highlights
  1. JavaScript
  2. Java
  3. HTML5
  4. CSS3
  5. SQL
  6. Python
  7. C++
  8. C#
  9. Rust
  10. Lua
  11. Kotlin
  12. Objective-C
  13. Swift
  14. Papyrus
  15. Cg
  16. Squirrel
  17. Boo
  18. UnityScript
  19. UnrealScript
  20. ActionScript
  21. Clipper
  22. AMPL
  23. Smalltalk
  24. Tcl
  25. Pascal
  26. How to Get Started in Game Development
  27. Learn computer programming
  28. Choose a popular game engine
  29. Build a basic game
  30. Dive into game design patterns and 3D graphics
  31. Build a portfolio
  32. The Bottom Line

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One of the fastest-growing industries in the world, the gaming industry’s global market is sprouting at an incredible rate with many new players continually/constantly entering the industry.  The global gaming market is projected to strike $545.98 billion in 2028, an impressive leap from $229,16 billion in 2021. 

This surge in popularity has created a breeding ground for both new and time-tested technologies. Today, the gaming industry leverages a great amount of coding languages to create miraculous experiences.

However, not all coding languages are equal when it comes to games development. While there is no best coding language for games, some are still more popular than others.  Statista has curated its own top list of coding technologies that are used for a range of branches, including game development.

But let’s do it our way. 

In this post, our team will go over the hot index of coding languages for the greatest games of all time. 

JavaScript

JavaScript is one of the cornerstone  languages that adds interactivity to  game elements. Programming in JavaScript doesn't require any tools beyond a text editor such as Notepad, thus making it one of the easiest languages. 

For game creation, Javascript is usually coupled with HTML5, since the latter doesn’t provide any interactivity. Along with high development speed and simplicity, Javascript lacks debugging facilities and authentication.

Well-known examples of JavaScript + HTML5 (in) games include PixelDefense, PocketIsland, and 2048.

Java

Another regular among popular gaming coding languages is Java. This technology has been around since the 1990s and retains its stronghold in the development market. 

Java is a multifunctional object-oriented language that was originally designed to run on  Java Virtual Machine. It has since been ported to many different platforms and can be used to create games with both simple and more sophisticated gameplay. 

Thanks to its versatility and rich collection of open-source material, Java is on speed dial for indie and mobile games. Having low entry and reusable system-agnostic code, it is also relatively easy to use. 

However, Java’s performance is significantly slower than that of its competitors. Also,commercial license costs, a blocking garbage collector, and verbosity make this coding language a less attractive option.

Nevertheless, it fuels some masterpieces, including Minecraft, FIFA 11, Project Zomboid, among others.

Although Java enjoys ambiguous popularity among game developers, Java-empowered counterparts - HTML 5, CSS, and SQL, - have been more successful. This powerful trinity uses Java as its basis and owes some of its functionality to it.

HTML5

HTML5 is a leading option for game programmers to create cross-platform and cross-browser apps and games. Thanks to its development speed, it is topping the lists as the best language for game development.HTML5 also introduces trendy features like 2D and 3D graphics, quality audio APIs, and offline asset storage. HTML5-based games match perfectly with different resolutions, screen sizes, aspect ratios, and guidelines.

Combined with JavaScript, it can create complex web-based games with supreme interactivity and graphics. Some outstanding games built with HTML5 include Cookie Clicker, Angry Birds, Kingdom Rush, World Cup Penalty 2018. 

However, it doesn’t allow for in-app purchases and has no direct shared memory access.

CSS3

CSS traditionally falls into the same category as the equally popularHTML. Cascading Style Sheets or CSS is a style sheet language used for describing the look and formatting of a document written in a markup language. 

Its most common application is to style web pages written in HTML. Therefore, CSS is used in combination with HTML to create an online game. It can also integrate with CSS and Javascript, allowing the creation of cross-platform mobile games. Whack-a-rat is a CSS-only game that can be accessed via the web.

SQL

SQL also hits the top five of gaming programming languages according to Statista rating. Just like CSS3 and HTML, it goes under the category of web languages. While the other two are responsible for the look and feel, SQL manages the back-end database. SQL is a great tool for any game-related client-server interactions, where the client is a game itself, and the server is the game’s server.

Python

Python is a high-level programming language known for its readability and simplicity. It can be used to develop desktop, web, and database applications. Because of the growing demand for Python programmers, it is one of the most in-demand languages in the tech industry today, including gaming.

Its PyGame library is intuitive and easy to use while allowing for rapid prototyping. Also, its clean and readable syntax can be mastered much faster than C++ and C#. Python is also the most widely used and easiest language for VR game development. However, it doesn’t yield fast performance and requires considerable testing.

Python is used, among other languages, in Battlefield 2, The Sims 4, Frets on Fire, and World of Tanks.

C++

This guy is probably among the first ones to cross your mind when talking about the best programming language for games. Its fame is the result of its proximity to the C language, on which it was initially based, and its improvements focused on object-orientation.

As such, C++ is a statically typed, free-form, cross-platform, and object-oriented programming language that has been standardized since 1985 by ISO.

C++ has become one of the most popular programming languages, particularly for operating systems, as it can be used to create both low and high-level applications. Its general purpose allows programmers to create any type of application that they want. 

C++ allows you to build games for Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, and iOS, among other platforms. To do that, you'll need a game engine - something that C++ has galore. Thus, this language is used in a variety of 2D and 3D game development

C++ is the scripting language used by Godot and Unreal Engine, for example. Although the Unity game engine is built-in C#, it also relies on C++. Moreover, game development C++ is now used in a lot of gaming APIs. 

C++ game development libraries assist programmers in various tasks. SFML, for example, is a C++ library that is easy to use and comes with a graphics pipeline and ready-made audio engine. OpenGL targets the 3D branch and can be used in combination with SFML.

C++ game development compares favorably to other technologies for a lot of other reasons.  Game development with C++ ensures high performance which is critical for gameplay. As you can combine object-oriented programming in C++ and the low-level features of the language, you can optimize the game for specific platforms and control memory management to optimize applications for speed.

You can easily create a cross-platform game with C++. This means that the game will work smoothly across supported devices. Although many engines provide this feature by default, it doesn’t always pan out, since the game may run faster for some and slower for others. 

Also, important performance bottlenecks, such as memory allocation, can be bypassed with C++. It has the ability to structure and place things in the memory exactly where they should be. Furthermore, it is a versatile programming language with a reasonable development speed. 

But there is no perfection in this world. Likewise, this coding language also has some downsides. For those who learn C++ for game development, one of the biggest disadvantages is its steep learning curve, hence its inaccessibility for novices. 

Besides, memory allocation is made manually in C++ which is quite time-consuming and challenging. Finally, C++ the language doesn’t support built-in code threads. This slows down the coding process and makes it even more complicated.

But despite its  downside, C++ is used to build the biggest console and PC games. C++ engines boast features from animation to artificial intelligence, allowing for graphics rendering, collision detection, and others. 

Some A-list examples include the famous Assassin’s Creed series, Counter-Strike shooter series, Half-Life 2, Portal, The Witcher, and others.

C#

Joining the batch of best languages for game development is C#, a general-purpose, type-safe, object-oriented programming language developed by Microsoft within its .NET initiative. C# is now one of the most favored programming languages used for creating all kinds of applications on both web and desktop platforms. 

C# game development has surged in popularity thanks to its compatibility with the Unity engine. Although Unity supports JavaScript and Boo, C# is a leading option. Thus, C# for game development is used to build many of the top video games, including Pokemon Go and Crysis.

This technology also has high compatibility with game development tools and a shallow learning curve. However, it is rarely used as a stand-alone option for creating player experience since developers would have to program everything from scratch, which many consider impractical.

Rust

Rust is a systems programming language that runs blazingly fast, prevents segfaults, and guarantees thread safety. You can use Rust to code everything from game engines to web servers to scientific computing tools. Rust is also touted to be the future of game development as it combines C++ performance with C# convenience. However, its exposure is still low and has a steep learning curve. A Snake’s Tale and UniverCity are textbook examples of Rust games.

Lua

Lua is a powerful, fast, lightweight, and multi-platform language while being easy-to-use and powerful enough for video game development. Lua is also robust and supports multiple programming methods. It is flexible, easily integrated into the game, and supported in many game engines, such as Gideros mobile, Corona SDK, and CryEngine. 

Some popular games using Lua include Conan, American Girl, Angry Birds, and Aquaria. We at Pingle Studio used Lua to implement gameplay and game endings at one of our favorite Unity projects called Undungeon. But despite being quite powerful, Lua is rarely used as a standalone option for game development and has a modest user community.

Kotlin

Android development often requires using the Java programming language. Kotlin is a statically typed programming language that runs on the Java Virtual Machine. It is officially supported for Android development through Google's Android Studio. Thanks to its IDE support and Java compatibility, Kotlin is considered a solid option for Android game development, provided you combine it with a framework. 

Objective-C

 As an extension of the C programming language, Objective-C is used to develop applications for Apple's OS X and iOS operating systems. It is user-friendly and compatible with game engines such as Core3D and Cocos2D, allowing for feature-rich games. However, it lags behind advanced functionality. Popular examples include Star Trek: Rivals and Wordscape.

Swift

The Swift programming language was introduced by Apple in 2014 and has since become one of the approved languages for iOS. It is fast, secure, safe, and offers an intuitive syntax that makes it easy to learn while retaining all of the power associated with compiled languages like C or Objective-C. 

Swift is a great option for iOS game development; however, it is confined to iOS only. Herodom and SkillZone are examples of Swift-based games combined with the Spritekit framework.

Papyrus

Papyrus is an experimental general-purpose programming language. Its goal is to design and implement a programming language that is safe, consistent, efficient, and easy to use for programmers. It first appeared in Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and has since been used in Fallout 4 and Fallout 76. Papyrus boasts added functionality and flexibility along with unique syntax.

Cg

Cg is a high-level computer graphics programming language developed by NVIDIA for programming vertex and pixel shaders. It was also supported in more than 40 popular 3D application development packages. Cg was a go-to option for creating special effects and real-time graphics on Nvidia hardware. However, it is now a legacy NVIDIA toolkit.

Squirrel

Squirrel is a lightweight script language with a syntax similar to that of C, JavaScript, and Perl. The design goals are clarity, conciseness,, and consistency. The language has an object-oriented style but allows procedural programming as well. It is primarily embedded in game engines as a game script language, which is Lua-inspired. 

Squirrel was used in Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a King, Left 4 Dead 2, and Portal 2. However, it’s rather a niche option than a full-fledged option known to everyone.

Boo

Developed by Google in 2008, Boo used to be a relatively new kid on the block.. It was used for building high-performance web applications, mobile apps, and Unity engine development. However, it was dropped in 2014 due to the small user base, with its compiler being removed from the engine in 2017.

UnityScript

UnityScript is a scripting language that runs on top of the Unity engine. It is an evolution of JavaScript and as such uses similar syntax. However, according to the Unity blog, this language is no longer the preferred one, as its continued support doesn’t allow for delivering new scripting-related features. Besides, the functionality and performance of UnityScript are much lower than that of C#.

UnrealScript

Unreal Script is a niche option for game development since it is limited to UnrealEngine. It is used for creating game levels, gameplay events, and modifying the overall behavior of Unreal Engine games. 

Gaming giants such as Microsoft Windows, Android, Linux, and PlayStation used UnrealScript. But in March 2014, Epic Games stated that Unreal Engine 4 would no longer support this coding technology.

Some popular UnrealScript games include Advent Rising and the Batman Arkham  series. 

ActionScript

ActionScript is a scripting language that allows developers to add interactivity and multimedia to Flash projects. It's a streamlined version of the programming language used in Adobe Systems' popular Illustrator, Photoshop, and mobile game development. However, this language has become obsolete since HTML5 replaced Flash. Such Flash games as Tetris and Magic Pen rely on ActionScript as well.

Clipper

Clipper is an object-oriented interpreted programming language, which is a cross-platform and high-level programming technology. Back in the day, it was used as an xBase compiler to create software programs that originally operated primarily under MS-DOS. Although its commercial usage declined, it is now being revived by game developers to solve programming issues and other advanced computational issues.

Clipper language fuels games like Rage and Wolfenstein.

AMPL

AMPL is a language for mathematical programming and optimization. It is used by thousands of organizations worldwide, including major corporations such as Adobe, Google, IBM, and Intel as well as federal agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration. 

This easy-to-use modeling language enables you to quickly solve complex problems involving large amounts of data as well as implement optimization strategies. Wolfenstein and The Evil are some examples that benefit from this language.

Smalltalk

Smalltalk spearheaded the use of graphical language tools for live programming and sophisticated debugging techniques in a user-friendly format. Although it’s often considered a legacy, Smalltalk is still a powerful prototyping language among startups. 

Yet it lacks documentation and support and is much slower than Javascript or Lua, even slower than Ruby or Python. There are no significant names in the gaming industry that are based on Smalltalk.

Tcl

Tcl is a simple, yet powerful, general-purpose scripting language. It was designed as a tool to make C programming more attractive to a larger audience by adding an interpreted and extensible command language with access to the same C functions used in C programming. 

Tcl has long been used as the scripting engine in games. A prominent example is the original SimCity. However, it is not as powerful as its counterparts, hence it is a rare option for game development.

Pascal

Pascal is a general-purpose programming language, it was designed as an educational tool to teach structured programming. Pascal isn’t an acknowledged development alternative, yet was used as a basis for modern solutions such as GameMaker Studio. But due to the lack of an ecosystem, Pascal is mainly used in engines for 2D and 3D indie development, such as Quad Engine or Castle Game Engine.

How to Get Started in Game Development

Now that  we’ve looked into the best programming languages for game development, let’s find out what it takes to join this industry and master one of these languages.

Learn computer programming

First things first:you have to conquer one of the coding languages for game development. As we’ve said, there’s no silver bullet, yet languages like C++, C#, Python, Java have a diverse ecosystem and are frequent options for this undertaking.

Choose a popular game engine

Once you pick up your coding language, you should think about how to choose the best gaming engine. Go for something well-known like Unity, since it’s quite easy to learn and offers a range of functionalities useful for beginners. 

Build a basic game

Once you develop a fuller idea of game development, it’s time to give it a go. Tetris is one of the most popular options for practicing while guiding you through important programming basics. You can also try your hand at something different, such as runners or 2D platformers,  but make sure you keep it simple and small.

Dive into game design patterns and 3D graphics

If you want to step up your understanding, look into game design patterns. The latter will make it easier for a designer to create games that appeal to players and help define your brand. 3D graphics is also a mandate for bestselling games that provide a realistic feeling to the game. 

Build a portfolio

Once you’ve honed your skills, it’s time to show them off in a stellar online portfolio. Make sure to focus on your best game design work and your areas of interest. (You can also) Include snapshots of your process work and a demo video of the finished game.

The Bottom Line

The gaming industry has certainly become a seedbed for a rich ecosystem of technologies and coding languages. While there’s no clear winner, such fundamental game coding languages as C++, C#, Python, and JavaScript have topped the ladder several years in a row. Emerging technologies like Lua and Rust are gaining momentum in 2022 with a growing user community. 

We, at Pingle Studio, know the ins and outs of each and will assist you in choosing the right mix of technologies to capture the hearts and minds of players.

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