17 Jan 2011

The Best Game Engines for Indie Game Developers

People very often want to make a game either for fun or to sell it later. Very often small teams are made and begin the discussion about their new game. It has happened to me before many times and where I utterly disagreed with others, was in the subject of choosing a game engine. Most offen, the programmer or programmers of the team decide they make their own game engine. I personaly believe that the people in any game project should consider their goals. Is the goal to actually make a game? Because if it IS to make a game, then there is no reason for them to reinvent the wheel.  There are tons of game engine out there that make the development of a game project much easier for the developers. Using a pre existing game engine makes the project easier, much faster to complete and keeps the spirit going since there is a relative good progress. Also using an existing game engine makes it almost sure that it has no major bugs, runs smoothly and is production ready anyway. I completely agree with people wanting to make their own engine, but then the goal is the game engine and not the game and thus no music compositor, modeler, texture artist, game designer e.t.c. are needed to be involved and in consequence loose interest cause there is actually nothing for them to do. But enough of my ranting :-)

In conclusion there are many game engine for a team to consider using. I believe that a multiplatform solution is good enough for starting teams, because of the target audience their game can have. The iDevices and Android platforms especialy are a good consideration since they have really a lot users and at the end most of the games on those devices are simple to make, thus they cost low and people will buy them, making the team motivated to move on to their next project and in consequence earning experience and possibly some fame.

UPDATED 15 Nov 2013

– 3D –



Unity is probably the best choice for indie developers right now, that want a multiplatform development without complications. With Unity, you can develop and prototype games real fast with true WYSIWYG capabilities. Unity”s rendering & lighting capabilities are state of the art, supporting deffered lighting, occlusion culling, SSAO, the Beast lightmapper, many post-processing effect and many more. Unity has physics support from rigid bodies to soft bodies and cloth. Unity”s editor is a joy to work and the asset workflow is also very good. Programming can be done in C#, JavaScript or Boo but also Unity can be extended as it has already been done with some great addons. There exist vast resources and tutorials to get you started and a great community.

Unity Indie is free though it”s missing many features, while Unity Pro costs 1500$. If you want to develop for an iDevice or Android extra licenses must be bought.

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Gamestart3D seems a nice choice. It tries to “mimic” in a sense Unity”s workflow. It has a nice editor overall. Scripts are written in Squirel a similar to javascript syntax language and there is even an inline script editor as well. Graphics fidelity is quite high, but unfortunately developlment seems quite slow and available resources do the same as well. It is a far less known engine that it should, as it seems quite promising and some games are already been made with it, so that may prove that it is near to production ready.

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Shiva 3D

Stonetrip Shiva3D is commonly compared to Unity for their similarities in way of use and price. Shiva offers a well integrated editor just like Unity that everything is made from within. Shiva games can be published to Windows, Mac, Linux, iPhone, iPad, Android, Palm, PSP and Wii without complications as well. Shiva”s features are many just like anyone could expect from a modern game engine.

Shiva PLE is free but to publish a game there are two licenses with very few differences. One at 170E while the other at 1500E

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Leadwerks Engine

Graphically, Leadwerks Engine is state of the art. Leadwerks Engine comes with a WYSIWYG editor to design your scenes but also to program them in the now supporting LUA scripting language. In essence, Leadwerks Engine”s games can be programmed with any language since the engine is compiled as a DLL. The supported languages though are C#, C and was Blitzmax. A shame they drop support on Blitzmax though, since it was my favorite. Anyway :-) A big bonus is that the API of Leadwerks Engine, is probably the most clean, easy to understand than everything I”ve seen so far. The resources might not be as many as in other game engines, but they are well enough to get you along. Worth of note is that Leadwerks Engine 3 is in development and I can”t wait.

Leadwerks Engine 2 costs only 200E

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Essenthel Engine

I remember when Essenthel Engine was in early development and found it. I downloaded the demo and got amazed and after some years i am following it, I am still amazed by it”s progress. It support all common features out there and even more. Essenthel comes with an editor as all modern engines should and programming is done only in C unfortunately for me at least. The editor and the tools that come with Essenthel Engine are unfortunately very badly design and non intuitive. Essenthel games can also be published to any iDevice, which is a big plus.

Licenses range from 150$ to 400,000$ depending on how much income you have and the amount of source codes you want of the engine. Truth is that the 1000$ license will suit most just fine, with great access to source codes.

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GameCore 2.5

Although this engine is a bit obscured, GameCore 2.5, offers excellent graphics quality, deffered lighting, casino physics and one of the best editors and art pipeline I”ve seen. Importing a model and making a material for it is so straightforward. Games can be published to PC and Mac as well as on the Web. GameCore 2.5 has its own scripting language with a c-style syntax that”s easy to use.

GameCore 2.5 Indie is free with some minor limitations, while the Pro version costs 1500$.

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S2 Engine HD

S2 Engine HD is not yet released, but I felt like adding it in this list. From what it seems, S2Engine must be a great game engine featuring rich graphics, AI and fantastic editors.

It costs 200E or 2000E if you want the C SDK.

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[title_divider]- 2D -[/title_divider]

Construct 2

Construct game engine is one of those gems that you fall upon randomly. Not kidding. It”s a game engine for 2D games development and possible one of the easiest since it require little or no programming at all, since it is based on a visual, event driven system instead of pure programming, similar to that of the old Multimedia Fusion software. Development is done inside Construct”s editor and the engine is expandable through it”s plugin architecture. I really recommend you take a look at this game engine. Development progress rapidly. It also has multiplatform exporting.

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GameSalad existing only for Mac for some years, but it recently came to windows. Although different aproach than Construct, GameSalad is also a no-code game 2D engine with a nice editor and multiplatform exporting of your games. Unfortunately I have”t had the time to test it out so that I can share more on this one, but be sure you do so as it seems nice as well.

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Stencyl is a Flash focused 2D game engine (although it can also export to other platforms as well) with a nice editor feature set. Probably the best feature is it”s visual scripting system which is based on MIT”s Scratch project where the user connects building blocks of code to design the outcome. For those who want to though, it also supports writting you own blocks and code your game in the ActionScript (flash) language. Stencyl provides an inline IDE for that as well. So chech it out if you have a flash background.

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GameDeveop is another of those obscured game engines you hardly ever found but still look promising enough. It follows the trails of Multimedia Fusion and Construct as it requires no code as well, but rather design is made in an Event based system, that I think, it”s somewhat more advanced that Construct and thus probably more difficult. It has support for Physics, Dynamics Lights, Networking etc, is able to publish to native and HTML5, and..it”s free. The only downside is that (at least the last time I checked) it had some translation issues and some minor editor GUI bugs, but I think that those have been resolved now.

Gamemaker 8

Gamemaker has been used to create many games. It”s a 2D game engine with many features in a well integrated editor. It has a visual event driven system but also support direct easy programming. The big plus of gamemaker is the great support, tutorials and real many plugins and addons that are out there to extend the engines capabilities.

Gamemaker 8 costs only 25$, but there is also a limited free edition.

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Game Editor

Game Editor is another event driver game engine that is also open source. It has a nice and easy interface while there is the ability for multiplatform development, including Smartphones, Linux, iDevices and Mac. The documentation is good and there are also some tutorials to get you started.

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Adventure Game Studio 3.1.2

AGS is a game engine to create classic 2D point & click adventures. It has been used to create a LOT adventure games with my personal favorite to be 7 Days a Skeptic. The whole development takes place in the AGS editor where you create the scene, walkable & clickable areas as well as UI and events. To create a simple adventure, no programming is requires although programming is supported for more advanced games. Don”t expect anything great in quality but hey…this is a targeted to classic old style adventure games.

AGS is free.

Visionaire Adventure Studio 3.4

Similar to AGS, Visionaire Adventure Studio is an engine to create point & click adventures.  Compared to AGS though, Visionaire Studio is a bit cleaner and has a bit more features like PNG support (AGS doesn”t) but certainly much better graphical quality. It”s similar to AGS as in the visual event system and defining walkable an clickable areas.

Visionaire Adventure Studio costs 35E

[title_divider]- Honorable Mentions -[/title_divider]

DX Studio

“DX Studio is a complete integrated development environment for creating interactive 3D graphics. The system comprises of both a
real-time 3D engine and a suite of editing tools.  Using DX Studio you can build complete real-time interactive applications, simulations or games, for standalone use or for embedding in other Microsoft Office/Visual Studio applications.”

Torque 3D

“Welcome to Torque 3D, the most easy-to-use game creation platform available. Architected from the ground up for maximum flexibility and performance across a wide range of hardware and built upon the Frontline award-winning Torque Game Engine Advanced, Torque 3D comes equipped with a full suite of tools and APIs to get your game to the finish line, no matter what your goals. Add publishing paths to PC, Mac, Xbox 360, Wii, iPhone, and the web, and you have the power to distribute games almost everywhere they are played.”

Haaf”s Game Engine

HGE is an easy to use yet powerful hardware accelerated 2D game engine. It is a full featured middleware for all who want to develop commercial quality 2D games rapidly and easily. It covers all imaginable 2D game genres: you could create everything from a simple puzzle to advanced multilayered platformer or strategy without even thinking of any non game logic code! And you don”t have to know anything about “window messages”, DirectX programming and all that stuff. Instead you can start developing your own game within 15 minutes!”

C4 Engine

“The C4 Engine is a comprehensive suite of robustly implemented game programming tools for the Windows and Mac OS X platforms. Not only is it a powerhouse of a 3D graphics engine, but it also includes integrated support for physics, audio, networking, input devices, resource management, and much more.”

Neoaxis Engine

“NeoAxis Game Engine is an all-purpose, modern 3D graphics engine for 3D simulations, visualizations and games.NeoAxis Engine is a complete integrated development environment for creating interactive 3D graphics including 3D virtual worlds, AAA games, and realistic simulations. The system comprised of both a real-time 3D engine and a suite of full featured tools.”

fixel 2

“A revolution in Flash game production. An amazing new way for man to interface with machine. The beginning of a new tomorrow. Never before has the world witnessed such a collection of AS3 files. We put it all in the new flixel 2. Groups to help organize game objects, quad trees for faster, more accurate collisions, a cleaner API, plus all the old flixel classics: animated sprites, tilemaps, and particle emitters. Most importantly, flixel is still completely free for personal or commercial use. What are you waiting for? It’s time to make games!”


“What is SIO2 Engine? SIO2 is an OpenGLES based cross platform 2D and 3D game engine which provides you all the modern game engine functionalities built in right at its core for your mobile devices at a fraction of the regular industry price for the same type of quality. Feature rich, extremely fast and flexible SIO2 allows you to create state of the art AAA games for your favorite mobile platform. As opposite to other solutions, SIO2 doesn”t force you to use any specific IDE to code or build your games.”

Realm Crafter 2

The Realm Crafter game engine is the heart of the MMORPG development system. The engine creates the virtual game world and the behavior of everything in it. It generates 3D images and handles the network communications. The Realm Crafter engine is designed to be modular, meaning it is broken down into smaller units thus making it easier for you to customize its operations.”


  • Frank
    October 22, 2013

    Wintermute Engine Development Kit

  • sss
    February 27, 2014

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  • Gavalakis Vaggelis
    February 27, 2014

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  • sevn35
    May 31, 2014

    Lately I’ve found Rpg maker vx ace to be very good. You should look it over

  • sevn35
    May 31, 2014

    Lately I’ve found Rpg maker vx ace to be very good. You should look it over it seems great for indie

  • Gavalakis Vaggelis
    June 18, 2014

    Thanks for sharing sevn35 :)

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  • P. Temple
    September 12, 2016

    How about telling your readers exactly which computer type these game engines run on,
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