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Game engines are key game development tools for professionals, making them a must-learn for beginners who are just starting out in game design and development. As the heroes of game development software, game engines manage multiple tasks, including rendering and lighting, artificial intelligence of non-player characters, audio and physics engines. Learning these game engines means you’ll become familiar with all those different game development tools — giving you a huge boost as either a beginner or a professional in the game design industry. There are, of course, multiple game engines out there, so here are a few of the best game engines for beginners who are starting their game design and development journey.

Unity-Best Game Engine for Beginners

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Best Game Engine for Beginners #1: Unity

Used in: Pokémon GO, Super Mario Run, Pillars of Eternity, Yooka-Laylee

Platform-agnostic game engines like Unity have a big advantage in the sheer number of platforms that employ them as development tools for beginners. Unity can be used for PC, Xbox One, PS4, the Nintendo 3DS line of handheld consoles, as well as Android and iOS. Each console has a different degree of computing power, so Unity can handle different levels of processing for model textures for each platform. It’s also being used as game development software for virtual reality and augmented reality — meaning that if you learn Unity, you’ll have a big window into game design and development for these cutting-edge fields.

Unreal-Best Game Engine for Beginners

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Best Game Engine for Beginners #2: Unreal

Used in: Mass Effect series, Street Fighter V, Kingdom Hearts III, Gears of War 4

Like Unity, Unreal is a platform-agnostic game engine that’s now being tooled in the VR and AR fields. Its widespread use for 18 years makes Unreal an important game engine to learn for beginners going into game design and programming. Unreal uses the industry standard C++ code, and several of its development tools have been made open source over the years, meaning anybody, either professionals or beginners, can open the box and play around with the game engine. That gives you a fantastic opportunity to learn what makes game development software like this tick. Epic Games recently moved to offer the latest version of Unreal for free, with a royalty paid to Epic for successful commercial projects. Of course, for a student and a beginner that means you won’t pay a dime for this game engine while you’re still learning.

Havok-Best Game Engines for Beginners

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Best Game Engine for Beginners #3: Havok

Used in: Assassin’s Creed series, Dark Souls III, Call of Duty: Ghosts, Destiny

While this is a physics engine instead of a full game engine, it’s still great game development software for beginners, designers, programmers and animators, having been used in an astounding 600 video games — and counting. Havok is the physics engine for Valve’s Source game engine and has even crossed over the aisle to pure animation as a plug-in for Maya. This physics engine is well worth your time to learn purely for how often it’s used in game design.

Of course, learning just one game engine will not cut it in this day and age. Familiarizing yourself with multiple game engines will help make you a stronger candidate and a stronger game designer or game programmer overall. Many major game companies end up building their own unique development tools for each project, so learning how popular game engines like Unity and Unreal work will give you a leg up in building individual development tools.

For more game design knowledge, check out the first installment of our Beginner’s Guide or all of our Game Design Tips and Trends.