There are hundreds of computer languages out there that can do all sorts of things. Picking one of them for a generic task can be a bit confusing.
However, when it comes to 3D game development, picking the best language is actually straight forward.
Throughout the article, I’ll be trying to convince you to go with C# if you’re new to game development (Just kidding, though I would highly recommend it for reasons that will be stated later in this article)
I have been using C# for more than 4 years for 3D game development, and I have made it my full time career job, and it’s the first thing that I would recommend to any friend who is interested in 3D game development.
However, I’ll still mention the details that you need to know to help you decide the best language for your specific case, So without any delays, let’s get started.
What is the best language for 3D game development?
There is not a single best programming language for 3D game development. The most common languages are C++ and C# when it comes to game development. Other languages like python, Java or Lua might be good options to build 3D video games depending on your project’s goals.
So which one should you choose? Well. It all depends on what you are aiming to achieve.
If you want making video games to be your career choice, then I would say either C# or C++ are the best options since these are some of the most demanded languages in the game development industry.
These languages are excellent for both 2D and 3D game development, and they are supported by most of the important tools that you need as a game developer.
If you are a hobbyist, or a student who wants to use a language that you already know, then you don’t have to stick to C# or C++.
With that said, I’ll list some of the languages that can be used for 3D game development, and then discuss when you should consider using them for your game development journey.
List of programming languages for 3D game development:
C++ is one of the top programming languages when it comes to game development. The main reason behind this is that the language is very fast.
As a C++ developer, you have more control over some low level features of the machines that the games run on. Memory allocation is one of those features.
While this type of control can increase the complexity of making games with C++, it gives you a chance to improve your game’s performance significantly.
After all, performance in game development is one of the most important things to keep an eye on. No matter how good your game is, if it doesn’t run on a steady FPS, it’ll have a hard time in the market.
Games need to perform complex operations every single frame. To be able to do that, you need to keep optimization in mind throughout the whole project pipeline, and C++ is a good choice when it comes to that.
The Unreal game engine uses C++ for its codebase, so if you are planning to use Unreal as your target game engine, then you have to go with C++.
If you don’t know what a game engine is, it is basically a software that provides you with a set of tools to make your game development job much easier, but this is a topic for another time.
Unity is another popular game engine that uses C++ under the hood. The core of the engine uses a combination of C++ and C#, however the developers who use the engine will have to use C#, which is our next language on the list.
This is the language that I would recommend for a friend if they ask me about game development.
C# is easy to learn (easier than C++), is powerful, and is supported by one of the leading game engines (Unity).
I have been using Unity and C# for more than 4 years, and it has been great for projects ranging from simple hyper casual games to large indie games.
As mentioned previously, Unity uses C++ underneath so you’ll still get some of the performance optimizations while using C# as the scripting language for your game.
So why should you pick C#? Because it is supported by a friendly game engine that powers hundreds of thousands of video games.
If you are not planning to use a game engine at all however, and instead prefer to build one yourself using 3D graphics libraries (I wouldn’t recommend it unless you have a very strong reason to do it. Don’t reinvent the wheel), then C# can still be an option for you, but C++ might be the better language to learn.
GDScript is another language on this list because it is supported by another increasingly popular game engine called Godot.
As you might have noticed after reading all this, the choice of which language is the best for your 3D game development journey comes down to what is the best game engine for you (Unless you want to build your own engine)
So why would you go for Godot? Well, Godot is open source and completely free.
The engine is intuitive and powerful at the same time. On top of this, it’s a free and open source software which has attracted a lot of game developers’ attention.
While Godot supports 5 languages during the date this article was written on, the main one is the GDScript.
GDScript is written specifically by the Godot team for the Godot engine. This means that the language integrates really well with the engine, and is well documented.
GDScript is made to look similar to Python, which is an easy language to learn compared to the others. GDScript is also the recommended option by the creators of Godot when you pick Godot as your game engine.
However, if you want to use C# or C++ with Godot, you can.
4- A visual scripting language
This is not a specific language, but a category of languages. If you are a game designer who doesn’t really want to learn how to code, but still wants to prototype games, then you could go for visual scripting.
Visual scripting is basically dragging and dropping commands and connecting them together to form the logic of the game. Instead of writing the institutions down with plain text, you visually edit instructions on a canvas.
Visual scripting languages introduce an easier point of entry to game development for those people who are scared from coding. Once you hit the limitations of the visual scripting languages, you can then switch to another coding language.
Unity, Unreal and Godot offer visual scripting languages for you to use.
That’s it for the top languages for game development. With that out of the way, I’ll conclude this article by mentioning a few quick other programming languages that can be used for game development:
Even though you can make some great games using these languages, I didn’t include them in the main list since the question is targeting the best languages and not “just game development languages”.
Python has some game development libraries that can be used (e.g. Pygame), however Pygame is not designed for 3D games which is the main topic of this article. There are other tools that make building 3D games with Python possible, but dealing with some of them can be a headache and sticking to an already established game engine might be the best option for you.
Java also has LibGDX which is a framework for game development, and it is not a bad option if you want to prototype games or maybe production games too, however I would still recommend that you stick to one of the top 3 languages mentioned previously, unless you are interested in Java and want to use it in game development to sharpen your skills.
That’s it from my side. If you would like to read more, you can check these other related articles on your free time: