Robert Johns | 16 Jan, 2024
Benjamin Semah | Co-author
Fact checked by Jim Markus

7 Best Programming Languages for Game Development in 2024

In this article, we explore the best programming languages for game development in 2024.

One thing’s for sure: the games industry is certainly booming, with revenue expectations of more than $365bn in 2024!

As an industry, gaming has evolved from simple (but hugely fun!) arcade games to sophisticated and immersive experiences that captivate millions of players worldwide.

But how are these games created? Simple, skilled developers using programming languages for game development! 

Perhaps you’ve always wanted to take the leap from gamer to game dev? I mean, why not? If you love games, why not create them?

Plus, when you consider that the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics reports an average salary in excess of $130K for software developers, now’s the time to learn the best programming languages for game development.

So, if you’re ready, let’s dive in!

Best Programming Languages for Game Development

Best Programming Languages for Game Development

1. C++

Pros

Cons

  • Supported by Unreal Game Engine
  • Large online community/open-source code
  • Cross-platform language
  • Difficult for beginners to learn

For many of us, myself included, C++ is one of the best programming languages for games due to its high performance and versatility. 

Take a look at any C++ course, and you’ll see that it’s ideal for any application that needs to be performant.

And while you might start out using C++ for less exciting tasks, it’s really quite impressive for game development.

As a statically typed and compiled language, it’s really efficient in execution speed and memory, which is ideal for developing games.

C++ also offers control over graphic processing and hardware, which is essential for creating complex and high-performance games. 

Plus, being an object-oriented programming language, it enables you to organize your code into reusable, modular components that can be easily managed and maintained.

The gaming industry has a long history of using C++ for a reason, which also means that there’s a wealth of resources and tools like libraries and frameworks for C++ game development.

 

Key Game Development Features:

Game Engines

Popular Games

Platforms

  • Unreal Engine
  • CryEngine
  • Godot
  • Minecraft
  • World of Warcraft
  • League of Legends
  • Windows, MacOS, Linux
  • iOS, Android
  • PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo

2. C#

Pros

Cons

  • Seamless integration with Visual Studio
  • Fast and efficient
  • Compatibility with the popular Unity Engine
  • Mostly dependent on Unity

C# is another popular language for game development, thanks in part to its close links with Unity.

And while many of us might have started out with C# for less exciting projects (I still remember my CMS with ASP.NET!), it’s ideal for game development.

As a modern, object-oriented programming language, it was developed by Microsoft and mostly used with the .NET framework. 

The benefit here is that you can access a large set of libraries and tools for developing various applications, including games.

Known for simplicity, readability, and ease of use, C# is one of the best gaming programming languages.

This means it lets you focus on creating high-quality games without getting bogged down by complex technical details.

The language itself is statically-typed, meaning it provides strong type safety and reduces the likelihood of run-time errors.

This is ideal for game development compared to dynamically-typed languages.

C# is also an efficient language that supports multithreading and parallel programming, which is crucial for game development, as it lets your code efficiently use hardware resources.

 

Key Game Development Features:

Game Engines

Popular Games

Platforms

  • Unity
  • Godot
  • HeroEngine
  • Pokémon Go
  • Cuphead
  • Stardew Valley
  • Windows, MacOS, Linux
  • iOS, Android
  • Web-based

3. JavaScript

Pros

Cons

  • Easy to learn and use
  • Plenty of libraries/frameworks
  • Ideal for browser-based games
  • Mostly for web-based games
  • Being interpreted affects performance

If you’ve taken a JavaScript course, chances are that you were thinking about learning web development!

And while it may not be your first thought when looking for the best game coding language, it’s become popular for various applications, including games, thanks to its versatility.

As a high-level, interpreted programming, it’s also dynamically typed, which means data types are determined at run-time and not at compile-time.

I like this, as it makes it easier to write code quickly, but you do need to watch out for typing errors when developing games.

Overall, JavaScript is an expressive language that’s great for writing code intuitively that other developers can always read and understand.

A strong feature of JavaScript is the fact that it’s non-blocking, which means it’s well-suited for writing asynchronous code. 

I’m sure you can imagine how important this is for responsive games that handle lots of requests.

The TL-DR is that this provides a fast user experience.

Games made with JavaScript can also run on any browser, making them easier to distribute.

I always like this about JS: I can write it once, and it can run anywhere!

Key Game Development Features:

Game Engines

Popular Games

Platforms

  • Phaser
  • MelonJS
  • PandaEngine
  • Alchemy
  • Gods Will Be Watching
  • Cross Code
  • Web browsers
  • Desktop platforms
  • Server-side platforms

4. Swift

Pros

Cons

  • Ideal for building macOS/iOS games
  • Easy to learn and use
  • Large and active online community
  • Mostly limited to Apple platforms
  • Little game engine support

Swift is a high-performance programming language from Apple for that’s ideal for developing software for iOS, iPadOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS. 

And by software, of course, we mean apps and gaming apps!

As a modern programming language, Swift offers many features that make it well-suited for developing games.

One of the key benefits is its speed and performance. Swift code is compiled into machine code, allowing it to run efficiently and making it a good choice for demanding tasks like gaming.

Take any Swift course for iOS development, and you’ll learn this early on.

I also like the fact that Swift has a strong type system and automatic reference counting (ARC), because this ensures my code is safe, secure, and easy to maintain

Trust me, this is ideal when developing large and complex games. 

It also offers libraries like SpriteKit and SceneKit to let you easily add high-quality 2D and 3D graphics to your games.

 

Key Game Development Features:

Game Engines

Popular Games

Platforms

  • SpriteKit
  • SceneKit
  • ARKit
  • Herodom
  • Skillzone
  • iOS & macOS
  • Linux
  • Web-based

5. Java

Pros

Cons

  • Popular for Android game development
  • JVM allows for cross-platform use
  • Limited access to low-level hardware
  • Games can have large file sizes

Java is definitely one of the most well-known programming languages, but did you know that it’s also good for game development?

Sure, I agree, it may not be an obvious competitor for C++ or C# when handing out the title of best coding language for games, but hear me out!

Java has built-in portability: remember, Java code can run on any device with the Java Virtual Machine (JVM) installed. The definition of code once, run anywhere!

Take any Java course, and this is one of the main features you’ll be taught about.

But for you and me, this makes it ideal for game development on multiple platforms.

Also, as an OOP language, Java is great for developing large-scale applications, including games. 

Java also offers socket programming, which is essential for two-way communication with servers, which means you can conveniently build multiplayer games. 

The JavaFX library also offers a comprehensive set of tools for working with graphics and animations.

Plus, as you’d expect, Java has a large and active community of developers, making it easy to find resources and help.

 

Key Game Development Features:

Game Engines

Popular Games

Platforms

  • jMonkeyEngine
  • Jake2
  • LibGDX
  • Minecraft
  • Runescape
  • Mission Impossible III
  • Windows, MacOS, Linux
  • Android
  • Web-based

6. Lua

Pros

Cons

  • Fast and efficient
  • Foundational language for Roblox
  • Easy to learn and use
  • Less community support due to smaller presence

Now, Lua may not have the same massive reputation as some of the big hitters on our list, but trust me, it’s a fast and flexible gaming coding language.

This makes it ideal for scripting game logic or creating mods and extensions.

In fact, if you’ve heard of Roblox, you should know that Lua was used to create this massively popular game!

For me, this is a massive accomplishment! It’s also used within the game to let users create their own games and to allow player customization.

One of the major benefits of Lua is the ability to quickly and easily modify game behavior without recompiling game code. 

It’s also useful for creating game modification interfaces that let users alter the behavior of a game.

 

Key Game Development Features:

Game Engines

Popular Games

Platforms

  • WorldForge
  • Cocos2D
  • CraftStudion
  • Roblox
  • Age of Canon
  • Broken Age
  • Windows, MacOS, Linux
  • iOS, Android
  • Web-based

7. Python

Pros

Cons

  • Easy to learn
  • Good for rapid prototyping
  • Large and active online community
  • No hardware control or memory management

We’ve made it to the final entry on our list, and would you believe it, but Python is also useful for game development!

Now, quick disclaimer, Python is not supposed to be used to create the next MMORPG like Fortnite!

But, it does have something to offer, so don’t be so fast to dismiss it!

Yes, take any Python course, and you’ll be told about how great it is for data tasks, but trust me, it’s also adept at game development!

As a high-level, interpreted programming language, it’s actually one of the best choices for games when you need to knock up a rapid prototype.

Plus, with its inherent flexibility, it’s ideal for game developers that want to quickly iterate and refine their game design.

Overall, Python is renowned for simple and straightforward syntax that’s easy to learn, even for newbies to programming. 

Python also offers a large standard library with support for basic graphics, networking, and sound. This makes it easy for developers to get started with game development.

It’s also nice to know that game engines often use Python to provide scripting interfaces.

These allow developers to create game logic and mechanics without writing code in a more complex programming language.

 

Key Game Development Features:

Game Engines

Popular Games

Platforms

  • PyGame
  • Ren.py
  • Godot
  • Mount and Blade
  • Toontown
  • Battlefield 2
  • Windows, MacOS, Linux
  • iOS, Android
  • Web-based

What Is the Best Language for Game Development?

Got this far, but still not sure what is the best programming language for games?

I get it! They all sound like they’re good for the job, but to help you out, I’ve tried to organize the different languages by use case.

Take a look at the list below to quickly choose the best gaming programming language for your project.

  • Best Programming Languages for Simple Games: Python, Lua, JavaScript, C#
  • Best Programming Languages for Beginners: Python, Lua, JavaScript, Java, C#
  • Best Programming Languages for 3D Games: C++, C#
  • Best Programming Languages for AR/VR Games: C++, C#, JavaScript, Swift
  • Best Programming Languages for PC Games: C++, C#, Java, Python 
  • Best Programming Languages for Console Games: C++, C#
  • Best Programming Languages for AAA games: C++, C#
  • Best Programming Languages for Android Games: Java, C++, C#
  • Best Programming Languages for iOS Games: Swift, C++, C#
  • Best Programming Languages for Web Games: JavaScript, Python

What Is Game Development?

Video game development is the process of transforming game ideas into actual games for users to play. If you want to make games, you want people to play them!

From experience, it’s a great feeling to create any piece of software and see others use it and enjoy it!

The process itself includes refining concepts, designing interfaces, planning architecture, and creating the game by writing the code that makes it function.

That said, let’s look at the typical stages of game development:

  1. Conceptualization: The concept, video game design, and storyline are conceived via brainstorming. We found Will Wright’s game design Masterclass excels in this area.
  2. Pre-Production: Defining a project plan with a timeline & resource allocation. This covers factors like target audience, gameplay mechanics, and art style.
  3. Production: Game developers use tools and technologies like game engines, programming languages, and graphic design software to bring the game to life.
  4. Testing: Once the game is built, it goes through testing to identify and fix any bugs or glitches. Fun times!
  5. Release: After testing, the game is released to platforms like PC, Xbox, PS5, mobile devices, etc.
  6. Maintenance: Game developers provide ongoing support and maintenance, fixing any issues that arise while also adding updates or new content.

Gaming Platforms

Gaming platforms are the systems where game programmers deploy their games and where users play the games.

We might not think of them as platforms because they’re so familiar to us as gamers, but common examples are:

  • Consoles: Sony PlayStation, Microsoft Xbox, Nintendo Switch, etc. These have dedicated hardware designed for gaming and often include wireless controllers.
  • PC: A computer system that runs Windows and occasionally MacOS or Linux. Users have more control over hardware, including GPUs, monitors, mouse and keyboard, etc.
  • Mobiles: Platforms like iOS and Android offer games that are optimized for touchscreen devices like tablets and smartphones.
  • Web-based platforms: Play directly in a web browser without additional software installation. Common web-based gaming platforms include Armor Games, Miniclip, and CrazyGames. 
  • Augmented Reality (AR) & Virtual Reality (VR): These use special hardware designed to create an immersive gaming experience, usually via special headsets and hand-tracking controllers. Check out the Meta Quest 2 for an example of an all-in-one VR headset.

Game Engines

Game engines are development environments or game frameworks that make game development more convenient.

But why use a game engine?

Well, if you’re taking any form of game design course, you’ll quickly learn that there is A LOT that goes into creating a game!

Enter the game engine, as this offers a suite of tools and reusable components that speed up the processes of building a game. Sounds good to me!

The general idea is to use pre-built functionalities rather than coding from scratch, which frees up your and my time to focus more on creating unique features for the game.

They also tend to include a renderer for creating graphics, a physics simulation engine, a scripting language, and other features.

If you’ve spent any time learning about game engines, you’ll probably know about the battle between Unity and Unreal Engine for the most popular game engine, but there are more on offer as well.

 

 

 

 

If you want the TL-DR, some of the most common functionalities offered by game engines include:

  • Rendering 2D/3D graphics
  • Animations
  • Scripting
  • Memory management
  • Networking
  • Streaming
  • Collision detection

I’ve summarized some of the most popular and some of the smaller game engines below, including key features, supported languages, and popular games created with them.

Game Engine

Popular Games

Supported Languages

Features

Unity

  • Pokémon Go
  • Cuphead
  • Fall Guys: Ultimate K.O.
  • C#
  • Cross-platform
  • Powerful 2D & 3D graphics
  • Large & active community

Unreal Engine

  • Fortnite
  • Gears of War
  • Mass Effect
  • C++
  • Support for AR & VR
  • Advanced networking & multiplayer support
  • Active developer community

CryEngine

  • Far Cry
  • Hunt: Showdown
  • Prey
  • C++
  • Multi-platform
  • Buoyancy & water simulation
  • What you see is what you get (WYSIWYG) sandbox

Defold

  • Plague Lords
  • Interrogation
  • Apple Spider
  • Lua
  • Animations for sprites & 2D components
  • GUI editor & reusable templates
  • Very lightweight

Godot

  • Endoparasitic
  • Dome Keeper
  • Blastronaut
  • GDScript 
  • C++
  • Visual editor with simple UI
  • IDE with integrated offline documentation

Phaser

  • One Dark Fright
  • Submarine Dash
  • Bayou Island
  • JavaScript
  • 2D framework for HTML5 
  • Uses Pixi.js rendering library

Buildbox

  • Cube 2048
  • Ant Smasher
  • Space Shooter
  • C++
  • Beginner-friendly documentation

Cocos Creator

  • Wirewalk
  • Top War
  • JavaScript
  • Real-time preview & debugging
  • Support for 2D & 3D games

Source 2

  • Artifact
  • Dota Underlords
  • Half-Life: Alyx
  • C++
  • Cross-platform
  • Advanced physics simulation
  • Dynamic lighting

What Makes a Language Good for Game Development?

What Makes a Language Good for Game Development?

Programming languages differ in features and core functionalities, with some having areas they are well suited for.

For example, if I’m working on a data science project, I might think about R, while I might look to Python for AI projects.

Let’s take a look at some of the qualities that make a good language for video game development.

  • Performance: Game development often involves complex simulations and real-time rendering, which require high performance.
  • Memory management: Games typically require lots of memory, which needs to be managed efficiently for strong performance.
  • Interoperability: Game developers often need to integrate various libraries and tools, which extends to interoperability with other languages.
  • Portability: Games are often developed for multiple platforms, so it helps if a language can easily cross-compile.
  • Ease of use: This makes game development accessible to a wider range of developers.
  • Community and support: Provides developers with access to resources, libraries, and tools that make development faster and more efficient while helping with debugging or optimization.

Wrapping Up

So there you go, the 7 best programming languages for game development in 2024, including favorites like C++ and C#, alongside newcomers like Lua and surprise entrants like Python.

Maybe you’re brand new to game development, and you’re not sure where to start.

After all, choosing the best language for game programming must be crucial to the success of your project, right?

Well, don’t worry!

To help you choose the best programming language for game development, we’ve broken each down by pros and cons, game engine compatibility, and platform support.

Whatever your career goals and objectives, there should be enough information to help you navigate the world of game development.

Happy gaming, and be sure to let us know in the comments which language you choose and tell us about any games you’ve built!

 

Have you decided to become a game developer, and are you itching to start? Check out 

Unity's Ultimate Guide to Game Development on Udemy

Frequently Asked Questions

1. C# Or C++, Which Is Better for Game Programming?

C# and C++ are both popular languages for game development, as they’re fast, efficient, and supported by the two largest game engines, with C# being used on Unity and C++ with Unreal Engine.

For advanced programmers, C++ is a good option, as it is a lower-level language with fewer layers of abstraction, offering control over hardware and graphical processes. If you’re a beginner, C# may be the better option, as learning is easier.

2. What Is the Best Language for Game Development?

There is no one-size-fits-all all answer to this question. The best language for game programming will depend on your needs and preferences.

If you want to create AAA games, you’ll need to use C++ or C#, but if you want to create Android games, perhaps Java is the best choice. If you’re unsure which to use, look closely at our section on the best languages for different use cases.

3. What Are the Easiest Languages for Game Development?

The easiest languages to learn for game development are probably those with a syntax similar to English, as it makes them more readable and beginner-friendly. Python and JavaScript are both great choices in this regard. If you do have some coding experience, you should also consider Lua, Java, and C#.

References

1. Statista. Video Games - Worldwide [Internet]. Statista; [date unknown; cited 2024 Jan 15]. Available from: https://www.statista.com/outlook/dmo/digital-media/video-games/worldwide

2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2022, 15-1252 Software Developers [Internet]. [updated 2021 Mar 31; cited 2024 Jan 15]. Available from: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes151252.htm

By Robert Johns

Technical Editor for Hackr.io | 15+ Years in Python, Java, SQL, C++, C#, JavaScript, Ruby, PHP, .NET, MATLAB, HTML & CSS, and more... 10+ Years in Networking, Cloud, APIs, Linux | 5+ Years in Data Science | 2x PhDs in Structural & Blast Engineering

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