Consumer video game development software doesn’t just let more people make video games, it makes the video game industry itself more democratic. Removing arbitrary barriers to entry only improves an art form. Godot is a free and open source engine, so there’s nothing stopping you from taking advantage of this powerful 2D and 3D game development tools. GameMaker, our Editors’ Choice pick, offers better console support and is a little easier for coding novices to grasp, but Godot is an excellent option for the smart and frugal aspiring developer.
What Kinds of Games Can You Make?
Typically, 3D development tools are what separate consumer-level game dev software from more professional alternatives. You can only make flat 2D games with Construct and Stencyl. GameMaker has limited 3D graphics support, but is still primarily built for 2D games. Today’s blockbuster games rely on robust engines like Unity and Unreal to push pretty polygons, engines made for companies and people already seriously dedicated to game development as a career.
Godot proves there’s nothing stopping smaller engines from offering impressive 3D support. Browse Godot’s game showcase and you’ll see everything from 2D, side-scrolling platformers to top-down shmups to strategy titles. You’ll also see stunning, 3D rail shooters and beautiful first-person, exploration-focused games. You can even make virtual reality and augmented reality games. Fuze4 enables surprisingly complex 3D development, but those games are locked to the Nintendo Switch app’s closed ecosystem. Godot’s games flourish on open indie storefronts like itch.io, where the engine enjoys modest popularity among the community.
That said, even by indie standards, Godot games remain somewhat obscure. GameMaker inspires confidence in potential users by showing off all the famous, acclaimed indie games (Hotline Miami, Katana Zero, Nidhogg) made with the engine. Unless you really loved the recent Commander Keen remaster, you probably won’t find as many well-known Godot games. This isn’t necessarily a flaw, just an observation. Maybe you’ll be the one whose hit breakout game turns Godot into the next big thing.
Price and Platforms
Godot is completely free and open source. The only other totally free game dev program we’ve tested is Twine, and Godot’s games are far more varied and substantial than Twine’s text adventures. Otherwise, prices for competing software ranges from $99 per year for a Stencyl or Construct subscription to $199 for a permanent GameMaker license. If you want to financially help Godot, you can subscribe to the Godot’s Patreon for Discord access and early looks at new features.
Despite costing nothing, Godot still supports most major platforms. Godot runs on Windows, macOS, and Linux, and you can export your games to all of those operating systems. You can also export games to the web as HTML5 and onto Android and iOS devices. On mobile, you can even add in-app purchase functionality.
However, Godot doesn’t support consoles by default. To get your games in front of the massive audiences on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, and Nintendo Switch, you’ll need to either do that porting work yourself or hire one of Godot’s recommended third-party partners. Consoles makers also charge serious money for the right to put games on their platforms. GameMaker’s price balloons to nearly $1,500 when you opt for official console licenses.
Developing With Godot
Games contain so many parts, not just things players experience like songs and visuals. There’s also the vast and the invisible underlying logic telling everything how to function. Creating and keeping track of all these moving pieces quickly becomes the most complicated part of game development, even for seasoned pros.
Godot’s workflow structure does an elegant job organizing projects even as they become exponentially more complex. Nearly every key piece of data, from objects to animations to functions, exists as a “node” you place inside “scenes.” Nodes branch off each other, with parent nodes affecting their children. Efficient Godot users group related node cluster in their script. In the simple Pong clone template I downloaded and studied during testing, I quickly and easily saw which nodes dictated the ball’s movement and controlled the variables for colliding with the paddle. 2D and 3D elements have their editing windows, with 3D editing featuring advanced rendering techniques, such as normal mapping textures, specular reflections, and dynamic global illumination.
You have several options for coding nodes. For traditional text-based coding, Godot supports languages, such as C++ and Rust, alongside its custom Python-like GDScript language. For beginners, though, visual languages are much easier to initially comprehend. Godot provides a visual scripting language called VisualScript.
Programming with VisualScript isn’t quite as intuitive as programming with visual languages from GameMaker, Construct, and Stencyl. Those engines aren’t as powerful, however. They don’t ask you to worry about lots of physics or Z-axis camera placement. Still, Godot’s visual language requires such a strong grasp of coding principles, such as understanding the complex mathematical formula behind a relatively basic in-game action like jumping, that it would make more sense to just actually learn how to code like a true professional. In some cases, traditional code even looks cleaner and easier to read than VisualScript.
It Takes a Village
I had a lot of questions while learning Godot, but fortunately it was never hard to find an answer. Godot provides extensive documentation with clear explanations for even its most confusing concepts. I wish the software itself walked users through making their first game, but you can find plenty of tutorial videos that essentially do just that.
As open source software, Godot also has a strong community that’s expanding what the tool’s capabilities. You can download all sorts of free assets and example games. You can also download custom scripting bits to give Godot new features that might otherwise be missing, such as a sprite image editor or a way to patch online multiplayer into your game. Instead of a corporate product, this makes Godot feel like a free-flowing, creative instrument we share and improve together as a radical hacker collective.
Godot’s node system grounds your scripting in a way that lets you build bigger games without losing sight of its core functions. That also describes Godot itself, a versatile 2D and fully 3D game development tool with such a powerful base that it grows and evolves without becoming too unwieldy. And it’s totally free!
That said, even with Godot’s consumer-friendly changes, amateurs might have a tough time getting onboard. GameMaker, a more polished experience for beginners and smoother entry to console publishing, remains our Editor’s Choice pick for consumer-level game development software.
|Platform||Windows, Android, iOS, Linux, Mac, Web|
|Community Marketplace / Gallery||Yes|
|Requires Some Coding||No|