A Guide to Android Game Makers 2017

Alberto Furlan

Updated: August 31, 2017

In order to make a good Android game, you’ll need the right development tools, makers and game engines, and there’s plenty out there. But how do you choose?

Games were 90% of Google Play’s total revenue in 2016, but to make it big you have to stand out in a very crowded market, with 2.8 million apps on the store in March 2017.

To help you get on the road to making your awesome game, we’ve selected the best mobile game development tools for creating an Android-based game, and we’ve also covered a few engines, from the larger ones like Unity to more niche products like Moai. If these aren’t enough for you, you can always check out the game section of our app dev tools directory.

Exclusive Bonus:  Download the PDF guide to Android Game Development Tools

The list below is divided according to the complexity and scope of the platforms: “Expert Level Game Makers” are the biggest engines out there with the highest amount of tools, “Mid-Level” is for relatively experienced developers who want to improve, and “Entry Level” is for those just starting out and looking to make their first game.

This is the list:

Expert Level Android Game Makers:

Mid-Level Android Game Makers:

Entry-Level Android Game Makers:

We begin straight away with the strongest game maker of them all…

High End Android Game Makers

Unity 3D

Unity Logo

Unity 3D has to top the list: fully supporting 3D game development, it is the most polished tool out there (together with Unreal Engine), offering plenty of monetisation tools on top of its dev suite, and is free if your game makes less than $100,000 yearly revenue. It’s been used to create some of the most popular games out there, including Monument Valley, and although it does not let you dig into the source code, you’ll probably never need to.

  • Pros: Free up to $100,000, the most polished engine out there, massive community and support network
  • Cons: Gets expensive with extra features and add-ons. No source code access unless you pay. BIG.
  • Example Games: N.O.V.A, ChronoBlade, Monument Valley
  • Price: $35 for basic plan.
  • Free version: Yes.

Made with Unity: Monument Valley Release Trailer

Source: ustwo.com

Unreal Engine 4

Unreal Engine Logo

Unreal Engine 4 is one of the big-hitters in the list, offering an extremely sophisticated set of tools, complete access to its C++ source code and full 3D support. Its pricing plan costs nothing until your game reaches $3000/quarter, at which point 5% of royalties go to Unreal, though one-off payments without royalties can also be organised. Its community is also extremely active, and it has a large knowledge base available online, with tutorial videos and extensive documentation.

  • Pros: Complete source C++ access, visual scripting, good UI
  • Cons: Few extensions, hard to make your own workflows or effects, not great for collaboration
  • Example Games: Shadowgun: Deadzone, Epic Citadel, Wild Blood
  • Price: Free with a percentage taken from game sales.
  • Free version: Yes.

Made with Unreal Engine 4: SHADOWGUN: Deadzone 2.0 Trailer

Source: youtube.com

Marmalade

Marmalade Engine Logo

Marmalade was recently acquired by GMO and while it’s SDK still exists, the company will now focus on the output of its own games: the platform will be up for purchase until October 2017 only. A high end solution, it markets itself as the quickest cross-platform development engine, and its low-level language does indeed make its apps run very fast – further to that, one of its major upsides is “write once, run anywhere”. The engine offers great physics support and can produce 3d games, but it does feature a lot of coding instead of visual scripting, so is perhaps best avoided by beginners.

  • Pros: No Mac required to compile iOS code, very good performance, low-level language
  • Cons: Low-level language, can require extension-making, slower to make apps
  • Example Games: Plants vs. Zombies, Bejeweled Blitz
  • Price: $600 (one time payment).
  • Free version: No.

Made with Marmalade: Plants vs. Zombies 2 Android Gameplay

Source: popcap.com

Next up, something for people with a bit of experience under their belt but looking to step up their game.

Mid-Level Android Game Makers

If you’ve already made a game or two and want to improve your skills, but don’t quite feel confident enough to go “professional”, these are for you.

GameMaker Studio

Yoyogames Logo

GameMaker Studio has been featured a number of times in the Humble Bundle, which alone is a testament to how good the tool is. Released in 1999, it was used to create notable hits like Hotline Miami and Spelunky. Using the GML language, it creates games by using a library of pre-set “events” which then trigger in-game actions, making for an intuitive game-building experience. Also note that it only supports Android 2.3 onwards, and given the level of complexity if can offer, is best suited for junior developers (as opposed to total beginners).

  • Pros: Simple to use, wide support base
  • Cons: Some 3d Support, clunky language
  • Example Games: Tiamat X, Savant – Ascent, Default Dan
  • Price: $99.99 for Basic plan.
  • Free version: Only trial.

Made with GameMaker: Tiamat X Gameplay

Source: youtube.com

GameBuilder Studio

gamebuilder studio logo

GameBuilder Studio is a multi-layered editor that uses a drag and drop interface to build games, while also allowing experienced developers to add custom code to the project. The platform is well supported and recently integrated Spine Pro, which lets users create quite sophisticated 2D animated characters via procedural bone manipulation, as well as support for the Ouya Android console. Pricing seems pretty reasonable too at $99 for a one time payment, though if you want multiplayer support that will bump things up to $199 per year.

  • Pros: Has just relaunched and has an extensive asset store on company’s site.
  • Cons: Multiplayer support only comes with the highest price plan.
  • Example Game: None
  • Price: $99 (single payment)
  • Free version: Yes

Game Builder Studio in action

Appypie

AppyPie Logo

Appypie is a fairly new player to the game-making-platform business, but the entire company is geared towards providing tools for non-coders to make applications and games. With various price plans available, it offers a lot of flexibility for those starting out, as well as ready-made templates of games and a drag-and-drop user interface. The upside of having its own app marketplace is that publishing to it is extremely easy, but there is no support to publish to the App Store or Google Play – that’s up to you.

  • Pros: Out-the-box templates, whitelabel projects available, very easy to use
  • Cons: Manual submission to app stores, very recent means few user reviews
  • Games Made: NA
  • Price: Euro 15/month for Basic plan.
  • Free version: Only 24hr Trial.

Appypie Makes a Game

Source: appypie.com

Moai

Moai Logo

Moai‘s main advantage is there are no frills attached: it is free, open source and will create games for every platform under the sun, and works with Linux as well as Mac and Windows. The platform is Lua based and uses C++ and writes games with clean code and gives the developer a lot of flexibility in how to do things: this can be a curse for a beginner or someone who wants to get on with game design without too much coding.

  • Pros: Open source means you can change the engine as you wish
  • Cons: Little documentation, not easy for beginners
  • Games Made: Freedom Falls, Lost in Paradise, Invisible Inc.
  • Price: Free.

Made with Moai: Freedom Fall Trailer

Source: freedomfall.com

Corona

Corona Logo

Corona is the highly polished, extremely popular game development tool made by Corona Labs, and despite being so polished and with extensive API documentation, it comes with three price plans, starting at “Free”. Its cross platform, covering iOS, Android and Kindle, and has a strong focus on good-looking games with various media and easy monetisation. Corona does not have a visual scripting tool, so it is best for people who have some experience in coding, though being based on Lua, it is very easy for a developer to pick the language up.

  • Pros: Strong community support, emulator functions well for testing, no IDE, write once; run anywhere
  • Cons: Some key add-ons have to be paid for, limited plug-ins.
  • Games Made: Streetfood Tycoon, Gravity Maze
  • Price: $79/month for basic plan.
  • Free version: Yes.

Made with Corona: Streetfood Tycoon Gameplay

Source: youtube.com

Still think these may be a little above your level?

Entry-Level Android Game Makers:

Finally, these editors are for people who aren’t looking to make a best seller – they just want to get their hands dirty, make their first game and see what it’s like.

Gideros Mobile

gideros logo

Gideros Mobile recently became a free engine, and being open source means it is highly customisable and efficient. Based on C/C++ and OpenGL, it makes your apps run at native speeds on devices, and while the IDE has everything you need to develop out-the-box (texture packer, font creator), there is also a large market of third-party plugins. Also features a very active and friendly community on its forums.

  • Pros: Very quick to test apps, easy learning curve, OOP supports iOS, Windows and Android
  • Cons: No visual scripting, no publishing support
  • Games Made: Galactic Blaster, Miner Z
  • Price: Free.

Made with Gideros Mobile: Galactic Blaster Screenshots

GB700

Source: play.google.com

Fusion 2.5

Fusion Engine Logo

Fusion 2.5 is a great visual scripting tool to start working on simple 2D games, and particularly apt for side-scrolling shooters and point-and-click games. Its modular price plan mean you can pay for either Android or iOS exports, as well as choosing between the basic and “developer” versions: the developer version adds a number of monetization features like integration with admob and in-app purchases. It’s also on Steam, so you can always wait for a sale and develop a pen-and-paper concept in the meantime

  • Pros: Visual programming, pay only for what you want, easy learning curve
  • Cons: Pay extra to publish for iOS, extra modules can cost money
  • Example Games: Lost Jelly, Dead of Day, Megacity
  • Price: Euro 79.66 for the maker, plus more for exporting tools.
  • Free version: Yes.

Made with Fusion 2.5: Megacity Gameplay

Source: youtube.com

Engine001

Make Games No Coding

001 Game Creator was released back in 2006 before being relaunched to Steam in 2015 and offers both graphical scripting, for users with no coding background, and text scripting for those with some coding experience. Supports Android, iOS and Windows too. Engine 001 now also supports 3D, but its strength is in retro-looking games. It’s also relatively cheap compared to some of the other makers on this list, costing £45.

  • Pros: Good intro to game programming.
  • Cons: Some language characters (Japanese and Russian) are not supported.
  • Example Game: Solitary, The Soul Master 1
  • Price: £45.
  • Free version: Yes

Engine 001 in action

App Salute Creator

appsalute logo

App Salute Creator is a game building platform from Ukraine-based developer Absolutist. AppSalute uses a simple drag-and-drop interface and seems like a good fit for basic games, like hidden object, match 3, and other puzzle genres, but may not cope to well with more complex projects. Only problem is… when we downloaded the software we couldn’t get the menus displaying in English and therefore couldn’t view pricing details.

  • Pros: Very simple to use.
  • Cons: Hasn’t been updated since 2015.
  • Example Game: Time Gap, Secret Europe.
  • Pricing: ??
  • Free version: Yes

App Salute Creator in action

GameSalad

GameSalad Logo

GameSalad, a very intuitive platform, uses a clear drag-and-drop interface to build games and is often a “gateway” to learn game creation concepts. It covers all major platforms (including the Kindle) without any extra coding, however it does not feature 3d support. One of its main upsides is the in-app testing tool which allows you see how your game will function on each platform- some would say that’s all you need, as 80+ apps developed with it reached the top 100 games in the App Store, with 3 number ones.

  • Pros: Simple to use, two price plans, good prototyping
  • Cons: Limited in its graphical assets, no full 3d support
  • Example Game Volty
  • Price: $17/month for basic plan.
  • Free version: Yes.

Made with GameSalad: Volty Trailer

Source: gamesalad.com

Stencyl

Stencyl logo

Stencyl is a cross-platform game engine suited for complete beginners. It only supports tile-based 2D games and while it starts off free for web publishing, it has additional pricing plans if you want to publish in Android. This effectively means you can have a free trial to test its drag-and-drop interface and multiple tools before deciding to export to another platform. As Stencyl itself puts it, it features a “high level Lego block” style of development, but the engine also gives you the chance to change the code behind the visuals.

  • Pros: Behaviour-based programming ideal for beginners, very good visual tools (texture and sprite creators included)
  • Cons: Little collaboration support, all documentation online (no offline help), weak debugging
  • Example Game: Ghost Song, Mibibli’s Quest
  • Price: $99/year for Basic plan.
  • Free version: Yes.

Made with Stencyl: Ghost Song Official Trailer

Source: stencyl.com

PlayIR

playir logo

A relative newcomer to the market, the UK-based PlayIR launched last year and focuses on multiplayer 3D games. The interface looks very simple and works on a drag and drop basis, with pre-made character models and animations. PlayIR also features real-time updates, multi-platform editing and collaborative editing. Pricing starts from $20 per month.

  • Pros: Large asset servers backing up the platform.
  • Cons: Small community.
  • Example Game: CraftWorlds, World of Fighters
  • Price: $20 per month
  • Free version: Yes

PlayIR in action

Source: PlayIr.com

Final Thoughts:

We know, we know: you can’t wait to make that game a reality now. We hope we’ve provided you some good recommendations as to the best development tools for your idea, now pick your favourite and get developing, and if you’d like to know more check out the game development section of our tools directory. Most of all, have fun creating your game.