Editor's note: We've gone ahead and written an updated version of this blog for 2023; you can check it out right here! In the new version of this piece, you can find information about the tools/engines themselves, as well as practical considerations for choosing the tool that works best for you and your game.
Are you interested in creating your own video games? Have you had an idea for one, but haven't known how to go about turning it into a real game? In today's gaming world, you don't have to be an employee of a gaming company to have your game created. You don't even have to have a deep knowledge of coding. If you're considering creating your own video game, here are the best free game making tools available.
If have no gaming experience, or if you want to make puzzle or side-scroller games, then check out Stencyl. It requires no coding. All you do is drag and drop. It's difficult to do anything complex with Stencyl, because of its simplicity, but it's great for puzzle games, and is a good place to start.
Game Maker Studio
If you're new to game making, check out Game Maker Studio. You don't need to know any coding to use this program. Game Maker Studio offers a drag and drop system, which makes game developing faster than coding from scratch. If you do know some coding, or want to learn it, Game Maker Studio has their build-in scripting language, and they offer tutorials and guides to teach you the basics of game making. With Game Maker Studio, you can create adventure games, RPGs, platform, or racing games. They do not allow for multi-player, however; and all the games are in a 2D format. Still, it's a great system to learn the basics and get started. When you have completed the game, Game Maker Studio will produce an app that's compatible with iOS, Android, Windows, or Mac.
If you want to make a 3D game, then check out Unity. Unity allows you to make both 2D and 3D games, and supports virtually every platform, including computer systems, smart device systems, consul systems, and online. Unity's system is easy to learn, and includes an asset library so you don't have to create everything from scratch. Unity does use its own programming language, so you may need to study up on it to make your creating experience smoother. Unity is free, but does offer a pro option for more advanced gaming needs, but the free version has enough tools that most hobbyists will never need the pro version.
Unreal Engine is for more advanced builders. Even if you have experience in C++, there's still a steep learning curve at times during the creation process. Unreal has a full development kit, which will make it more difficult for beginners, but will allow you to create very professional looking games. Unreal offers 3D modeling tools and landscape systems that go beyond the scope of more beginner friendly systems. There are tutorials to help you learn the system. When your game is complete, you can release your Unreal game on iOS, Android, PC, Mac, Playstation 4, or Xbox One. If you decide to monetize your game, you must pay a royalty fee to Unreal, but it only has to be paid if your game makes money.
If you want to make an RPG will a narrative storyline, check out RPG Maker. The system is fairly easy to learn, and has drag and drop options, so you don't have to have an extensive knowledge of coding. RPG Maker provides tutorials to help you make your first game, and they start you with a free pack of art and music assets so you don't have to draw your own graphics. It'll take some work to make anything more than a simple RPG with this system, but it is possible. Several popular RPG games have been made with RPG Maker.