The Best Open Source Game Engines

Analogous to car engines, game engines provide the essential working parts of a game.

Open source game engines are a great way to realize your vision for a game without the overhead of developing your own engine from scratch. This allows you to focus on more specific features and assets such as gameplay, art, sound and level design, rather than the details of software/hardware interaction. Choosing the right engine from the start will ensure your design expectations can be met appropriately.

Unreal Development Kit (UDK)

The UDK is a full-featured, open source development suite. Not only does it include source code for the engine, but it also uses UnrealScript–a specialized scripting language made especially for game development. This allows you to program your game in an easy-to-learn Java-based language without having to deal with the “under the hood” C++ programming language. Included with the source code is the Unreal Editor, a powerful tool which allows for animating models, editing sound and building levels. The UDK is free, and your game may be distributed for free without a license; however, you will have to buy a license if you want to sell your game.


OGRE 3D is an open source engine supported by its own community. Users are encouraged to submit patches as well as use patches made by other members. This approach speeds up development time for redundant engine features. OGRE 3D uses the MIT license and is free; there is no need to purchase anything in order to sell your game. The downside to this is a lack of tools to create your game–you create your own development tools. The community does provide Graphic User Interface (GUI) libraries to speed up this process. You will also have to be familiar with the C++ programming language.

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Irrlicht Engine

The Irrlicht Engine is an open source game development platform which combines many useful features in one package. It uses the zlib license, which allows anyone to distribute the game without paying any fees. Like the OGRE engine, it has a developer community that is constantly making and releasing updates. Built using the C++ language, the Irrlicht Engine already has sound editing and world building tools, allowing you to focus on creating content instead of having to create your own tools right from the start.


Delta3D is an open source game engine with a lean towards simulations. Straight out of the box it includes support for High Level Architecture (HLA), After Action Review (AAR), large scale terrain support, and SCORM Learning Management System (LMS) integration. These technologies make it ideally suitable for simulation creation and development, and the Delta3D site even claims the software has been used in applications by the Department of Defense. Like OGRE 3D, the package contains bare essentials from which you will build up your own development environment. As with other open source engines you can find libraries created by other users which will reduce the development time. Delta3D also uses the C++ language. Licensed under the GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPL), games created with Delta3D are freely distributable.