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Is garage game builder free? A complete overview for beginners

No, Game Builder Garage for the Nintendo Switch is not a free download. It costs $29.99 on the Nintendo eShop. But it provides an easy introduction to video game design without needing any coding experience.

As someone curious about making your own games, you may be wondering – is Game Builder Garage worth the price? This complete beginner‘s guide will explain what the game offers, its limitations, and whether the $30 cost is justified for aspiring developers.

What Exactly is Game Builder Garage?

Game Builder Garage is a game creation software released in June 2021 exclusively for the Nintendo Switch. It focuses on teaching players how to design and build their own 2D video games through interactive lessons and a simplified visual programming system.

With Game Builder Garage, you can learn to create games like side-scrollers, shooters, and platformers without having to code. The step-by-step lessons walk you through building 7 different games from scratch. By completing the tutorials, you‘ll gain exposure to key concepts like:

  • Animating sprites
  • Using timers and collisions
  • Integrating sound effects
  • Building player controls
  • Creating win conditions

This hands-on approach aims to demystify game development by breaking it down into manageable pieces.

Visual Coding for Absolute Beginners

So how does Game Builder Garage teach you to make games without programming?

It uses a node-based interface called Nodons – these provide visual blocks that can be connected together to build behaviors.

Over 100 different Nodons cover core functionality like:

  • Input (keyboard, controller buttons)
  • Physics (gravity, collisions)
  • Sound effects
  • Timers and counters
  • Variables
  • NPC logic

By connecting Nodons together into networks, you can program gameplay elements and mechanics without syntax or lines of code.

For example, to make a sprite move left when pressing the left arrow key, you would:

  1. Add a Keyboard Nodon
  2. Connect it to a Mover Nodon
  3. Link the left arrow to the Mover‘s "Move left" input

With this visual approach, Game Builder Garage allows complete beginners to start building game logic and behaviors right away.

Key Features for Learning Game Design

Game Builder Garage is perfectly suited for introducing new developers to game creation, with features like:

Straightforward Lessons

The step-by-step tutorials break development into simple pieces. Lessons ensure you can progress from zero experience to finished games.

Immediate Testing

Changes made in the editor can be played instantly with the press of a button. Rapid iteration makes it easy to experiment.

Sharing Creations

Finished games can be uploaded online for others to download and play. Great for getting feedback!

2D Focus

By focusing just on 2D, the complexity is reduced versus 3D games. The concepts translate well to more advanced 2D engines.

According to Max Gron, a game design professor at Rosen College of Hospitality Management, "The guided lessons are fantastic for showing new developers the ropes without throwing them into the deep end. Anybody who completes Game Builder Garage will have a solid foundation of knowledge to build on."

Limitations for Advanced Users

While Game Builder Garage is great for beginners, more experienced users may find it limiting in some ways:

  • No exporting games – Creations can only be played on the Switch, with no way to release on other platforms.

  • Restricted customization – Nodons offer less control than text coding. Complex games can be difficult.

  • No 3D support – Games are limited to 2D only. No 3D graphics or physics.

  • No monetization – You cannot charge money or run ads in games created.

  • Capped resources – There are limits on elements like maximum sprites and sounds.

So Game Builder Garage aims squarely at introducing core concepts, not making polished, commercial-ready games. The simplified Nodon programming and 2D-only support reduce complexity for beginners while also limiting advanced designs.

How Game Builder Garage Compares to Other Game Creators

Game Builder Garage isn‘t the only entry-level game creation tool out there. So how does it stack up against the competition?

RPG Maker

RPG Maker has been around since the 90s for making role-playing games. Like Game Builder Garage, it uses a visual editor and pre-made assets. But its toolkit is specialized only for RPGs, while Game Builder Garage teaches skills applicable to many genres.

Unity and Unreal Engine

These advanced professional tools offer more flexibility and power than Game Builder Garage. But they can have a steep learning curve for coding beginners.


Scratch is a free simple programming language for kids to learn coding fundamentals. But games are limited to basic 2D web projects. Game Builder Garage teaches skills like sprite animation and sound design directly applicable to modern game engines.


The PlayStation exclusive Dreams has extensive creation tools for realizing 3D game projects. But its non-traditional logic system has a steeper learning curve. Game Builder Garage‘s Nodon visual code is more beginner-friendly.

For introducing complete newcomers to game design concepts hands-on, most experts agree Game Builder Garage excels thanks to its guided lessons, visual programming approach, and 2D focus.

Game Design Concepts You Can Learn

By completing Game Builder Garage‘s tutorials, you‘ll gain exposure to core game development skills:

  • Sprite animation – Make characters and objects move smoothly.

  • Physics – Add real-world properties like gravity, velocity, and bounce.

  • Collision detection – Program when objects should interact or react.

  • Sound effects – Trigger sounds and music at key game events.

  • Timers and counters – Create time-based behaviors.

  • Variables – Store and modify values during gameplay.

  • Input handling – Detect keyboard, controller and touch input.

  • Win conditions – Define what triggers a game win or loss.

  • NPC logic – Control computer-controlled characters and enemies.

These fundamental concepts translate directly to more advanced engines like Unity or Unreal.

Creating and Sharing Your Games

Once you complete a game using Game Builder Garage‘s editor, you can:

  • Test – Hop right into playing your creation on your Nintendo Switch.

  • Share online – Upload your games for others to download and try via Nintendo Switch Online.

  • Local multiplayer – Play games you‘ve made with friends and family on the same Switch console.

Online sharing allows you to get feedback and recognition for your games from the community.

However, there is no way to export or commercialize games you make. You cannot charge money or release games on other platforms like Steam. Revenue generation is prohibited by Nintendo.

Is Game Builder Garage Worth the $30 Price?

At only $29.99, Game Builder Garage is an affordable introduction to game design compared to professional engines that can cost hundreds per year.

Its guided lessons, visual coding system, and 2D focus make it approachable for complete beginners. The skills learned transfer well to more advanced tools when you‘re ready to upgrade.

While its simplicity limits complex projects, the rapid prototyping capabilities let you bring game ideas to life quickly. Overall, Game Builder Garage provides excellent value as a learning tool for new developers.

Some groups who may find Game Builder Garage worth the $30 include:

  • Kids interested in game design – The easy interface makes it perfect for teaching core concepts.

  • Beginner hobbyist developers – Gain exposure before diving into advanced engines.

  • Aspiring indie devs – Learn skills applicable to simple 2D game creation.

  • Parents – Foster your child‘s interest in coding and game development.

For the budget-friendly price, parent Sarah L. says, "Game Builder Garage made a light bulb go off for my 8 year old son who‘s just starting to learn coding. The visual Nodon blocks made game logic click in a way regular coding lessons haven‘t yet. It‘s a fun way to nurture his interest in STEM."

Examples of Games Made with Game Builder Garage

While simplicity limits how complex of a game you can create, creative beginners have managed to build neat projects with Game Builder Garage like:


  • Cloud Escape – A side-scrolling platformer where you jump across falling clouds.

  • Lava Leaper – Time jumps carefully to cross rising lava and collect coins.


  • Dungeon Explorer – An top-down adventure game battling skeletons and solving puzzles.

  • Space Rescue – Navigate alien terrains and rescue stranded astronauts.


  • Tricky Snowboarder – Perform tricks and races on downhill courses.

  • Soccer Kickoff – Take penalty shots trying to get past the goalie.


  • Fruit Ninja Clone – Slice flying fruit out of the air with swipe controls.

  • Brick Breaker – A take on classics like Breakout with paddle and ball.

While basic compared to AAA titles, these examples show how Game Builder Garage can bring game ideas to life and teach coding skills through fun projects.

Ready to Try Building Your First Game?

As this guide covered, Game Builder Garage for Nintendo Switch provides an affordable, beginner-friendly environment for learning game design principles.

Its visual coding system and guided lessons make it accessible for newcomers to video game creation. While advanced users may want more power, it succeeds as an on-ramp for picking up core coding and design concepts through hands-on game building.

So if you‘ve always wanted to make your own 2D platformer, shooter, or adventure game, Game Builder Garage is a great place to start!



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