6 Most Popular Programming Languages for Game Development

5 minutes

Whether you’re looking for a new career or hobby, game development can be a great choice. Not only does it allow you to combine your creative and technical skills, but there’s a satisfaction that comes with watching people enjoy something you’ve poured your heart into. (Plus, it can also be pretty lucrative.)

But before you can start creating games, you’ll need to learn how to code — and the programming language you should learn depends on what type of games you want to make. Ahead, we’ll explore the best languages for game development and some of the benefits of each one.

You can also check out our free course Introduction to Game Development, which will give you a step-by-step look at the development process, including the programming languages, engines, and other technologies used in the industry.

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1. C++

It’s no surprise that C++ is one of the top game-developing languages, especially because it’s such a popular, flexible solution. C++ is known for its high abstraction level, which allows you to have precise control over how a computer’s hardware interacts with your code.

C++ also provides more granular control over how graphics are processed by the system, which plays a very important role in game design.

Another key benefit of using C++ is it allows you to optimize special parts of your game design, giving them their own abstractions. This is akin to giving specific elements of the game their own infrastructure and resources. This level of detailed game development is difficult, if not impossible, with many other languages.

C++ has been used to make popular games like StarCraft, Football Pro, and Counterstrike. To get started crafting your own C++ games, check out courses like Learn C++ and C++ for Programmers.

2. Java

Even though Java doesn’t provide the same level of intricate control as C++, many see it as the best language for game development. Java’s popularity is partially due to its ease of use, which makes it a great solution for many new Game Developers.

The Java community also provides a deep treasure trove of tools and other open-source resources. This makes it much faster to develop games, especially because you can find code that’s already been written to use in your game. In some ways, Java can give the game development process a more plug-and-play feel than C++.

To dive into the world of Java development, check out our Learn Java course and Build Basic Android Apps with Java skill path. These will make it easier to bring the games floating around in your head to the screen.

3. JavaScript

When it comes to online game development, few languages make it easier than JavaScript. JavaScript plays well with both HTML and CSS, making it easier to develop games for multiple platforms.

Some programmers see JavaScript as a convenient all-around solution because you can use it to create animations and interactive elements. Plus, the online community behind JavaScript is huge, so you can find plenty of pre-designed elements to use in your own games.

JavaScript is the language behind gaming hits like American Girl, Angry Birds, and Aquaria. To get started with the language, try our Learn JavaScript course. We’ll provide you with the fundamentals you need to get comfortable with both front-end and back-end game development.

4. HTML5

HTML5 is another popular language for Game Developers, especially because programmers have created gaming engines that are specifically designed to make HTML5 games work better. Plus, you can use it with JavaScript interchangeably.

HTML5 is also known for its ability to construct games that work on multiple platforms and different kinds of browsers. This could make it easier to design games that appeal to wider audiences.

HTML5 has been used to create hit games like World Cup Penalty 2018 and Gods Will Be Watching. You can learn the basics of HTML5 with our Learn HTML course. This will provide you with the essential building blocks you need to create interactive, addictive games.

5. C#

Even though C# is considered an easier alternative to C++, it’s still a flexible, powerful programming language. Part of the reason why C# is such a useful language for developing games is Microsoft developed XNA for this exact purpose.

XNA is a set of tools specifically created to make game development easier and faster without sacrificing the experience of the end-user. C#’s flexibility is another big plus. You can build games that can run on a wide variety of platforms, including:

  • PlayStation
  • Windows
  • Android
  • iOS

This has made C# the language of choice for games like Super Mario Run and Pokémon Go. To start crafting your own game characters, check out our Learn C# course. Along with game development, this course will teach you the fundamentals behind virtual reality, websites, and mobile applications.

6. Lua

Lua is a flexible, general-purpose programming language that feels similar to JavaScript. While it’s not as popular as the other languages in this list, Lua’s been increasingly used to build video games over the past few years.

You’ll find Lua code in popular titles like Angry Birds, Baldur’s Gate, Civilization V, and The Elder Scrolls Online. And if you’re familiar with Roblox, you might already know that users can use Lua to write modifications.

Want to learn more? Check out our Learn Lua course.

With our courses, you can build the skills and experience you need to be a star Game Developer. We’ll show you how to run, hop, and blast your way to a successful career in game development — and other tech fields — help you build a portfolio, prepare for technical interviews, and more.

Check out our Introduction to Game Development to get started. Then, learn how to build your own game from scratch in Create Video Games With Phaser.js. Ready to get started? Sign up now!

Whether you’re looking to break into a new career, build your technical skills, or just code for fun, we’re here to help every step of the way. Check out our blog post about how to choose the best Codecademy plan for you to learn about our structured courses, professional certifications, interview prep resources, career services, and more.

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