Best Programming Language for Games

You’re ready to start creating your very own video games, but there is a question to answer first: what is the best programming language for games?

While arguably most programming languages can be used to create games – making the question of what coding language is used for games tricky to answer – some choices do have more benefits than others. Additionally, choosing what programming languages to learn how to code may ultimately lock you into certain engines or frameworks as well, which further affects the development process of your game. To make a long story short, choosing the right game programming languages can be a stressful endeavor.

However, in this guide, we intend to cover some of the popular game programming languages available to you to learn for game development and provide the necessary information that may help you decide. If you’re ready to learn how to code and jumpstart your game development career or hobby, let’s dive into the best programming language for games!

Quick Comparison Overview

Need a quick look into the best programming language for games? We have you covered – but be sure to read the rest of the article for more information!

LanguageProsCons
JavaScriptGreat for browser-based and mobile games, easy to integrate with JS frameworks, easy maintainability, and better for less resource-intensive development.Limited option for 3D graphics, not highly efficient, limited game scope, smaller community support, not commonly used for console games.
C#Beginner-friendly, good for working on Windows, type-safe and relatively efficient, highly scalable, prime choice for Unity engine.Not widely used outside game engines, not as efficient as C++ or Java, less flexible due to .NET framework, less demanded in the gaming industry.
C++Highly efficient, large community support, good memory management, scalable, platform-independent, popular with professional developers.Complex to learn, cannot easily develop games without a framework, no automatic garbage collection, lacks some modern features, less secure.
JavaPreferred for Android mobile games, can utilize modern technologies for improved performance, suited for server development and multiplayer games, easy cross-platform portability.Limited community support for game development, potential latency issues, lacks game-specific libraries and engines, not supported on most modern consoles.

What is a Programming Language?

A programming language is a formal language composed of a set of instructions that produce various outputs. They enable humans to create scripts, applications, and programs that devices such as computers, tablets, and even game consoles can execute. From playing a song to running complex algorithms for scientific research, software of all types relies on programming languages.

When it comes to the development of video games, programming languages are the backbone. They’re used to create the logic behind everything that happens in the game. Everything from the rules of the game, the behavior of the characters, to every action taken during the gameplay is dictated by the code written in a specific programming language.

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Programming Languages and Game Development

The domain of game development often feels like an entirely different world. It involves complex calculations, artificial intelligence, real-time rendering, and much more. However, these advanced features would be nothing without the foundation of a proper programming language. Here’s what programming languages bring to the table:

  • Control Over The Game Logic: Every video game has a unique set of rules. Programming languages help bring these rules to life by forming the game logic.
  • Character Behavior: How characters react, their movements, their artificial logic all rely on programming languages.
  • User Interaction: Whether it’s input through a console controller, keyboard, or a mouse, capturing and responding to user interaction is achieved through programming.

In the following sections, we will delve into our choices for the best programming language for games. We will look at their advantages, their application, and why they may or may not be the perfect fit for your next gaming project. Whether you’re looking to build a simple 2D game, a mobile game, or a high-end PC game, the programming language you choose can significantly influence your game development journey.

If you just want to jump in and start learning, though, Zenva’s Game Development Mini-Degrees provide a robust foundation. They offer a comprehensive set of courses, covering everything from Unity and Unreal Engine to game design and artwork, that can transform you from a novice into an industry-ready game developer. It is a vital resource, providing hands-on training and practical projects that are perfectly aligned with the growing demands and complexities of modern game development.

JavaScript

Our first best programming language for games is JavaScript – one experienced developers might not expect on the list.

About

JavaScript is commonly known as one of the core pillars of web development.  It first appeared in 1995 and was designed to suit the new ECMAScript specifications that were attempting to standardize the web and web browsers.  While HTML informs web layouts and CSS informs web aesthetics, JavaScript is the true computer programming language that breathes life into websites, adding most amounts of interactivity you see on a day to day basis.

However, with the emergence of HTML5, JavaScript has also become the core pillar of HTML5 game development in terms of game programming languages.  As it was originally designed with both object-oriented and event-driven systems for web user interaction, this made it the perfect choice to extend for games.  Additionally, with Flash now being obsolete, it also made way for these sorts of HTML5 games to rise up and become the mainstay of browser-based game development.

If the web is your thing, JavaScript is the go-to here for best programming language for games.

Babylon JS solar system scene

Pros

  • As HTML5 games are based on the web, JavaScript makes it easy to make browser-based games and mobile games.
  • Given JavaScript is a core part of the web, it’s easy to integrate such games with JavaScript-based frameworks and libraries, like Node.js and Express, for multiplayer video game creation.
  • HTML5 games are generally the easiest to share since they can be hosted directly on a website for anyone to visit.
  • JavaScript is generally less resource-intensive for game development, meaning it’s great if you don’t have a powerful computer to develop games on.
  • Since JavaScript is an extremely stable coding language due to its need for the web, HTML5 games are easier to maintain and don’t require the same sort of updating games made with engines do.

Cons

  • Options for 3D graphics are limited to specific frameworks, generally forcing most people to rely on 2D graphics for their video games.
  • It is a rather high-level programming language for programming for games, so it isn’t as efficient as other game programming languages on this list in terms of how fast it performs tasks.
  • Due to not being as efficient, HTML5 games have more limits in terms of scope and size of the games you can make.
  • While JavaScript itself receives lots of support for web development, HTML5 game communities are a bit smaller compared to other popular programming languages and engines for video game development.
  • You don’t really see JavaScript being used as much for console games.

Turn-based RPG map screen made with Phaser

Relevant Engines & Frameworks

Popular Games Made with JavaScript

Where to Learn JavaScript

C#

Our next entry for best programming language for games is C# – let’s dive in. It’s also the one people may answer first if you ask what language are games coding in.

About

C# is a general-purpose programming language created in 2000 by Microsoft with the specific intent of working with their .NET framework.  Given the popularity of C++ and Java, it was designed to take the best of both programming languages and combine it into a new, easy-to-read, object-oriented programming language that had great cross-platform capabilities.  However, it also strove to keep businesses in mind so that it could be easily used for software development.

As for video games, C# also found a home in the industry due to its relative efficiency and scalability.  In particular, it became the default programming language for the popular Unity engine, with all modern Unity libraries being built around the language.  Given Unity is used for a large percentage of the video game industry, this has given it a tight hold in this regard. This said, it also had huge applications for up and coming player Godot as well.

With plenty of options, then, C# is truly a best programming language for games candidate.

City building game made with Unity and C#

Pros

  • Comparatively, C# is a very beginner-friendly language with fairly easy to read code.
  • Automatic memory management means you don’t have to do a deep dive into those aspects and can focus more on just developing your game.
  • As a language developed by Microsoft, it is a top choice for games on Windows PCs.  However, it is capable of working on most modern systems.
  • C# is a type-safe language, meaning your games will have more security and won’t exhibit tons of unexpected behaviors.
  • It is relatively efficient and scalable, meaning it’s well-suited when used to create game projects.

Cons

  • With some exceptions, outside of game engines, C# isn’t widely used for games.  Thus, an engine is almost required in this case for community support.
  • While more efficient than JavaScript, it isn’t as efficient as C++ or Java, meaning game performance can suffer if the video game is sufficiently complex.
  • As the language was designed to work specifically with Microsoft’s .NET framework, it isn’t as flexible as other game development languages on the list.
  • In the business world, while in high-demand for general business applications, it isn’t as demanded for game developers as C++ is.

2D RPG made with Unity

Relevant Engines & Frameworks

Popular Games Made with C#

Where to Learn C#

C++

Continuing on, no best programming language for games list is complete without C++ – a grandaddy of languages.

About

The C++ programming language was originally called “C with classes.”  It was created to take modern principles, like object-oriented computer programming, and combine it with the low-level features seen by languages such as C.  In so doing, it would allow users to more easily create their programs with readability, while not losing advanced features such as memory management.

Given its general-purpose nature, C++ has, all around, become one of the most widely used programming languages, having applications for software and – as is the topic of this article – games.  In fact, many modern engines, such as Unreal Engine, are built on the language, so learning to code C++ is considered key by many professional developers. Of the programming languages, then, this can be considered one of the most commonly used in general.

All combined, the efficiency of this powerhouse makes it a key player in the best programming language for games race.

Creating an Arcade-Style Game in the Unreal Engine

Pros

  • Being so close to C, C++ is amazingly efficient and is one of the fastest programming languages to choose if you have lots of complex tasks to run in your games.
  • C++ has perhaps the largest community and tutorial support given its universal usage almost everywhere.
  • Its ability to do things like memory management is very handy if you want tighter control on game performance.
  • It has a large amount of scalability and can be used for both small and large video game projects.
  • It is platform-independent, meaning you can port projects around very easily regardless of OS.

Cons

  • While there are plenty of game engines to use, finding lighter-weight frameworks for C++ game development can be a challenge.  You also can’t easily develop games with JUST C++.
  • Of the languages on this list, C++ is probably the most difficult to learn and is the least beginner-friendly.
  • Though C++ gives you more control over memory management and the like, this comes at the cost of lacking automatic garbage collection – which means more work on the developer’s end.
  • As an older language, some modern features seen in other languages are not present or standardized with C++.
  • Since C++ allows developers to do more, this also allows less security – meaning you could get tons of unexpected behavior in your games without intention.

How to Create a First-Person Shooter in the Unreal Engine

Relevant Engines & Frameworks

Popular Games Made with C++

Where to Learn C++

Java

Another unexpected entry, let’s discuss Java and why it’s also a best programming language for games.

About

Created in 1995, Java is an object-oriented programming language created for general computer programming.  The design principle behind the language was to have it require as few dependencies as possible – especially compared to other programming languages at the time and even now.  In so doing, this meant that programs created with Java could easily run on different systems as they weren’t as dependent on the underlying computer architecture.

Given this cross-platform nature, Java is used fairly extensively for application development.  However, in the realm of games, it also finds a place.  Though not as extensively used as other programming languages for game development on this list, quite a number of desktop games are still made with Java.  In addition, as the top choice programming language for Android devices, Java is commonly used by a number of developers for mobile games and apps.

Overall, its cross-platform nature makes Java game development a solid choice for the best programming language for games.

Pet database app made with Java

Pros

  • As Java is the foundation for Android devices, it is well-suited to making mobile games.
  • Despite its age, Java is capable of utilizing modern technologies like multi-threading for better game performance.
  • As long as the platform supports JVM, Java games can be run almost anywhere.  This includes systems like Linux.
  • It is well-suited to server development, so multiplayer games can be made fairly easily with Java without the need for extra libraries and so forth.

Cons

  • Even though successful games have been made with Java, it is not the standard choice for game development in the eyes of most developers.  Thus, community support for it in this field is limited.
  • Though it does have automatic memory management, it is known to have some latency issues for games because of that.
  • Few engines or libraries specific for game development exist for Java compared to other video game languages.
  • Most modern consoles do not support JVM, so despite its ability, Java games are often platform-limited in this regard.

Color selection app made with Java

Relevant Engines & Frameworks

Popular Games Made with Java

Where to Learn Java Game Programming

Best Programming Language for Games Wrap-Up

Unidentified person playing a game

As we hoped to establish here, there is no wrong or right programming language to learn to code when it comes to games. All of them have different features, different target platforms, and different sorts of developers who prefer them.  However, the collection here is, no doubt, some of the best programming languages you can opt to learn when it comes to game development. That being said, don’t be afraid to explore elsewhere as well, as you may find other languages easy to learn and expand your skills.

Many others of the best programming languages still find usage in games, and there are tons of frameworks and engines available that make use of the different programming languages available. So our best programming language for games list is by no means definitive.

Regardless of your choice for which is the best programming language for games, each is set to help you develop your game project.  So whether you pick C# so you can use Unity, want to dive into the challenge of developing with Java, or something else, learning to code is a profitable skill sure to help you in your long-time game hobby or career.

Regardless of your current skill level, Zenva’s Game Development Mini-Degrees can turn you into an industry-ready game developer. With a broad range of curriculums covering everything from Unity and Unreal Engine to game design and digital artwork, these invaluable resources align perfectly with our article’s focus on game development. These Mini-Degrees not only present a highly engaging blend of hands-on projects, interactive activities, and supplemental resources, but also bestow you with a Certificate of Completion, enhancing both your game development portfolio and your professional credibility.

So get out there, learn to code, make games, and develop skills to last you a lifetime!

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