Game engines are the way to go to properly develop a game and have full control over it. They do require advanced developers and experience, as they’re highly customizable and the possibilities are endless. However, they save you a lot of time by offering many preset modules, libraries, effects, and tools so that you don’t have to create everything from scratch.
As advanced as they are, it’s fairly easy to pick up knowledge about how to use them over time thanks to extensive documentation, guides, and tutorials available online. However, using a game engine would be a lot harder for a single person to create a decent game on their own, and that’s why it’s probably better suited for teams or large projects.
Below is a comprehensive list of the top game engines in 2017 to choose from based on your needs.
Please note that this is a comparison only for advanced game engines and doesn’t include simple drag and drop game making tools or any other game development tools (graphics, audio, etc.). For a complete game development tools list, you can check out our Must-Have Mobile Game Development Tools In 2017 or our In-Depth Comparison of the Top Game Making Tools of 2017.
Arguably one of the most popular game engines in the world and “the most successful video game engine” as awarded by Guinness World Records. It’s definitely the best engine if you’re working on a large, sophisticated game and you need a strong 3D game engine. The size of the games will be relatively larger and you’ll need high-end devices to run them.
- Developer: Epic Games
- Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, Playstation, Xbox, and more.
- Customers: Capcom, Activision, Ubisoft, Microsoft Studios, Nintendo, and more
- Games: Marvel Heroes, Batman: Arkham Origins, Infinity Blade 3, WWE Immortals, and more
- Pricing: Free to use (5% royalty on gross revenue after the first $3,000 per product, per quarter)
Another widely used engine. Currently, 34% of the top 1,000 free mobile games are made with Unity. It’s a platform for artists, designers, and developers to create and collaborate on stunning cinematic content and gameplay sequences, using 2D and 3D design tools, instant play mode for rapid editing and iteration, and a powerful animation system.
While Unreal might be more popular with PC and console games, Unity is definitely more popular with mobile games and has become the go-to game engine for a lot of mobile game developers. It is also at the forefront of the growing VR market and it was used to make an estimated 90% of the Samsung Gear VR games and 53% of the Oculus Rift games at launch.
- Developer: Unity Technologies
- Platforms: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Playstation, Xbox, Windows Phone, Tizen, and more.
- Customers: Electronic Arts, LEGO, Ubisoft, Square Enix, and more
- Games: Pokémon GO, Super Mario Run, Angry Birds 2, Wasteland 2, and more
- Pricing: Free for personal use. Paid plans start at $35 per month.
Godot is an advanced, feature-packed, multi-platform 2D and 3D open source game engine. It provides a huge set of tools with a visual editor, an amazing scene system, supporting instancing and inheritance, and friendly content creation interfaces for artists, level designers and animators alike.
It is completely free and open source. No strings attached, no royalties, nothing. Your game is yours, down to the last line of engine code.
- Developer: Community developed.
- Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, iOS, BlackBerry, HTML5, PlayStation, Nintendo, and more.
- Customers: Rock Milk, Guaranapps, Searchlight Games, and more.
- Games: City Game Studio, Reakt, Get Teddy, and more.
- Pricing: Free.
CryEngine is a very powerful game engine that gives you the full engine source code with all features with no royalties, no obligations, and no license fees in return.
It’s applauded for its amazing graphics output and incredible visuals made with its suite of tools, putting the power to create stunning experiences at your fingertips. It also has Fmod included in the engine, one of the best game audio tools out there which allows for a ton of creative space in terms of creating the game audio.
- Developer: Crytek
- Platforms: iOS, Android, Windows, Linux, Playstation, Xbox, and Wii
- Customers: Poppermost Productions, CI Games, Obsidian Entertainment, and more
- Games: Far Cry, Crysis, Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2, and more
- Pricing: Free. Memberships start at $50 per month.
The edge of Marmalade SDK is its “write once, run anywhere” concept. So you code once and then it’s compiled and executed on all of the supported platforms. This allows you to launch your mobile game in different stores, giving you maximum exposure on as many devices as possible in the shortest period of time.
It also lets you utilize many library files, samples, documentation, and tools needed to develop, test, and deploy mobile games.
- Developer: Marmalade Technologies Limited.
- Platforms: iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Tizen, Blackberry, Windows, Mac, and more.
- Customers: ZeptoLab, Electronic Arts, PopCap Games, Nintendo, and more
- Games: Doodle Jump, Plants vs. Zombies, Need for Speed: Shift, Cut the Rope, and more
- Pricing: $600 per license
Like Marmalade, you can deploy your mobile games on as many platforms with just a single codebase. It has its own AppGameKit Script language that you can use or you can use their libraries in C++ instead.
It also allows you to compile your games and transmit them over WiFi to your mobile devices instantly for testing.
- Developer: The Game Creators, Ltd.
- Platforms: iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Windows, Mac, Linux, and more.
- Customers: Splat Studios, Supertino, Behdad Games, and more
- Games: Na4, Towerbots, Squashies World, Bad Robot, and more
- Pricing: Development Kit at $79.99. Extra bundles and DLC available at separate costs.
Cocos2d-x is an open-source game framework that is great for creating cross-platform GUI-based interactive games. Its core engine is popular for having the smallest footprint, yet the fastest speed of any other game engine. It is also optimized for running on all kinds of devices, including low-end Android systems.
- Developer: MIT License
- Platforms: iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Tizen, Windows, Mac, Linux, Xbox, and more.
- Customers: Zynga, Glu, Big Fish Games, Disney Mobile, and more
- Games: Big Fish Casino, Dragon City, BADLAND, Castle Clash, and more
- Pricing: Free
MonoGame is an open-source implementation of the Microsoft XNA 4 Framework. It allows XNA developers on Xbox 360, Windows, and Windows Phone to deploy their games to iOS, Android, and many more platforms. It’s also very highly customizable as an open source system, which allows developers to play around with its tools based on need.
- Developer: MonoGames
- Platforms: iOS, Android, Windows, Linux, Windows Phone, PlayStation, Xbox and more.
- Customers: Tribute Games, Kongregate, Supergiant Games, 17-BIT, and more
- Games: Bastion, Fez, Wizorb, Infinite Flight, and more
- Pricing: Free
Amazon Lumberyard allows you to create your games, integrate them to the AWS Cloud, and integrate Twitch features that help you connect to the world’s leading social video platform and community for gamers. The integration with the AWS Cloud makes it great when creating live or multiplayer games.
- Developer: Amazon
- Platforms: iOS, Android, Windows, PlayStation, Xbox and more.
- Customers: Amazon Game Studios, Leslie Benzies, Cloud Imperium Games, Behaviour Interactive, and more
- Games: Breakaway, Star Citizen, Everywhere, The DRG Initiative, and more
- Pricing: Free
ShiVa is an easy-to-use 3D game and application development suite that allows you to export your games to over 20 different platforms.
It comes with 21 modules, ranging from terrain and animation editors to material tools and a fully integrated code editor. Whether you are designing a first-person shooter, a racing game, an action platformer, an open world game, or a mobile puzzler, ShiVa offers a variety of solutions.
- Developer: ShiVa Technologies SAS
- Platforms: iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Blackberry, Windows, Mac, Linux, HTML5, Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo and more.
- Customers: Ubisoft, Exkee, Grip Digital, and more
- Games: Prince of Persia 2: The Shadow and the Flame, Babel Rising 3D, Voodoo Dice, and more
- Pricing: Free. Paid plans start at $200.
HeroEngine is an all-in-one game engine and development platform for making and operating online games, including MMO, RPG, FPS, social, and more. It lets you focus on game development and not worry about server development and maintenance.
It offers a cloud-based, real-time collaborative platform that allows you to seamlessly create and collaborate from anywhere in the world as well as edit in real time and publish your game right away without any server set-up or downtime. It also offers many open-world maps and instances to use, as well as popular integrated tools and middleware like SpeedTree and FaceGen to make the game development process faster and easier.
- Developer: Simutronics / Idea Fabrik
- Platforms: Windows
- Customers: UTV Ignition Entertainment, BioWare, ZeniMax Online Studios, and more
- Games: The Repopulation, Star Wars: The Old Republic, The Elder Scrolls Online, and more
- Pricing: Plans start at $99.95 per year