Every great mobile game starts with an idea, but where do you go from there? Many games on the Apple and Google Play stores have gone from an idea to a popular game using one of the five programming languages.
Mobile game development is hard work, but when you have the right tools at your disposal, it’s much easier. Start by identifying the programming language that best suits your needs and experience.
1. The C# programming language
C# (pronounced “see sharp”) is an object-oriented programming language, released by Microsoft in 2002. It runs on .NET (a Microsoft virtual execution system) and is one of the best programming languages in the world. C# owes its popularity to its proven track record of building robust and durable applications.
Unity is a testament to this, as it is one of the most popular game engines in the world, built entirely with C#. 71% of all mobile games distributed today use the Unity game engine, according to Unity Technologies. Unity lets you create custom 3D games using C# scripts, so you can stand out from the crowd.
Some popular mobile games created with the unit include Pokémon GO, Cuphead, Call of Duty, and Monument Valley.
- C# is a popular language with a large community of game developers, which means there are plenty of resources available for beginners.
- It has abundant documentation.
- It belongs to the C family, so it is closely related to C, C++ and Java. This reduces the learning curve for a developer coming from one of these other popular languages.
- C# is a high-level object-oriented programming language.
- C# has a built-in garbage collector that automatically frees memory.
- It is a type-safe programming language.
- It’s quick.
- C# is heavily dependent on the .NET platform. Without .NET, it’s Windows oriented and there isn’t much support for other operating systems.
2. The C++ programming language
In 1985, Bjarne Stroustrup released the first official version of C++. In 1998, the C++ Standards Committee published the language’s first international standard. Today, C++ has come a long way and is one of the best programming languages in the world, not just for game development, but as a general-purpose language.
Unreal Engine is one of the best mobile game engines in the world. Built with C++, Unreal Engine identifies itself as a “real-time 3D authoring tool”. This engine makes it possible to develop 3D games and is one of Unity’s main competitors. Unreal Engine has created popular games such as Fortnite, Batman: Arkham City, and Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice.
- It is a multi-paradigm programming language.
- C++ gives you complete control over a program’s behavior, such as its memory management.
- C++ is fast.
- C++ has a large ecosystem.
- It is a mid-level language with a mix of high and low level features. It is a sort of high-level assembler because it allows direct access to the hardware of a computer (via the operating system).
- C++ lacks features that other programming languages have, such as a built-in garbage collector.
- It has security issues like pointers which can crash your program or even be a gateway for hackers.
3. The Kotlin programming language
Kotlin is a modern programming language developed by JetBrains, a company that creates development tools. In 2016, JetBrains released the first version of Kotlin, a programming language for developing mobile apps. From the start, Google pledged its support for Kotlin in Android development. This move created a general association between Kotlin and Android app development.
However, like any good mobile app development language, Kotlin is a cross-platform language. Kotlin has a software development toolkit (SDK) for Android and iOS app development called Kotlin Multiplatform Mobile. This SDK offers cross-platform and native benefits. It allows you to share consistent logic (such as networking and storage) between Android and IOS while implementing device-specific functionality separately.
- Kotlin is a multi-paradigm language (object-oriented and functional).
- Compared to Java, Kotlin reduces your code by about 40%, according to Kotlin.
- Kotlin is fast.
- Kotlin has features like smart streaming, higher-order functions, extension functions, built-in null security, and lambdas.
- Kotlin is popular among mobile app developers (especially Android app developers).
- Kotlin is a relatively new programming language, so it has a small community.
4. The Swift programming language
Swift is another modern programming language. Its development is a joint effort of Apple Inc. and several open source contributors. Apple released the first version of Swift in 2014 for IOS, IPadOS, macOS, tvOS, and watchOS app development. Today, Swift supports all Apple platforms and Linux operating systems.
- Swift has an automatic memory manager.
- Swift has features like custom string interpolations, JSON encoding and decoding, first-class functions, and custom transformation using simplified closure.
- It is fast, thanks to its use of high-performance LLVM compiler technology.
- Swift is a high level programming language.
- It is a multi-paradigm language.
- Swift only supports mobile game application development for IOS.
- It is a new language with a small community compared to other more established languages used to develop mobile game applications.
5. The Lua programming language
Lua is one of the most popular choices for mobile game development. According to Lua, it’s “currently the premier scripting language in games.” The other languages in this list use a compiler, which results in faster speed. Lua is the only interpreted programming language here, so it works well as a scripting language.
World of Warcraft and Angry Birds are two of the most popular games in the world today, and they were both developed using Lua. Solar2D (formerly known as Corona) and Defold are two popular game engines developed using Lua.
- Lua is a strong language, but it doesn’t have a big community compared to the other two giants (C# and C++) on this list.
How to Choose the Best Game Development Language
Proven performance is a quality that these five languages and their respective game engines have in common. While all of these languages are great for developing mobile games, not all of them might be right for you.
For example, if you want to develop a mobile game just for IOS users, Swift might be your best bet. If your game will be for Android and IOS users, but will be 2D, then Lua and Kotlin are your best suitors. However, if your game will be 3D, C# and C++ are your best options.