As a solo game developer, your time, resources, and skills are limited compared to those of large teams. You do not have the luxury of dividing tasks among different team members, since you’re the only member in the team.
With that said, you’ll need to pick a game engine that can help you achieve the most without draining your resources and your time.
I am a solo game developer myself, I use the Unity game engine, and I highly recommend it for any solo developers looking to build their next indie game. However, I will also be mentioning 2 other game engines that you can use as a solo game developer in case you don’t want to go with Unity.
But before we dive into that, I would like to state that you should always consider other factors when you want to decide the game engine that you want to use.
For example, the type of graphics you are planning to use, whether your game is 2D or 3D, the genre of your game, your target platform and so on are all factors that can also affect your decision when it comes to game engines.
However, the engines that I am going to be listing in this article can generally handle a very wide range of game features and types, so we won’t be worrying too much about the other factors in this article.
With that out of the way, what is the best game engine for solo game developers?
Unity, Unreal and Godot are some of the best engines for solo developers. For most solo game developers though, Unity is usually the winner because of its ease of use, extensive set of features, learning resources availability, large community, and many other factors.
Unreal and Godot are also excellent options.
The rest of the article will be discussing the factors that make the 3 mentioned game engines a great option for solo developers.
What factors decide the best game engine for solo game developers?
1- Features sets and Assets availability
As a solo game developer, the more tools you have at your disposal, the quicker you’ll be able to release games.
If you pick a game engine that lacks certain features needed for your game, then you might have to waste a lot of time building these features yourself from scratch instead of just focusing on your game.
Unity, Unreal, and Godot are all packed with features that can get you started.
When Unity and Godot were created, they were aimed to be general purpose game engines that can provide tools and features for a large number of game genres.
Unreal on the other hand was first designed to be the game engine of a first person shooter game. However, the engine has evolved a lot since it was first created, and is now capable of handling a wide variety of game genres.
As of today, Unity has been my personal first choice when it comes to 2D games since it is rich with 2D features that can handle some of the most complex 2D game ideas.
Godot is also extremely good for 2D games while it still lacks behind a bit when it comes to 3D, but that is very likely to change soon as the team behind the engine are actively working on making the tool constantly better.
Unreal on the other hand excels when it comes to extremely realistic graphics.
What about asset availability? Unity’s Asset Store, and Unreal’s Marketplace contain a large number of assets made by other developers and artists that you can use in your game.
If you are working with Unity for example, and you need some features that are missing from the engine itself, you can go check the Asset store, and there is a very high chance that you’ll find an asset that fits your needs either for free or for a small price.
The same goes for Unreal marketplace. These assets can save you a ton of time, and time is one of your most valuable assets as a solo game developer.
2- Learning resources and the community
All 3 engines (Unity, Unreal and Godot) are very well documented. There are tutorials and example projects for each of the engines that are made by the official teams behind the engine.
When it comes to the communities however, Unity has the biggest community. You will find tons of excellent tutorials on YouTube that cover almost every aspect of the game engine.
You can also head to forums, ask questions, and you’ll generally receive some great answers quickly as long as you know how you structure your questions.
Unreal also has a very large and active community. You’ll find great tutorials online that can get you started, and the forums are also very active.
As for Godot, it does have a smaller community compared to the other 2 engines, however, the community is also large enough for you to be able to look for help when you’re stuck, and the Godot community seems to be getting bigger and bigger especially since the engine is open source.
3- Learning curve and ease of use
All 3 game engines have great and intuitive UIs. They also all support visual scripting in case you do not want to write code.
However, if you’re planning to code (which is something you have to learn/use in order to have much more control), then Unreal will have a steeper learning curve than Godot and Unity.
Unreal uses C++ as its scripting language. C++ is one of the best languages for game development since it is extremely fast and it gives the developers more control over the hardware resources. However, that comes with the price of it being harder to work with than other languages.
Unity uses C# which is generally easier to learn compared to C++, and Godot has their own language which is called GDScript. GDScript is similar to python, which is considered an easy language by many developers. Godot does support other languages, however the GDScript language is the recommended option since it integrates very well with the engine.
If you would like to learn more about the “Best Language for 3D game development”, then you can check this article.
In terms of costs, Godot is completely free. Godot is open source and its development is getting supported through donations as of now.
Unity and Unreal however might cost you some money. However, the pricing of the engines are extremely fair in my opinion.
Both engines allow you to use the engine for free unless your games or your organization generates a certain amount of revenue, and even then, the prices are very reasonable.
My personal opinion when it comes to the costs of these engines is that it is not a barrier at all since both Unity and Unreal allow you to use the free versions if your games haven’t made money beyond certain limits.
While I usually suggest Unity for solo game developers since I’ve been using it for years, Unreal and Godot are also excellent options too. Unreal’s realism is unmatched, and Godot is open source which makes it more desirable by many developers.