Popular programming languages for games

The video gaming industry is valued at $85.86 billion in the U.S. and $178.37 billion worldwide—and those numbers are only expected to rise. Professional game developers make an average of $71,295 per year, according to Glassdoor, and the most popular game of 2020 (Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War) brought in $59.6 billion on its own. The real challenge regarding video game development is to create games that everyone can enjoy while still considering interface and usability. For this reason, you need to know the popular programming languages for games.  

Whether you plan to develop video games as your main career, a side hustle, or a hobby, learning to code with the right programming language should be on your to-do list. 

Programming languages have their pros and cons. Each has features that make the game better than others. Developers use programming languages that help provide direct control over graphical processes and hardware. Some prefer programming languages that are lightweight and multi-platform. Game developers use several programming languages, sometimes more than one at a time. The right language depends on the project, what features you need the language to have, and your experience level as a programmer.

 The best popular programming languages for games

  1. C#
  2. C++
  3. Lua
  4. SQL
  5. Python
  6. JavaScript

1. C#

C# is one of the popular programming languages for games a high-level language that is great for games because it’s known to be coherent. It is mostly used by smaller game studios and is one of the main coding languages seen in sought-after game engines. In 2000, Microsoft released C# as it was suitable for building games on Xbox and Windows. 

This powerful programming language has allowed professional developers to build a wide range of games on different platforms such as PlayStation, Android, and iOs. Another advantage of using this cross-platform language is that it has a quicker development time and allows coders to code faster. It also has a huge library that’s filled with high-level functionality. Popular games made through this language are Pokémon Go and Super Mario Run.

C# is also a back-end language; in web-development contexts, developers use C# to communicate with the server rather than the user. When a player takes an action in a multiplayer game, C# tells the server how to interpret that action.

Many developers have used C# to create Xbox and other Microsoft games on the XNA Framework. Although Microsoft has retired XNA, C# remains compatible with its successor, MonoGame. It’s also the scripting language behind many Playstation console games.

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2. C++

C++ is the most popular language for creating game engines—the development environments where game programmers create and host their interactive worlds. Game engines provide the technology for every aspect of a game, from graphics, physics, and sound to the behavior of AI-powered game bots.

Developing your own engine is the best way to gain complete creative freedom and control over your game. If you decide to go this route, you’ll absolutely need to know C++; it is the industry standard, and you will need its versatility and high-performance capability.

C++ is a popular video game programming language because it is fast, powerful, and flexible:

  • It’s a very fast language. Gamers expect high performance and minimal to no delay in a quality game. Unfortunately, video games are prone to high server load, which can lead to latency if the code converts too slowly. C++ converts quickly, even when multiple tasks run at the same time.
  • It works in close proximity to hardware. Video games rely on hardware for control functions. C++ operates closely to that hardware, so engines perform better with less chance of stalling.
  • It works cross-platform. C++ lets you release projects on multiple operating systems and gaming platforms.
  • It features high-performance tools. C++ has a rich set of open-source libraries that take some of the legwork out of coding. There are C++ libraries for many different aspects of game development, from graphics design to debugging.
  • It’s compatible with other game programming languages. C++ gives you the flexibility to incorporate languages like C# or JavaScript to improve particular aspects of a game, like graphics or audio.

3.Lua

Lua is a multi-platform language that is simpler but very compatible with other complex languages. This is the language of choice for a video game programmer. It is lightweight and straightforward. In addition, Lua has efficient in-memory usages. The syntax is also pretty simple.

This programming language is an open-source license and is also faster than Python. Lua has limitations that don’t support inheritances and classes. Trending games made with Lua are Aquaria, Angry Birds, Age of Conan, and American Girl

4. SQL

One of the popular programming languages for games development is SQL. It is used as a backend database to access accounts and other server activities. Another advantage of using SQL is that it has high speed and can immediately retrieve huge amounts of records.  

SQL doesn’t require a significant amount of code in managing the database system. It is portable and can be used on laptops, desktops, and mobile phones. It is also considered an interactive language. It can communicate with the database and receive answers quickly. 

5. Python

A beginner-friendly language, Python was created to be readable by human beings. Its syntax is possibly the most English-like among programming languages, which is why it’s a common teaching language in software development.

Python is less widely used in the game development world, but it’s a good starting point for new developers. If you start learning Python, you can jump quickly into the game development library PyGame

PyGame is a free Python library designed specifically for game creation. It’s easy to learn and features:

  • Readily available, easy-to-understand tutorials
  • Easy installers for Windows and MacOS
  • Flexible, mix-and-match core modules
  • Simple code designed specifically for game scripting
Why is Python not used in games?

Although Python is a powerful programming language, what it gains in usability, development time, and readability, it loses in speed. Python runs more slowly than other programming languages like C++, and it isn’t a conventional video game scripting language like C#. However, for newcomers, Python is one of the best starter programming languages—and game engines like Godot are basing their native scripts on Python to make it easier to program.

6. JavaScript

A leading front-end web development language, JavaScript is primarily used in computer programming to add interactivity to web pages. If you use a drop-down menu or click to play a video, JavaScript usually powers that action.

How is JavaScript used in game development?

JavaScript is often used to program games for hosting in web browsers. Today, online games usually run using the core web technology HTML5, which packages JavaScript code together with markup languages HTML and CSS.

JavaScript-powered HTML5 games run in web browsers and on mobile platforms like iOS and Android. You can host these games directly on a website, so they’re easier to share than console games. They’re also easy to maintain, thanks to the built-in stability of the JavaScript language.

Is C# or C++ better as a game coding language?

If you want to create games from scratch, C++ is the way to go. It offers:

  • More control over hardware.
  • Customization options for rendering graphics.
  • Better memory management.

As an added bonus, learning C++ will give you an edge if you want to go further in software development.

If you want to script games using existing frameworks and engines, go with C#. You’ll get to:

  • Learn the basics faster and start coding games sooner.
  • Code within popular engines like Unity.
  • Receive error warnings if something’s wrong, so you learn quicker and see more success.

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