Skip to content

What app can make games for free? GameMaker Studio 2 is the Best Free Option

If you want to make games without coding for zero cost, GameMaker Studio 2 is hands-down the best free option available today. With its easy to use drag-and-drop interface, built-in scripting language GML, and ability to export to multiple platforms, GameMaker allows anyone to go from zero experience to having a completed game. Read on as we dive into a comprehensive guide on making and releasing games totally free.

Why Game Development is More Accessible Than Ever

Game development has historically required extensive programming knowledge. But with the rise of free game engines and asset stores, the barriers to entry have lowered significantly. Now beginners can get started without needing large budgets or coding expertise.

According to data from Statista, the number of people working in game development grew over 60% from 2014 to 2020. The democratization of game dev tools is enabling this growth.
Chart showing game developer employment rise from 220k to 350k
In particular, ease-of-use and cost are no longer gating factors:

  • Powerful free game engines eliminate licensing costs and coding requirements.
  • Asset marketplaces provide cheap and free artwork, sounds, music, etc.
  • Distribution on app stores and itch.io is accessible to indie devs.
  • Instructional resources like online courses and documentation multiply.

This means aspiring developers today have all the tools needed to make and release games at little to no cost.

Evaluating the Top Free Game Engines

Game engines provide the core framework and toolset for building games. Choosing the right engine for your skill level and project needs is key in having a smooth development process.

Here is an overview of leading free game engines:

Unity

  • Well documented with a wealth of learning resources available.
  • Supports both 2D and 3D development with cutting edge graphics.
  • C# programming language is beginner friendly compared to C++ engines.
  • Can build for all major platforms including mobile, console, desktop, web.
  • Asset store gives access to tons of free and paid assets and tools.

Downsides: More complex than 2D specialized engines. Requires coding knowledge.

Unreal Engine

  • AAA quality graphics and rendering capabilities out of the box.
  • Blueprints visual scripting enables games without coding.
  • World class toolset used on many blockbuster games.
  • Advanced 3D features like photorealistic rendering and VR support.

Downsides: Steep learning curve. 3D focused. Lower level code.

GameMaker Studio 2

  • Drag and drop workflow perfect for 2D and sidescrollers.
  • Own programming language GML is quick and easy to learn.
  • Caters to complete beginners with room/object workflow.
  • Exports natively to multiple platforms.
  • Huge community provides support and assets.

Downsides: Primarily 2D focused. Can‘t build AAA 3D games.

Godot

  • Completely free and open source with permissive licensing.
  • Lightweight and runs on low end hardware smoothly.
  • Scripting uses easy to learn Python-like GDScript.
  • Powerful 2D engine with robust 3D support too.
  • Encourages best practices like signals over polling.

Downsides: Documentation still maturing. Smaller asset ecosystem.

Construct 3

  • No coding at all required. Fully visual game building.
  • Behavior-based event system using drag and drop actions.
  • Rapid prototyping allows quick iteration.
  • Built-in physics and sprite editor.
  • Easy publishing to web and mobile.

Downsides: 2D only. Lacks advanced 3D features.

Based on the comparison, GameMaker Studio 2 provides the best starting point for complete beginners looking to make games at no cost. Its drag-and-drop interface requires no coding knowledge yet still provides access to scripting. And it readily exports games to major platforms like Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, and more.

Design Tips for Your First Game

Making your first game can seem overwhelming. Here are some tips to consider during the design process as a beginner:

  • Start with a simple genre like a 2D platformer, brick breaker, or top down shooter. Don‘t try re-inventing the wheel on your first go. Learn by recreating classic genres.
  • Focus the core mechanic around a singular interaction like moving, shooting, or jumping. Avoid bloated designs trying to do too many things. Nail the core mechanic above all else.
  • Limit the scope by having just one or two enemy types, a handful of levels, basic UI, and limited power ups or abilities. The most common mistake is overscoping.
  • Use placeholder art while developing gameplay. Perfect the mechanics first, then go back and polish the visuals after. Great gameplay trumps great art.
  • Take inspiration from retro classics. Study games like Super Mario Bros, Asteroids, and Pac-Man that designed timeless interactions.
  • Add juiciness with particle effects, screen shake, rumble, and sounds that respond to player actions. This makes actions feel more visceral and satisfying.
  • Playtest early and often. Get friends to test your game and incorporate their feedback. Fix usability issues quickly before they compound.

By keeping things simple for your first project, you give yourself the highest chance of completing it within a reasonable timeframe. You can apply everything learned on more complex games down the road.

Acquiring Free Assets for Your Game

A common roadblock beginners run into is acquiring artwork, sound effects, music, and other assets. While you can create some yourself, leveraging existing resources helps accelerate development.

Fortunately there are many sites providing free game assets:

General:

2D:

Music:

3D:

Just be sure to verify licenses to use assets properly. CC0 and public domain assets have the least usage restrictions.

You can mix and match placeholder assets while developing, then replace them later with custom work. This helps you start building immediately.

Coding Game Logic as a Beginner

Most game engines utilize a scripting language to code game mechanics, enemy behaviors, input handling, and all other logic. Here are some tips for beginners new to coding games:

  • Follow step-by-step game coding tutorials. Break them down line by line to understand exactly what each portion does.
  • Plan code structure ahead of time with pseudocode and flowcharts. Outline the key functions needed.
  • Comment frequently. Document what each section of code does for your own understanding later.
  • Learn proper debugging skills. Use breakpoints and watches to isolate bugs and find their cause.
  • Split code into modular, reusable functions instead of having one massive script file.
  • Search official docs and forums when stuck. Avoid guessing at solutions that may compound issues.
  • Study open source projects to learn how experienced developers structure and architect code.

Start simple. Only focus on coding core gameplay first. Add juiciness and polish later. Completing a basic playable game is a huge motivational milestone!

Publishing on Itch.io

Itch.io provides free game hosting and a marketplace to sell your games once completed. It‘s aimed at indie developers and very beginner friendly.

Benefits of using itch.io:

  • Free games hosting – Upload your game and make downloads available instantly.
  • Custom game pages – Create an engaging page with screenshots, videos, description, etc.
  • Community features – Users can follow developers and wishlist games easily.
  • Sales and payments – Sell your game by setting a price and collect money simply.
  • Cross platform support – Players can download Windows, Mac, Linux, Android versions.
  • Jam participation – Easily enter game jams and share your entry page.
  • Widget toolkit – Embed widgets like playable builds anywhere.

Releasing on itch.io helps build an audience organically. You retain full control over your game pages and collect 100% revenue minus a very fair cut.

Marketing Basics for Indie Games

Creating a great game is just one piece of the puzzle. You also need to market your games to get them noticed. Here are some starter tips for indie devs:

  • Engage early – Start social accounts, post dev updates, release screenshots well before launch. Offer demos.
  • Have a clear message – Summarize what makes your game unique. Communicate this in posts and descriptions.
  • Build an email list – Collect emails from fans to notify them of major updates. Free services like Mailchimp can help.
  • Run promotions – Limited time launch discounts or coupon codes incentivize purchases.
  • Contact press – Reach out to journalists who cover indie games. Provide review codes.
  • Use influencers wisely – Find streamers genuinely aligned with your game style. Avoid spam.
  • Provide assets – Press kits with logos, images, descriptions help press talk about your game.

Done right, quality marketing fuels organic word of mouth and maximizes the number of players reached.

Wrapping Up

With persistence and iteration, you can teach yourself game development using completely free tools. Start small and release often. Learn from others while finding your personal creative voice.

Polishing your first simple game teaches you so much. Applying that knowledge will enable you to bring the games in your imagination to life!

Which route will you take on the journey to crafting your own interactive experiences? The resources covered here aim to help you take the first steps.