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The Best Programming Languages for Game Development Revealed

Nov 24, 2022

Because the world of video games continues to grow, so does the necessity for talented programmers. Game development is a fancy process that requires the usage of specific programming languages to create the code that makes games function.

So, which programming languages are best for game development? It is dependent upon the style of game you need to develop. For instance, if you need to develop a 2D platformer, it is advisable to use a language like Lua and even JavaScript. But when you need to develop a 3D first-person shooter, it is advisable to use a language like C++ or C#.

In this text, we’ll take a take a look at the most effective programming languages for game development, and discuss the differing types of games that might be developed using each language.

  1. What Is Gaming Development?
  2. About Game Engines
  3. The Best Programming Languages for Game Development
  4. Which Programming Language Should a Beginner Start with for Game Development?
  5. Best Programming Language for Easy Games
  6. Best Programming Languages for Complicated Games
  7. Conclusion

What Is Gaming Development?

Gaming development is the strategy of designing, creating, and coding a game. This process might be done in various ways depending on the style of game and the scale of the event team.

There are lots of various kinds of games:

  • text based, 2D, 3D, and real-time
  • single-player and multiplayer
  • focused on the graphic design, the story line, or the gameplay mechanics

… But you surely know all of that, so let’s see the right way to actually develop games!

About Game Engines

We’ll be mentioning game engines rather a lot throughout this text, so let’s say that a game engine is a software development environment designed for people to construct video games. It provides a framework for game developers to work in, and might be used to create each 2D and 3D games.

There are too many to list all of them, but listed below are a few of the ones we’ll mention:

Engine Popular games License Languages Remarks
Amazon Lumberyard Star Citizen, Squadron 42, Recent World Proprietary C++, Lua (scripting) Native support for Amazon Web Services, which makes it easy to deploy games online
Buildbox Color Switch and The Line Zen Proprietary C++ Specifically for 2D games
Clickteam Fusion Five Nights at Freddy’s, The Escapists, Baba Is You Proprietary
CryEngine Crysis, Far Cry, Kingdom Come: Deliverance Proprietary C++
Cocos2d-x FarmVille, Geometry Dash, Badland Free C++, Python, JavaScript
Construct Delivery Quest, Hypnospace Outlaw Proprietary C++
Defold Candy Crush Saga, Bubble Witch Saga, Farm Heroes Saga Free Lua
GameMaker Studio Spelunky, Hotline Miami, Undertale Proprietary GML
Gideros Free Lua
Godot Cruelty Squad, Hardcoded, Kingdoms of the Dump, Commander Keen in Keen Dreams Free C++
Java 3D Free Java
jMonkeyEngine Free Java
LibGDX Ingress, Slay the Spire Free Java
LÖVE Mari0, Journey to the Center of Hawkthorne, Move or Die Free C++, Lua (scripting)
Phaser Vampire Survivors Free JavaScript
PixiJS The Grotesque and Pixelesque Free JavaScript
RPG Maker Alpha Kimori, Ao Oni, Aveyond series, Corpse Party, Everlasting Eden, Laxius Force, One Night Trilogy, Super Columbine Massacre RPG!, To the Moon, Yume Nikki Proprietary It that might be used to create role-playing games (RPGs)
Solar2D Free Lua
Source Half-Life, Counter-Strike, Team Fortress Proprietary C++, Lua (scripting)
Twine Depression Quest, Analogue: A Hate Story, Cibele Free JavaScript, CSS
Unity Pokémon Go, Cuphead, Monument Valley Proprietary C++ Popular engine
Unreal Engine Fortnite, Gears of War, Borderlands Proprietary C++ Popular engine, relatively easy to start with, due to its Blueprint visual scripting system

You may as well take a look at 11 tools to get you began making video games, by D. M. Moore on The Verge.

The Best Programming Languages for Game Development

These languages are all popular decisions for game development, and every has its own strengths and weaknesses. Let’s take an in depth take a look at each language.

C++

The C++ logo

C++ is a great programming language for game development since it’s fast and efficient. Game developers use C++ to create high-performance games, and it also has loads of debugging tools, which is vital for game development.

Other languages, similar to Python, are designed for readability and ease. This makes Python a superb alternative for prototyping game ideas, but it surely wouldn’t be suitable for developing a final product.

As a compiled language, C++ is converted into machine code before it’s run on a pc. This makes C++ programs run faster than interpreted languages similar to Python. C++ also offers a wide range of programming paradigms, similar to object-oriented and data-driven programming.

A lot of the preferred game engines support C++, which suggests that there are a selection of tools and libraries that developers can use to create their games.

Popular game engines using C++:

  • Unreal Engine
  • Unity
  • CRYENGINE
  • Amazon Lumberyard

Cons of C++ basically:

  • it’s difficult to learn
  • it’s a memory-managed language
  • it’s not cross-platform

Java

The Java logo

Java is a flexible and powerful programming language that’s widely utilized in many alternative industries. It will possibly even be a great alternative for game development, since it has lots of the C++ strengths, plus it runs on a wide range of platforms.

As a platform-independent language — due to the Java virtual machine (JVM) — Java games might be run on any operating system, including Windows, macOS, and Linux. This makes Java one other popular alternative for developing mobile games, as it might be run on iOS devices and Android. Java is, in actual fact, the language to develop native apps with Android Studio.

While some game engines support Java, it’s not as fast as C++, which is usually a drawback for some sorts of games.

Game engines using Java:

  • jMonkeyEngine
  • libGDX
  • Java 3D

Cons of Java basically:

  • not as easy to learn
  • it might be slow, particularly in legacy devices
  • it’s not as widely used as C++

JavaScript (with HTML and CSS)

The unofficial JS logo

JavaScript (JS) is one other versatile programming language that’s used for game development, and it has the advantage of being relatively easy to learn. While JavaScript isn’t as fast as C++ or Java, it’s still suitable for developing 2D games.

While HTML and CSS aren’t programming languages strictly speaking, they might be essential technologies for game development. HTML is used to create the structure of a game, while CSS is used to style the sport.

JavaScript games might be run on any web browser, which makes them easy to distribute. Nevertheless, JavaScript games aren’t as widely used as games developed with other languages.

Popular game engines using JavaScript:

Cons of JavaScript basically:

  • not as fast as other languages
  • not as widely used for games
  • limited to the browser

Take a look at the books HTML5 Games: Novice to Ninja, by Earle Castledine, Learn to Code with JavaScript, by Darren Jones, and Easy methods to Construct a Game with Vue.js.

C#

The C sharp logo

C# was created by Microsoft. It has lots of the same benefits as C++, and it’s a very sensible choice for developing 2D and 3D games.

One advantage of C# over C++ is that it’s easier to learn. C# can also be a cross-platform language, which suggests that games developed with C# might be run on Windows, macOS, and Linux.

The mixing between C# and Visual Studio (also created by Microsoft) is superb, and so are the debugging and testing tools.

Popular game engines using C#:

  • Unity
  • Unreal Engine
  • Godot

Cons of C# basically:

  • not as widely used
  • limited to the Microsoft ecosystem

Lua

The Lua logo

Lua is a light-weight scripting language that’s utilized in many alternative industries, including game development. It’s easy to learn and use, and it’s also fast (which is an unusual combo!).

Lua is usually used for developing game logic, and it might be embedded into other programming languages. This makes it a great alternative for developing games with complex mechanics.

While some game engines support Lua, it’s not as widely used as other languages, but it surely’s still an excellent alternative for making 2D games.

Popular game engines using Lua:

Cons of Lua basically:

  • not as widely used
  • limited to the sport development industry

Which Programming Language Should a Beginner Start with for Game Development?

Lua, in fact! As we’ve already mentioned, Lua is a light-weight programming language that’s easy to learn and use. So it’s something of a no brainer that, should you’re recent to programming, Lua gives you a great foundation on which to construct more complex games.

Moreover, Lua has been utilized in plenty of popular games, so there are many resources on the market to show you how to start. On top of that, it’s a language that you would be able to later use for scripting on many game engines while coding more complex projects on C++!

Python as a Game Development Language

The Python logo

Although we didn’t get to say it, Python is yet one more language that’s popular amongst beginner developers. Identical to Lua, it’s very easy to learn; and in contrast to Lua, it’s a general-purpose language that may open doors beyond the sport development industry, similar to data science and artificial intelligence.

It’s not quite as lightweight as Lua, but it surely’s still a great option for beginners who wish to develop easy games. And apart from being a scripting language supported by many engines (Delta3D, Godot, Source), it also has a totally fledged game engines itself, similar to Pygame, Ren’Py, and Kivy.

Take a look at The Python Apprentice book by Austin Bingham and Robert Smallshire to learn more.

Best Programming Language for Easy Games

If you need to develop an easy game, similar to a 2D platformer or a puzzle game, you should utilize any programming language that you just are comfortable with.

Again, Lua and Python might be good starting points for prototyping; but even JavaScript could make for a great 2D shooter that might be created extremely fast, especially when using assistive programming, similar to OpenAI’s Codex.

Take a look at the Construct Your Own Wordle For Numbers: Numble article by Olivia Gibson, and even the book Construct a Rock Paper Scissors Game from Scratch with React, by Madars Biss.

Best Programming Languages for Complicated Games

Now, if you need to develop a 3D first-person shooter or an open-world RPG, you’ll need to make use of a more powerful programming language.

C++ might be your most suitable option for developing complicated games. It’s a low-level language, which suggests it gives the programmer more control over the sport’s inner workings. This might be each good and bad: good, because you might have more control over how the sport runs; but bad, because it might be tougher to jot down code in C++, and tougher to debug.

Java is one other sensible choice for developing complicated games. It’s a high-level language, which suggests it’s easier to jot down code in Java than in C++; but it surely also means you might have less control over the sport’s inner workings.

Conclusion

With recent technologies and platforms emerging every few years, the landscape of game development is continuously changing. In consequence, the programming languages used to develop games should change as well.

For those who’re recent to programming, we recommend starting with Lua or Python. These languages are easy to learn and use, they usually’ll provide you with a great foundation on which to construct more complex games.

If you need to develop a more complicated game, you’ll need to make use of a more powerful programming language. C++, C# and even Java might be the most effective alternative for developing complicated games.

C++ particularly, as a low-level language, will give the programmer more control over the sport’s inner workings … but in fact, on the expense of more coding and debugging time. 😅