Large and active developer community
- Fast performance
- Doesn’t support 3D natively
- Requires prior knowledge of web development
11. Gamefroot - Best for learning about game development from scratch
Gamefroot is a 2D game development tool designed for low-code and no-code use for beginners and educators.
Why I picked Gamefroot: I picked Gamefroot because of its visual builder that allows you to create games using a drag-and-drop interface. This makes it a solid tool for educators and beginners that want to learn the basic tenets of game development before diving into more technical areas, such as code-based programming.
Gamefroot Standout Features and Integrations:
Features that made me recommend Gamefroot for learning scenarios include how it allows you to export the games you’ve just created as a beginner and upload them for publishing in game marketplaces. For anyone that wants to get started with game development, this gives you an easy avenue for sharing your creations for instant, unbiased feedback.
Integrations are limited because most of the features are in-house, and the system doesn’t integrate with other common game development tools.
Pricing: $28/year per person/student
Trial: 15-day free trial
- Great for educators and beginner developers
- Resources to help young people start a career in game development
- Easy to use, low-code design
- Not suitable for advanced game developers
- Not a lot of integrations
12. GDevelop - Best for fast game development
GDevelop is an open-source 2D game development tool that allows beginner game developers to build games quickly and without prior knowledge.
Why I picked GDevelop: I chose GDevelop because I could create games so quickly with this software. The time between starting up and publishing my finished game was incredibly fast. I also like that it’s open source and can run right in your browser.
GDevelop Standout Features and Integrations:
One of the features I like most about GDevelop is its large library of assets and events that I can drag and drop into my games quickly. I also like the live editor features, which allow me to see the changes that I make to my games immediately.
Integrations include hundreds of community-built extensions that allow you to add more functionality to your games. These include integrations for in-game purchases, enabling text-to-speech functions, changing the camera viewpoint, and more.
Trial: Free plan available
- Simple and friendly user interface for beginners
- No need to download software
- Fast game creation with drag-and-drop features
- Can run into some bugs
- Documentation needs some improvement
Other Game Development Software Options
Here are additional tools you can use to create immersive gaming experiences. While these didn’t make it into my top list, consider checking out these tools:
- RPG Maker - Best for developers focusing on creating role-playing games (RPGs) inspired by old-school Japanese RPGs
- Adventure Game Studio (AGS) - Best for developers interested in creating point-and-click adventure games
- Clickteam Fusion 2.5 - Best for game development support
- Stencyl - Best no-code option
- Cocos2d - Best deferred rendering features
Selection Criteria for Game Development Software
If you are curious about how I selected these tools, I’ve detailed my methodology and research process below. Below are the evaluation criteria I used to develop my list of Best Game Development Software:
I considered the core functionality of each software, focusing on the capabilities that are essential for game development, including:
- Enables you to create assets or utilize premade assets and insert them into the game for interactive use
- Allows you to compile scripts or write game scripts using no-code or low-code functionality
- Allows you to format your games for launch on one or more popular game platforms
- Powerful game engine: I looked for software with a robust game engine that offers advanced graphics and physics capabilities. This ensures developers can create visually appealing and immersive games with realistic physics simulations.
- Extensive library of assets, scripts, and plugins: A key feature I considered was the availability of a diverse range of assets, scripts, and plugins. This allows developers to access pre-built resources and components, saving time and effort during development.
- Multi-platform support: I evaluated the software's ability to support multiple platforms, such as PC, consoles, and mobile devices. Compatibility and ease of deployment were important factors, enabling developers to reach a wider audience.
- Intuitive visual scripting system: I looked for software that offers an intuitive visual scripting system. This feature facilitates rapid development by allowing developers to create gameplay mechanics and interactions without extensive coding knowledge.
- Comprehensive documentation and community support: Another important aspect I considered was the availability of comprehensive documentation and a supportive community. These resources help developers navigate the software effectively and provide assistance when encountering challenges during development.
- Built-in testing and debugging features: I considered the presence of built-in testing and debugging features. These tools help developers identify and fix issues during development, ensuring a more stable and bug-free game.
I also considered the usability of the software, focusing on factors that impact the development process. These included the software’s ability for a development team to collaborate and quickly share updates throughout the process.
I tried to choose solutions that emphasize consistency across the platform, promoting intuitive use no matter a user’s level of comfort with the program. Where more complex use cases exist, I chose tools that have a good network of support and comprehensive documentation so that any usability drawbacks can be mitigated.
I evaluated the accessibility and user-friendliness of the software. Whether it caters to beginners or experienced developers, a smooth learning curve can significantly impact the efficiency of the development process.
Performance and Optimization Tools
I took into account the software's performance capabilities and optimization tools. Efficient resource management, rendering capabilities, and scalability were important to ensure smooth and optimized game performance.
Regular Updates and Active Development Community
I looked for software that receives regular updates and has an active development community. This ensures developers have access to the latest features, improvements, and ongoing support.
What is the best game development software for beginners?
Which game development software is best for 3D games?
Can I develop mobile games with game development software?
What game development software is suitable for indie developers on a budget?
Game development software plays a crucial role in creating games that people worldwide will play many times over. I've tested 12 of the best game development software options available. Each tool offers its unique features, capabilities, and strengths. It’s important to pick the right one for your needs, and I hope this list helps you decide which tool to pick.
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