What’s The Best Game-Making Software For Beginners?


What’s The Best Game-Making Software For Beginners?

Ever dreamed of making your own video game? You’re not alone.

Millions of gamers nurse the dream of one day creating their own game, but it can be difficult to know where to start. With so many options available to you, how do you know which is the undisputed best game development software?

Each piece of game-making software has its own strengths and weaknesses, and the answer really depends on what kind of game you’re making.

Mobile export?

GXC export?

Steam/PC export?

Console export?

Best for 2D or 3D?

Best for?

GameMaker

2D

Beginners, Indie, Professionals

Unity

Both

Beginners, Indie, Professionals

Unreal Engine

3D

Professionals

Godot Engine

Through third-party providers

Both

Beginners, Indie

RPG Maker MZ

2D

Beginners

Construct 3

Through third-party providers

2D

Beginners

Stencyl

2D

Mobile devs

Buildbox

Both

Beginners

GDevelop

2D

Beginners

GameMaker

This is the part where we tell you how brilliant we are, right?

Well, we certainly think GameMaker is an excellent piece of game-making software for beginners and pros alike, but we also recognise that GameMaker isn’t always the answer.

We’re gamers at heart, and we want to make sure creators and aspiring game devs find the right game development software for their creative vision.

We will of course be telling you why we’re passionate about GameMaker, but we’ll also be taking an honest, critical look at GameMaker and its alternatives to help you determine which is the best game engine for your project.

Chicory: A Colorful Tale

Chicory: A Colorful Tale, made in GameMaker, developed by Greg Lobanov

Originally released in 1999, GameMaker is one of the longest-running indie game engines available today.

Thanks to its longevity, GameMaker benefits from an active game-making community and thousands of in-house and user-generated guides and tutorials.

The ‘Fire Jump’ and ‘Hero’s Trail’ tutorials in particular allow a novice to create their first game in less than 30 minutes.

GameMaker offers a visual coding tool, which allows you to use visual coding to build your game, and our own coding language, known as GameMaker Language (GML).

If you’re looking to make a 3D game, though, GameMaker probably isn’t the right fit for you. While you can make 3D games in GameMaker, 2D is where it truly excels.

GameMaker allows you to export your games to a number of different platforms, including gaming web browser GXC, Nintendo Switch, Xbox Series X/S, and PlayStation 4/5.

Some of the most popular games made with GameMaker include Undertale, WebbedHotline Miami, and Chicory: A Colorful Tale.

Webbed, made with GameMaker

Webbed, made in GameMaker, developed by Sbug Games

Unity

Unity originally began as a strictly 3D game engine back in 2005, before officially adding 2D support in 2013. While 3D games helped make Unity a household name, it's no slouch as a 2D game creator, either.

The Unity engine has been used to create the likes of Cuphead, Hollow Knight, and Return of the Obra Dinn.

Unity is one of the most supported indie game engines in the world, with thousands of written and visual guides to help you get up to speed with its C# programming language.

One of Unity’s greatest assets is the breadth of platforms it can export to: you can create games for Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS, all major home consoles, and even VR platforms such as Oculus and Steam VR.

Unity also offers a free game-making software package which remains free for as long as your funding or revenue totals less than $100,000 a year. Their Plus package leaps up to $399 a year, and their Pro package will set you back a hefty $1,800 a year.

You’ll gain access to more tools and features as you climb the paid tiers, but if you’re an indie game maker flying solo, you may find the costs - and the learning curve - steeper than the alternatives.

Cuphead gameplay

Cuphead, made in Unity, developed by Studio MDHR

Unreal Engine

The Unreal Engine is where the big kids play: while this is definitely one of the best game development software solutions in the world, if you’re a hobbyist, this isn’t where you want to start.

Think of the Unreal Engine like one of those scientific calculators. You could give it to a child to help them with their math homework, but they’ll be so overwhelmed by the number of buttons that they’ll probably decide to just count on their fingers instead.

The Unreal Engine is a tool for industry professionals. It can help you create 3D games that look as high quality as a blockbuster movie, but for newcomers or indie devs looking to make a cute 2D game about cats knocking things off tables, this isn’t where you should start.

If you’re keen to give it a go, though, the Unreal Engine is free to download, and offers thousands of tutorials and guides to help you out.

Some of the Unreal Engine’s most popular games include Fortnite, Kingdom Hearts 3, and Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice.

Kingdom Hearts 3 gameplay

Kingdom Hearts 3, made in Unreal Engine, developed by Square Enix

Core

Before we leave the Unreal Engine behind, it’s worth mentioning Core; a sort’ve PC game/game development hybrid that allows you to make 3D shooters through the Unreal Engine.

Core presents itself as the natural next step up from kid-friendly game creators like Super Mario Maker and Dreams.

To keep things simple, Core largely tries to do the work for you, allowing you to select or download ready-made templates and games to customise as you see fit.

The quality of the games you’ll find on Core range from ‘genuinely impressive’ to ‘Bootleg-esque’, with results more akin to PC modding than indie game development.

Although the tool is completely free, the software is a locked platform, meaning you can’t export your creations to anywhere outside of Core’s ecosystem.

It’s hard for a 3D game engine to be anything less than complex, but Core does all it can to reduce that complexity without sacrificing its quality.

Fortnite game art

Fortnite, made in Unreal Engine, developed by Epic Games

Godot Engine

The Godot Engine is open-source and completely free to use: you can choose between the Standard version or the Mono version, which features C# support, but you don’t have to pay a penny for either of them.

While Godot is designed to support both 2D and 3D game development, the 2D aspect of its software performs slightly better, due in part to its pixel-based measurement system. It also offers its own programming language, known as GDScript.

Nearly all of the data you’ll be using to build your game, including objects and animations, exist as ‘nodes’, which can be placed within ‘scenes’. You can then create chains of nodes, allowing ‘parent nodes’ to affect all of those linked beneath it.

With an understanding of which node performs which function, you can create complex animations without overcrowding your workspace.

The Godot Engine has been used to create such games as Kingdoms of the Dump, Until Then, and most notably, a heavily modified version of the Godot engine was used in the development of Sonic Colors: Ultimate.

While Godot doesn’t officially support console exports, the service is offered by a select number of trusted third-party providers.

The Godot Reddit community is a helpful resource for beginners, but given its relatively small pool of tutorials and guides, newcomers may find Godot a less accessible solution than some of its competitors.

Sonic Colors: Ultimate art

Sonic Colors: Ultimate, made with Godot, developed by Sonic Team, Dimps & Blind Squirrel Entertainment

RPG Maker MZ

What kind of games do you reckon you can make with this one?

As the name suggests, RPG Maker MZ is all about RPGs, allowing you to create your own role-playing game using map editors, character generators, and a database of assets.

The trouble with RPG Maker is precisely that: you can only make RPGs, and there aren’t many transferable skills you can take to another game engine.

For what it sets out to do, MZ is a perfectly good, entry-level tool that can help you create an RPG, but unless that’s all you’re looking to do, you’re better off starting your project with different game development software.

RPG Maker MZ interface

RPG Maker MZ, available on Steam

Construct 3

Construct 3 shares a lot of similarities with GameMaker: it’s a 2D-focused, beginner-friendly game engine that offers a free version of its game-making software.

It also features a visual scripting system which allows you to drag-and-drop assets and assign them behaviors, all within a few clicks.
 
You can access Construct 3's HTML5-based game-making software directly through your web browser.

One of the biggest drawbacks for Construct 3 is how limiting the free product is, restricting your access to effects, fonts, layers, animations, and placing a cap on the number of events you can add to your game.

You’ll need to pay for Construct to get the most out of its game engine, with prices starting at $120 a year, rising to $178 and $423 a year for their Startup and Business licenses respectively.

If you’re looking for free game-making software, Construct 3 doesn’t offer as much as its competitors on its free package. If you’re looking for beginner-friendly software, it makes for a fine starting point.

Some of the notable games created with Construct's video game software include Guinea Pig Parkour, Mighty Goose, and Galaxy Escape Rescue Squad Impossible, a tie-in game for the hit animated sitcom, Regular Show.

Mighty Goose gameplay

Mighty Goose, made in Construct 3, developed by Blastmode, MP2 Games

Stencyl

For the mobile game devs amongst you, Stencyl is one of the few game engines that puts a heavier emphasis on Android and iOS development.

Some of its most notable games include Goldspace, Mibibli’s Quest, and Super Dangerous Dungeons.

A free version of Stencyl's game development software is available to download, albeit with far fewer features than its paid solutions. Prices start from $99 for their indie package, rising to $199 for their Studio package.

Stencyl’s mobile gaming development software only supports 2D games at this time, so 3D devs will have to look elsewhere.

Stencyl allows you to export to Windows, Mac, Linux, iPhone, iPad, and mobile devices. You can’t currently export Stencyl games to consoles.

The visual programming language is easy for newcomers to understand and lets you create simple games in no time, but there are far fewer software features available when compared to the competition.

Overall, Stencyl is an excellent entry-level game engine for mobile and web game devs, but those looking to create something for PCs or consoles will likely find it lacking.

Super Dangerous Dungeons gameplay
Super Dangerous Dungeons, made in Stencyl, developed by Adventure Islands

Buildbox

Founded in 2014, Buildbox offers two versions of its game-making software: Buildbox Classic, and Buildbox 3.

Classic is Buildbox’s beginner-friendly solution, allowing you to make a 2D game with simple drag-and-drop visual coding. Buildbox 3 is the more advanced option, letting you create 2D and 3D games using templates and so-called Smart Assets™ and Brainboxes™.

Buildbox allows you to create the frame of your game with pre-existing assets, before editing the characters, settings, and environments to your heart’s content. Although more well-known for its mobile games, Buildbox supports exports to PC, Mac, and Steam, but not for home consoles.

Buildbox does offer a free version of its game development software, albeit with more limitations than its two paid products, Plus and Pro, which are priced at $189.99 and $499.99 a year respectively.

Given Buildbox is one of the newer game engines, it doesn’t enjoy the same volume of supporting content as its rivals, but it offers enough to get new users creating within a few hours of downloading the software.

Some of Buildbox’s notable games include Nite Fighter, Color Ramp, and Balance Stuff.

Nite Fighter promo art

Nite Fighter, made in Buildbox, developed by Ben Scriven

GDevelop

Last but not least, we have GDevelop, another open-source 2D game engine that utilises visual programming to help beginners make their first game.

A few examples of GDevelop games include Hyperspace Dogfights, Miko Adventures Puffball, and Vai Juliette!.

One of GDevelop’s most notable features is called Events, which allow you to automatically trigger certain actions when certain conditions are met, greatly reducing the coding requirements for wannabe game devs.

You get access to an impressive array of features, too, such as sprite editing, physics engines, and pathfinding, allowing you to create nearly any genre of 2D game you’d like.

GDevelop doesn’t enjoy as many features as some of its competitors, but you can still export your creations to iOS, Android, Steam, Facebook, and the Microsoft Store.

If you ever find yourself getting stuck, or find your questions aren’t covered in any of the GDevelop tutorials, you can always ask its growing community for further support.

As far as free game-making software is concerned, GDevelop is another fine solution, but while beginner-friendly features like Events will make life easier for the novices, those looking to dive deeper may find the restrictions harder to work with in the long run.

Miko Adventures Puffball gameplay

Miko Adventures Puffball, made in GDevelop, developed by Coriander Games

So at the end of all that, we turn back to our original question: what is the best gaming software?

Simply put: it depends.

Are you making a game for PC, console, or mobile? Will it be 2D or 3D? Are you looking to become a full-time developer, or are you just looking to satisfy a creative itch?

Ultimately, choosing your game development software all comes down to how you intend to use it, and what kind of game you’d like to make.

If you think GameMaker is the right platform for you, you can put any lingering questions directly to our wonderful community via the GameMaker Forum.

We can’t wait to see what you’ll create!


Written by Ross Bramble

Ross Bramble is a writer and collect-a-thon platform lover from Southampton. You’ll often find him replaying Spyro 2, chickening out of playing Bloodborne on New Game Plus, and begging Nintendo for a new Kid Icarus game.