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How can I make my own game for free?

Have you ever had a killer idea for an amazing video game rattling around in your head? Bringing a creative vision like that to life may seem impossible without a huge budget and an army of programmers. But here’s the incredible truth – with the right tools and guidance, you can make your own game entirely for free right from your home computer.

In this comprehensive 2300+ word guide, I’ll walk you step-by-step through everything you need to know to start developing and releasing games without spending a dime. You’ll learn:

  • How to choose the best free game engine for your needs
  • Where to get all the artwork, music and assets to build your game world
  • How to start coding gameplay mechanics as a total beginner
  • Tips for playtesting, polishing and promoting your finished game

With persistence and commitment to keep learning, you can go from zero experience to becoming an indie game developer. Let’s get started bringing your game idea to life!

Demystifying Game Development

Game development may seem mysterious and intimidating from the outside. But behind every great game is just step-by-step problem solving. Jesse Schell, Professor of Entertainment Technology at Carnegie Mellon states:

“Game design is not about stories, art, code, rules, or even fun. Game design is about solving problems.”

At its core, a game is about overcoming challenges using a specific set of game mechanics and rules. Game development is all about defining those interactive problems and crafting an enjoyable experience for players to solve them.

The key stages of development normally include:

  • Brainstorming an overall concept and story
  • Defining the gameplay mechanics, rules, systems
  • Creating all the visual, audio and text assets
  • Coding the interactivity and logic that ties everything together
  • Endlessly playtesting and refining the game
  • Finally releasing it for others to enjoy!

Modern game engines like Unity, Unreal and Godot provide pre-built tools that handle a lot of the complex rendering, physics, animation, artificial intelligence, etc. This allows indie developers to focus on designing fun gameplay mechanics and bringing their vision to life.

Alex Schwartz, founder of Owlchemy Labs says:

“Engines handle the basics of creating 3D games these days. You can make an entire game as an indie without needing to write core engine technology.”

So withpersistence in continuing to learn and some faith in yourself, the sky‘s the limit! Now let’s look at how to get started.

Choosing the Right Free Game Engine

Game engines provide the core framework and tools for building games. Think of them like advanced creative suites for game development. The first step is choosing the right free game engine for your needs:


Unity is by far the most popular choice with indie developers today. Unity provides an intuitive editor and works great for both 2D and 3D game development. Over 50% of mobile games are made with Unity.


  • Huge asset store with free pre-made game materials
  • Great learning resources like official tutorials
  • Supports coding in C# which is easy to learn
  • Export to all major platforms including mobile


  • Can be heavy for super simple 2D browser games
  • Advanced 3D capabilities require beefy hardware

Unreal Engine

Unreal Engine is a powerful open-source tool used by AAA studios to create stunning AAA games. It specializes in high fidelity 3D experiences.


  • Cutting edge 3D graphics and rendering capabilities
  • Blueprints visual scripting enables games without coding
  • Industry-adopted engine with lots of pro resources


  • Steep learning curve, especially for total beginners
  • Overkill for simple 2D and mobile games


Godot is a free, open-source engine great for 2D and simple 3D games. It uses an intuitive node-based architecture.


  • Lightweight and optimized for 2D game creation
  • Encourages coding best practices
  • Passionate user community provides support


  • Documentation still maturing
  • Mobile export requires extra steps

GameMaker Studio 2

GameMaker Studio 2 makes developing 2D games extremely fast thanks to its drag and drop workflow.


  • Extremely fast iteration for 2D games
  • Easy visual scripting perfect for beginners
  • Lots of tutorials and documentation


  • Primarily focused on 2D games
  • Exporting games requires buying add-on modules

For a beginner, I‘d recommend either Unity or GameMaker Studio 2 to start out. Both offer excellent learning resources for getting up to speed.

Getting Visual and Audio Assets

Game engines provide the framework, but you still need game assets like artwork, sound effects, music, 3D models, animations etc. to construct the game world. Here are some great sites for sourcing free assets:

OpenGameArt: A community offering thousands of open source assets. Credit creators.

Kenney: High-quality assets created by Kenney Vleugels, available for free.

FreeSound: Audio clips and music available under Creative Commons licenses. Always check details.

Unity Asset Store: Filters for the ‘Free’ category reveal lots of free packages.

Don‘t worry if you have zero artistic talent. By remixing and customizing assets from various sources, you can build up full game worlds!

Getting Started with Coding

While game engines abstract away a lot of complexity, learning some code is crucial for bringing your game mechanics to life. Here are some great starting points:

Official Engine Tutorials
Tutorials built into engines like Unity and Unreal are by far the best way to learn. Unity even offers guided learning paths for all skill levels.

YouTube Tutorial Series
Channels like Brackeys have step-by-step coding tutorials for game mechanics like player movement, shooting, etc.

Online Courses
Structured courses on platforms like Udemy and Coursera are fantastic for learning coding and game design skills methodically.

General coding sites teach core programming skills applicable to game dev like JavaScript, Python variables, functions, etc.

Don’t worry if coding seems intimidating as a beginner. Start with visual scripting to grasp concepts quickly before moving on to textual coding. Focus on fundamentals like variables, functions, classes, conditional logic. Building up these core skills will give you the keys to bring any game idea to life.

Developing Your First Game

Once you’ve chosen an engine and learned some coding basics, it’s time to start developing your first game! I’d recommend starting with a simple 2D game like:

  • Top down maze game where you navigate to the goal
  • Side-scrolling platformer with jumping mechanics
  • Endless runner where you dodge randomly generated obstacles
  • Top down shooter where you defeat waves of enemies

The key is to start small and keep the main gameplay loop simple, then expand on it in future games. Here‘s an overview of how you could code a simple maze game:

  1. Set up a new 2D project in your engine

  2. Import tileset sprites for maze walls, floor, start/goal

  3. Create a player sprite that collisions detect walls

  4. Script WASD/arrow key input to move the player sprite

  5. Randomly generate maze walls using a maze generation algorithm

  6. Detect when player overlaps the goal sprite to trigger a win

  7. Display win message and restart game

Don’t worry if you don’t understand everything yet! The important thing is getting started with a simple idea and learning by doing. Making games is a journey of small iterations.

Expanding Your Skills Over Time

After getting familiar with implementing core gameplay like character control and collisions, you can start expanding your skills:

  • Take on more complex game mechanics like double jump, shooting projectiles, procedurally generated levels.

  • Make your own 3D models and animations – lots of great beginner 3D tools out there like Blender.

  • Learn shaders and effects to create stunning visual effects like flames, lightning, spells etc.

  • Study AI principles to program intelligent enemy behaviors like chasing the player.

  • Polish and optimize performance so your game runs smoothly without lag or glitches.

  • Improve UI and menus to give your game a clean and intuitive flow between different screens and contexts.

Online courses, tutorials, game jams and open source projects are fantastic for rapidly expanding your skills. Don‘t try to learn everything at once – stay committed to incremental growth over time.

Playtesting and Polishing for Release

Once you’ve built a fun and complete gameplay experience, it’s time to refine and polish it for others to enjoy!

  • Playtest extensively on your target platforms – fixed bugs specific to PCs, phones, browsers etc. Get feedback from real first-time players.

  • Keep iterating to fix confusing mechanics based on playtester feedback. Tutorialize complex elements.

  • Add juicy feedback and polish – screen shakes, particles, sound effects go a long way towards polish.

  • Optimize performance and stability – use profilers to catch bottlenecks. Don‘t exceed memory limits.

  • Localization support – at minimum get your game running in major languages.

Take time to get your game feeling solid, responsive and bug-free before release. First impressions matter!

Releasing and Promoting Your Game

Once your game is polished and ready, it‘s time to get it out there and tell people about it! Here are some release options:

  • – popular indie game marketplace. You keep 90% revenue and can release free.

  • Steam Direct – launch on Steam for a $100 fee. You keep 75% revenue. Requires lots of wishlists first.

  • Mobile app stores – launch on the iOS App Store and Google Play Store. 30% revenue cut standard.

  • Your own website – sell your game directly from your site and keep all profits. Requires handling payments/downloads yourself.

  • Smart phone sideloading – allow installing your mobile game directly without going through app stores.

Promote your game launch on relevant subreddits, Twitter and TikTok using relevant hashtags like #indiedev. Reach out directly to influencers and press in the gaming niche. Attend game festivals and expos to demo your game in-person.

If this seems intimidating as a solo dev, you could always team up with an artist or marketer – rev-share deals are common.

Keep Learning and Creating

With the right mindset of starting small and gradually expanding your skills, anyone can go from zero experience to releasing their own games for free using all the amazing resources available today.

Game dev learning never stops – there are always new coding techniques to master, workflows to optimize, and ideas to implement. That lifelong journey of growth and discovery is what makes game development so endlessly exciting.

The most important mindset is being patient with yourself. Keep fixing bugs, iterating, refining, and learning from everything you create, no matter how small. Each finished game project will expand your skills exponentially.

So start brainstorming ideas, grab a free engine, and take the first steps towards bringing your creative vision to life! Wishing you the absolute best on your game dev journey.



Michael Reddy is a tech enthusiast, entertainment buff, and avid traveler who loves exploring Linux and sharing unique insights with readers.