Top 10 Mobile Game Development Tools
A Mobile Game Development Platform can greatly simplify your life when it comes to building games for mobile devices. As with any other software project, having the right game development tools can mean the difference between success and failure.
But which platform is the right one for you? That's where "Top X" lists come into play. Each purports to tell you which products are the most popular, or most powerful, or whatever. And each reviewer uses their own criteria to decide what makes the cut. That makes these lists highly subjective.
To get around the problem, I surveyed several of the existing "Top X" lists to see which products came up again and again. While between them the lists I looked at contained dozens of game development tools and platforms, certain products appeared again and again. I pulled the top 10 development platforms / tools to make this list.
Here's the list, in alphabetical order:
- Construct 2
- Fusion 2.5
- GameMaker Studio
- Gideros Mobile
- Unreal Engine 4
For each product in the list, I created a short summary of the characteristics that would be most relevant to developers. It should only take you a few minutes to read through these summaries and get a good idea of which products you want to look at yourself in depth.
You've got a game to develop so let's get to it.
Construct 2, by Scirra Ltd, is a tool to check out if your interest is 2D games that will run on a wide range of platforms. They support iOS, Android, Windows Phone, and Blackberry. But they go much further. You can run Construct 2 games on desktop operating systems (including Linux) as well a bunch of others. And you can build HTML5 web games too.
Construct 2 uses a drag-and-drop interface to place objects. You can easily add behaviors and events to your objects to bring it all to life. The Event System is designed to be easy to read, and the resulting Event Sheets can be reused elsewhere in the game. You can preview your game in a browser without compiling, and the Preview Over WiFi feature makes it easy to test on various devices.
- Single or multiplayer
- Asynchronous A* pathfinding
- Intel® XDK support
- Hundreds of game assets in the Scirra Store
Corona (officially Corona SDK), from Corona Labs, is a free, 2D game development SDK. The company claims that you can develop your games up to 10 times faster with Corona than with other game development platforms. Their game development simulator runs on OS X and Windows machines so you can develop using standard hardware.
Important features include:
- Built-in monetization with Corona Ads
- Support for major mobile platforms, as well as Apple TV and Android TV
- Single code base for all major platforms
- Rapid prototyping
- Lua-based APIs for easy extensibility
- Corona Enterprise (variable pricing) for when you need access to native C, C++, Obj-C, or Java libraries
Fusion 2.5 comes to us from Clickteam. Another 2D game creation platform, Fusion 2.5 lets you build an event-based game within an hour of installing. It comes with a library of premade graphics you can use in your own projects.
from the ones we've talked about so far in a few ways. There are multiple versions with different capabilities and price points depending on where you are in the world..
Fusion 2.5 Free Edition lets you create HTML5 games and apps. These creations are royalty-free, so you can get a game out the door at minimum cost.
Fusion 2.5 Full Edition supports HTML5 and other build types, so you can create apps for different platforms by adding optional exporters for Windows, iOS, Android, and other platforms. You can also install 3rd party objects for more options.
Fusion 2.5 Developer includes everything in the Full Edition, plus things like data grids and dialog boxes.
YoYo Games is the publisher of GameMaker: Studio. With it, you can build 2D single or multi-player games with all the bells and whistles, and export them to a wide range of platforms. You can build your game using the drag-and-drop system or take advantage of GML (GameMaker Language) GameMaker's own C-based game programming language.
This platform can grow to meet your needs, with built-in support for SVN, CVS, and Git source control. It also includes a Resource Tree to track assets and third-party library and SDK extensions.
Other features of GameMaker: Studio include:
- Box2D & LiquidFun physics support
- Spine 2D animation support
- In-app purchases
- Real-time analytics
- User engagement tools
- Cross-platform shaders
- GameMaker Resource Marketplace
GameSalad® is another game development platform that says you can have your first 2D game within an hour. There's an educational version, as well as two subscription-based developer versions. GameSalad PRO gives you all the features of the basic developer version, with loads of additional capabilities included for the price. One thing to be aware of is that there are limitations on where you can publish your games if you are not a GameSalad PRO subscriber.
Features of the PRO edition include:
- In-app purchases
- Integration with ad networks
- One click cross-platform publishing
- Apple GameCenter, Amazon GameCircle, Twitter TweetSheet, and Facebook social integration
Gideros Mobile (also commonly referred to simply as Gideros) is a free, open-source game development platform. Among its many features, you can do the same kind of WiFi testing as products like Construct 2. It gives you native speed performance on supported hardware platforms, along with the ability to import your own code or dozens of existing open-source plugins.
Gideros Mobile doesn't support as many target platforms as some of the other products we've covered here. But if you are building for Android, iOS, Windows Phone, OS X, Windows, or Windows RT, Gideros Mobile could be worth checking out.
Marmalade, from Marmalade Technologies Ltd, lets you build both 2D and 3D games. This platform has been used to build games like SimCity BuildIt, which has been downloaded well over 15 million times. The company reports that the platform has been used to build single player, multi-player, MMO (massively multi-player) 2D and 3D games.
With Marmalade, you code your games in C++ or Lua. You can add content from the Marmalade Asset Store (or create your own), then package the game up with a click. Marmalade lets you deploy to various target platforms with just a few minutes of work; you don't have to change your codebase.
- Desktop simulator for early development and testing
- Compiled code optimized for the specific hardware platform
- Easy publishing directly to Apple App Store, Google Play, Amazon App Store, Amazon Underground, and Windows Store
- Marmalade Game Services, a Backend-as-a-Service solution
- Mamalade Analytics
One game design platform with proven results is Stencyl. Published by Stencyl, LLC, developers using this platform have scored high rankings in the Apple App Store and Google Play. Using a design similar to MIT's Scratch project, Stencyl lets you snap together blocks to create events and behaviors. And there are hundreds of pre-existing blocks you can snap right into your own projects.
While dragging and dropping elements is easy, Stencyl doesn't limit you to that approach. You can write code to extend the Stencyl game engine, create new blocks, import libraries, and create custom classes.
To help you earn money from your hard work, you can build your game on a freemium model with in-game sales of levels or objects. You can also embed ads from outfits like iAds, AdMob, and Newgrounds.
Here's another 2D or 3D game development platform. Unity, from Unity Technologies, brings serious firepower to your game development projects. For one thing, they support more target platforms than the competition. At the time of this review (July 2016) that meant 24 targets: mobile, desktop, Web, console, TV, even VR.
Unity comes in both free and subscription versions. They also offer a set of powerful services you can leverage with the Unity platform. Their services include:
- Unity Ads
- Unity Analytics
- Unity Collaborate for team development efforts
- Unity Cloud Build
- Unity Performance Reporting
- Unity Multiplayer
- Unity Certification
Unreal Engine 4 (a.k.a UE4), from Epic Games, Inc. gives you the ability to design 2D, 3D, and VR games as well as mobile games. UE4 is a suite of tools built be game developers for use by other game developers. You can develop your games then seamlessly deploy them to iOS and Android devices quickly and easily.
Unreal Engine 4 recently became free. That is, it is free to use for game development (and various other uses). Instead of paying for everything up front, you pay a 5% royalty on your games (after the first $3,000 in revenue per product per calendar quarter). This has got to be one of the best ways to get a high-end game out the door.
Unreal Engine Some of the Unreal Engine toolsets you will want to investigate are:
- Persona, an animation toolset
- Maya, an animation rigging toolset
- Matinee, a cinematic toolset
- The Render to Texture Blueprint toolset
There are a ton of mobile game development platforms out there. In this article, I've brought you 10 top platforms, as determined by a meta-review of other "top X" lists. As you've seen, there are platforms for pretty much any game design approach you want to take. 2D, 3D, interpreted, compiled, you name it.
Chances are excellent that one of these will meet your needs and become your next mobile game development tool.