It’s about damn time Unreal Engine is free
Epic Games has made its hugely popular game-making software Unreal Engine 4 free. There’s no trial period, there’s no pro version; it’s completely free.
It’s a big move for the company, particularly because for the longest time Unreal Engine was unaffordable for most independent developers. It’s been used mostly for big games like Gears of War, Bioshock Infinite, and Borderlands. Last year, the company dropped the price to $19 a month to bring in smaller-sized game companies, and now, a year later, it’s letting anyone use it.
It may be big news for Epic, but for game developers, it’s a little late. There’s a few game engines out there that were cheap– and even free–before Unreal Engine’s price dropped. Here’s six that were already free and capable of some great games.
Epic won’t say it, but it seems pretty clear that its engine’s biggest competitor is its Unity engine, simple for its accessibility and flexibility. Unity is free and is totally functional that way, but there is a pro version to remove things like logos and add some extra features. Game makers have been using it for years, creating games like Jazzpunk, Gone Home, and Never Alone. It’ll be the engine running upcoming games like Firewatch too.
Another big contender in the game engine space is GameMaker. It’s had a free version for a while, but only recently split into a Standard and Studio version. The Standard version is free to download and has a lot of features to help you start making games. GameMaker is responsible for games like Hotline Miami, the original version of Spelunky, and Super Crate Box.
Twine games are very different than what you can make with a traditional 3D game engine, but it’s still powerful in its own right. This text-based engine is incredibly easy to get into and has been free and open source since the beginning. Because of their simplicity, Twine games can be played by basically anyone too. Some notable Twine games include: Cara Ellison’s Sacrilege, Zoe Quinn’s Depression Quest, and Darius Kazemi’s On Formalism.
Stencyl is a 2D game engine that’s open source and has a free version available for web-based games. The paid versions will let you publish games on platforms other than the web, like iOS and Android. There’s a ton of small games that have been made in the engine, which you can check out here.
Construct 2 is another free, 2D game engine. It’s similar to Stencyl in that you can’t publish your games anywhere but on the web unless you pay for a pro version. Here’s a list of games made in the engine.