Video games are one of the most popular forms of entertainment today. From Mario Kart to Elden Ring, there are games to suit everyone’s tastes. But did you know that developing games can be even more fun than playing them? Not only that, but learning to develop video games teaches skills which can be applied in other areas of computer science as well! Read on to find out some of the best ways to learn game coding, so you can start developing video games of your own.
How to code a video game for beginners free
Are you ready to start coding games? There are a number of routes to learning this fun and useful skill.
1. Learn a coding language from scratch
There are many ways to starting learning how to use game programming languages. One surefire way to ensure you learn everything you need to know is taking coding classes! Sometimes learning a new skill can be overwhelming. Where to begin? That’s where classes come in. A great coding class can not only help guide you in learning the skill of programming, but it can also help steer you toward your specific interests. A class can teach you how to use popular game engines like Unity, for example, all while teaching you coding skills which can transfer to any other discipline in which you may be interested. Be sure to read on to find out about some of the best game development courses out there!
It’s not all about taking classes, though—another great way to learn how to code is by playing coding games! There are a number of apps which have turned the process of learning how to code into a fun, gamified experience. Programming is already fun to do on its own, but it can be even more fun with the help of one of these great coding games! You can read more below about coding games.
2. How to use the most popular video game engine for free
Unity is one of the most popular game engines in the world. It has been used to develop games such as Fall Guys, Pokémon, Among Us, and many others. Developers choose to build their games using Unity because of its easy-to-use interface combined with its powerful game engine.
Creating a game in Unity follows an easy workflow. Users start in the Unity Hub, creating a new project with preset settings to fit their needs. For example, if the user wants to make a 3D game, choosing the 3D template drops the user into a 3D-ready workspace. From there, users can add objects to the world, attach components such as collision detectors (called Colliders), and add C# code to control how that object behaves in their world.
Unity also provides a number of useful tools to speed up game development, such as Prefabs, which store all the information about an object and can be dropped into new levels without needing to rewrite any code! To explore Unity for yourself and build your very first project, you can check out this post showing the process of creating a falling domino chain in Unity!
3. Combine skills to make your first video game
Sitting down to code your first game can be a daunting task—where does one even begin? Try following these steps to get started!
- Understand your concept. What kind of game do you want to make? A 2D platformer? A 3D first-person thriller? The very first step is simply deciding what kind of game you would be interested in creating.
- Keep it simple. Don’t let your goals get out of hand! Is your game about collecting resources to craft things? Or maybe it’s about making your way through increasingly difficult challenges to reach a final boss! It’s up to you, but be sure you keep your core concept simple.
- Choose a game engine. Do you want to make your game in Unity? Unreal? Godot? PyGame? There are a lot of options out there, so be sure to choose an engine you enjoy working in. Different engines use different programming languages as well, so be sure to pick an engine which fits the language you like!
- Learn as you go. One is never done learning how to program. Even experienced coders still find themselves learning something new every day. Don’t wait until you’re “done” learning how to code to get started!
- Work within your skillset. Start with the challenges you think you can solve now. Not quite sure how to make the character do that cool frontflip when they jump? That’s alright, just work on the running logic for now! You’re likely to learn more concepts along the way which will help you solve those tough challenges if you focus on the challenges more within your reach now.
- Choose an artistic style. Does your game feature a pixel art retro aesthetic? Maybe it’s a more hand-drawn cartoon style. Pick a style and stick to it—a consistent visual and auditory style goes a long way toward tying your game world together.
- Focus on core mechanics. Adding small bits of polish to your game can be fun, but a pretty game is only good if its core mechanics work well. Be sure you spend most of your time creating a game which runs smoothly and feels natural to play.
- Get feedback. Even the best game developers in the world can’t do it alone. Every great game has one thing in common: it has been tested, retested, and tested again. Importantly, be sure other people are testing your game, as they’re the ones likely to find issues you wouldn’t think to find yourself!
- Don't give up. Developing a game is a long process, but don’t be discouraged! Some of the best games took years to develop, but they were worth the wait!
Explore the best game development courses
Award-winning STEM education platform Create & Learn offers a number of live online courses dedicated to teaching learners how to code through making and playing games.
1. Minecraft Modding Quest
If you enjoy Minecraft, then Minecraft Modding Quest is a great way to dive into the world of coding! Using Minecraft Education Edition, this course starts by introducing learners to the very basic concepts of stacking commands together to make computers accomplish tasks. They’ll control agents to solve puzzles while interacting with different in-game characters, before moving on to learning core coding concepts such as loop, operations, conditional, events, function, variables, and more!
2. Game Building Club
The Game Building Club uses Scratch to make games through original challenges and projects. Learners will work with concepts such as lists, variables, messages, and cloning, and they’ll use those concepts to make an awesome project they love each week. Some examples of weekly games include making a soccer game, creating a virtual pet game, and bringing a dress up game to life!
3. Coding with Roblox Studio
If Roblox is more your thing, why not try Coding with Roblox Studio? Roblox Studio can be used to code mini-games with the world of Roblox. Through a combination of configuring and scripting/coding, learners can create their own game world using a built-in 3D design tool and coding interactions with the world using Lua. The course starts with simple coding concepts such as loops and conditional statements, and gradually builds to more advanced concepts, building fun games throughout!
4. Unity Game Development
As mentioned above, Unity is one of the most popular game development platforms in the world. The Unity Game Development courses cover everything learners need to know to get the most of Unity, covering the core techniques of building both 2D and 3D games and coding in C#. The classes are entirely project-based, allowing learners to practice their skills while building games!
Free coding games for beginners
Coding games can be a great way to learn how to code, and get experience with game design. Here are a few to check out!
CodingGame offers a similar experience, using code to control characters and other elements on screen to complete challenges in a game. It also includes a multiplayer aspect, allowing players to challenge their friends to come up with the best coding solution to the game! It boasts coverage of over 25 programming languages, including Java, Python, Ruby, C#, C++, and many others.
Unlike the two applications above, Code.org offers learners a chance to learn by way of creating and modifying a number of different games, covering everything from table tennis and hockey games to mods for Minecraft. It offers tutorials and challenges for kids of all ages. With seemingly endless options for learning, Code.org allows learners to tackle the topic of coding a bit at a time with short tutorials on every topic imaginable.
Free coding games for teens
If you’re already familiar with coding, why not use games to improve your skills? These coding apps help further develop your programmer’s mind!
CheckiO features coding games which allow players to improve their coding skills by solving challenges and completing fun tasks in Python and TypeScript. Featuring over 500 “missions,” players work their way through tasks of increasing difficulty, either working on existing skills or learning new ones. With an eye-catching world map and a great community of programmers, CheckiO is sure to keep learners engaged!
Codewars gamifies an important element of learning how to code: practicing! It offers small coding challenges called “kata,” which are created by the community to help practice and strengthen different coding skills. This system allows players to not only sharpen their skills, but also see how other programmers solve the same problem, all while earning ranks and honor! It also features coverage of over 55 different programming languages, ensuring that players can find exercises that fit whatever language they’re practicing!
Human Resource Machine is a game which challenges the player to solve puzzles using traditional computer science concepts and logic. The player’s “office” is a simple computer, capable of basic computing operations, and the player must use only these basic operations to execute a very specific task. Each level is an increasingly difficult puzzle, and all the while players are learning how to apply logical operations the way a computer understands them!
Find even more free coding games for kids here.
Start today to learn game coding
There’s always more to learn when it comes to coding games. If you’re interested in getting started, you might try checking out our blog post on how to make a Pacman game.
And don’t forget, you can also learn how to create all kinds of awesome games by joining our live online, small-group, expert-designed classes! Begin with an intro to Unity class, designed by professionals from Google, Stanford, and MIT.
Written by Create & Learn instructor Josh Abbott Salazar. Josh is a teacher, coder, audio engineer, and musician. After graduating with a Master's in Music from Belmont University in Nashville, TN, Josh turned his attention to the technology side of things, and has been working in various aspects of coding and engineering ever since. He runs a small music studio in Nashville called Tango Sound Studios, and develops video games in his spare time.