how to make a html5 game

How to Make a HTML5 Game

What exactly is a HTML5 game

Let’s start from total zero. What is HTML5? that’s a tricky question. There is a official definition of HTML5, which simply stands for the latest revision of HTML (the markup language used all over the world to build websites), and the more hyped definition (what most people understand when HTML5 is mentioned) which is all the “new” features of the web technologies that have come out in the last few years (JavaScript API’s like the Canvas or WebAudio, semantic HTML tags, etc).

For our purpose we’ll use bits of the two. HTML5 is HTML in it’s latest version, which includes a whole bunch of cool features that make the web technologies an open standard with endless possibilities combining HTML, CSS and JavaScript.

Having HTML along with all these super powers that go beyond making a simple website allows us to make, among other things, games. These are HTML5 games.

 Building blocks

The very basic building blocks of a HTML5 game are those of the web:

  • HTML
  • CSS
  • JavaScript

Similarly to what happens with HTML5, when people talk about CSS3 they usually refer to the new things that come with CSS’s latest specifications, but in an analog manner, CSS3 is simply the latest CSS. Ignoring for a second the semantics of these definitions and thinking of the hyped versions of these terms, we also may need, in order to make HTML5 games:

  • HTML5 (JavaScript API’s)
  • CSS3

With the above you can make awesome games that will run on modern web browsers on mobile and desktop, but some games might require more features, so there are more building blocks that you can add.

For instance, you may want to make 3D games. If that is the case there is also WebGL, which is a JavaScript API to render 2D and 3D graphics on the browser, using the GPU for greater performance.

Server side

If you want your games to saved data remotely you’ll need a server-side for your game. You can develop your own backend using any server-side language, you’ll need well a server in this case.

  • PHP
  • JavaScript (NodeJS)
  • Java
  • Python
  • Ruby

Or you can use a third-party Backend-as-a-Service provider. Some have free versions you can use and they’ll start charging you once you surpass certain limits. Some of these providers are particularly focused on games, some are mostly conceived for mobile apps but can be used for games too.

How to distribute a HTML5 game

The easiest way to distribute a HTML5 is to simply put it out there! By being built as a website, you can just embed it in on a page and publish it. Just like that.

If you want to distribute it through proprietary platforms you have to go through a process called wrapping. Basically you create a native app for the platform you wanna distribute it to (iOS, Android, etc) and put your game inside so that this app acts like a web browser and “runs” your game.

Phonegap is a popular tool used for this purpose which supports several platforms. It also gives you access to more advanced phone API’s so that for instance you can access the phone contacts or calendar from your HTML5 game.

For desktop platforms such as Windows, Mac or Linux there is a tool called node webkit that allows you to pack your HTML5 games for these platforms.

HTML5 game frameworks

Most games share some concepts, that of sprites (graphic elements that represent enemies, players, elements in your game), scenes or stages, animations, sound, loading graphic assets, etc. Since most game developers want to focus on their actual game and not in creating this whole abstraction layer, it is recommended you use a HTML5 game frameworks.

HTML5 game frameworks and libraries that contain building components you can use to create your own games. These libraries are Open Source projects created and maintained by people who want to contribute to the HTML5 gamedev environment. In many cases they created the frameworks for their own games, and after realizing that other people would want to not only use it but also contribute to it they released them as Open Source code, so everybody wins.

Picking what game engine to use is an important decision, so make sure you do proper research before making your choice. No matter what engine you pick, you will have to get familiar with its code and inner working if you want to use properly, so they shouldn’t be treated as black boxes.

What can help you make your choice:

  • Is your game for desktop, mobile or both?
  • Do they have an active community?
  • Are there many people using the framework nowadays?
  • Is it being maintained or the Github page looks like an abandoned town?

Sometimes looking at real games gives you more insight than just words. This project compares different engines by making the exact same Breakout game in all of them.

Some popular free frameworks are:

HTML5 game development courses

Video courses are a great way to learn new technologies. The main difference between a video course and just watching YouTube videos is that there is more structure. Good courses have a clear goal and build on to it step by step. Below a list of courses by Zenva that can give you the tools you need to create HTML5 games.


Other HTML5 Game Development Frameworks:


HTML5 Skills:

Server-Side Development (to make a backend for your games)


HTML5 game tutorials

At the GameDev Academy, as you know already we have a bunch of HTML5 game development tutorials, mostly on Phaser, LimeJs, Quintus and BabylonJS. There are other great places to find good quality HTML5 gamedev tuts:

HTML5 gamedev communities

You can find plenty of active communities on the Internet, some focus on gamedev in general and some others just in HTML5 gamedev.



Google Plus:

HTML5 gamedev challenges

  • One Game a Month is one of the most active initiatives on the web for starting game developers. It consists on a pledge of making 1 game per month, no matter how basic or ugly. You make one game, you move on. It’s a great community and I recommend you check it out.
  • j13k competition: Contest to make a HTML5 game of only 13 kb, quite a challenge! the 2013 competition is over but don’t miss out 2014’s!

 HTML5 gamedev podcasts

I just know Lostcast, a podcast created by the guys from Lost Decade Games (whom we’ve interviewed in the past). In the podcast episodes they talk about they HTML5 games and game development in general.


Are we missing interesting resources in this article? Do you wanna help us out? Feel free to use the comments section bellow


Published by

Pablo Farias Navarro

Pablo is an educator, developer and entrepreneur. Founder of Zenva, Pablo has published over 30 online courses that teach game, app and web development. Pablo has also created educational content for companies such as Amazon and Intel.

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