Best Coding Languages for Game Development

Best Programming Languages for Game Development

So, you’re ready to start creating your very own video games.  However, there comes an important question to answer when you start: what programming language should you learn how to code?

While arguably most programming languages can be used to create games, including high-level languages like Python, 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 programming languages can be a stressful endeavor.

However, in this guide, we intend to cover some of the popular 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 languages for games!

Two games on a sofa playing games

JavaScript

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 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.

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 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 programming 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 games.
  • It is a rather high-level programming language, so it isn’t as efficient as other 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.

Turn-based RPG map screen made with Phaser

Relevant Engines & Frameworks

Games Made with JavaScript

Where to Learn JavaScript

C#

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 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 game industry, this has given it a tight hold in this regard.

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 game is sufficiently complex.
  • As the language was designed to work specifically with Microsoft’s .NET framework, it isn’t as flexible as other programming 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

Games Made with C#

Where to Learn C#

C++

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.

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 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

Games Made with C++

Where to Learn C++

Java

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 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.

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 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

Games Made with Java

Where to Learn Java

Conclusion

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.

Regardless of your choice, 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.

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

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