Mobile Game Engines and Development Platforms: The Best Engine for Mobile Games in 2024

 min read
27 February 2024
Szymon Wójcik
Szymon Wójcik
iOS developer
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  • Intro

To build modern games, you need a diverse set of software, tools, and services. Choosing a game engine is one of the most crucial steps in this complex process. Game engines are advanced game development platforms that ease the development process and help reduce costs.

In this post, we’ll explore the concept of game engines, what they are, how they work, and the best ones to use for game development in 2024.

Here’s the recap of the article:

  • Game engines come with tools and resources that ease the game development process.
  • The core features of a game engine include a layer for defining the rules and mechanics of the game, a rendering engine, and a physics engine. 
  • To develop a mobile game, you need to come up with an idea or game concept, research the market to determine viability, design a prototype, and then build the game itself.
  • In choosing the right game engine for mobile development, consider factors like iOS and Android platform compatibility, ease of use, graphics capability, and budget. 
  • The best game engines in the market feature robust features for multi-platform integrations, which further simplifies game development. 
  • Game developers can make money on apps by offering a freemium plan with paid packages, in-game ads, subscriptions, or in-app purchases. 

What is a Mobile Game Engine?

A mobile game engine is a software development platform specifically designed for creating video games for mobile devices. Mobile game engines come with tools and resources that help simplify the development process. So instead of coding everything from scratch, developers can simply plug into these game engine tools to create the game. 

Before the invention of game engines, video games were typically written from scratch by developers as singular entities. The golden age of arcade games in the 1970s and 80s eventually paved the way for the development of in-house game engines by arcade game developers.

However, the term “game engines” itself didn’t come into use until the mid-1990s. Epic Games, a development company founded by Tim Sweeney, debuted Unreal Engine in the year 1998 which became one of the most popular game engines of the era. 

Mobile Game Engines and Development Platforms - complementary graphic

Modern mobile game engines are complex pieces of software with a layered architecture. They typically feature different components that handle different aspects of game development. The core features of a game engine include a layer for defining the rules and mechanics of the game, a rendering engine (or renderer) for designing the 3D or 2D graphics of the game, and a physics engine to simulate how physical objects within the game behave.

Many game engines also come with an extensive library of pre-made assets. This may include game avatars, sound effects, and 3D models. Developers can use these assets within their game instead of creating them from scratch. 

Mobile game engines have diverse applications. They can be used to create different types of games, from simple puzzle games to complex RPGs and action games. Aside from games, modern game engines are also increasingly being used to create business applications and other interactive experiences.

How to Develop a Mobile Game?

Game development is a complex process that requires a blend of creativity, strategic planning, and technical ability. To bring a game idea to life, developers have to painstakingly follow a series of steps while using the most effective development tools at their disposal. Some of the factors to consider for successful mobile game development include: 

Develop an Idea or Game Concept 

The first step in creating games is to generate ideas. This typically begins with picking a game genre, defining the core concept of the game, working out the mechanics, and adding a unique twist that will set your game apart from others in the same genre. 

Market Research 

Next, you need to validate your idea by researching the mobile gaming market. Completing this step before you develop games allows you to assess the likely reception of your game based on the current mobile game industry trends, demand, and competition. 

Mobile games must be built with player preferences in mind. The information you discover during this stage of development will be incorporated into defining your game mechanics, features, and even monetization strategy. 

Design and Prototyping

At this stage, you proceed to design what your game will look like and how the gameplay will work. You’ll have to outline the mechanics, game levels, characters, and other UI elements. Before developing the entire game, you should develop a prototype to test the core elements of your game.


The development stage is where you use the game development engine to create the game infrastructure. Instead of coding from scratch, the game engine offers all the basic tools for developing the game logic and rendering the game.

You can also add assets such as animations, sound effects, and music to the game using the game engine. In some games, you’ll also have to integrate third-party libraries and tools into the game development platform.

Polishing and Optimization

After the initial development phase is completed, you’ll have to test your game rigorously for bugs, glitches, and other issues. Testing is done both internally and externally with different groups of users. Based on the feedback from your tests, you can refine the game visuals and optimize performance accordingly to ensure a seamless experience for players. 

How To Choose the Best Mobile Game Engine?

In modern game development, your game engine is the foundation of your game. Your choice of game engine will determine the visuals, performance, and user experience of your game. Choosing the right game engine will also make development considerably easier, reducing development time and making the development process less cumbersome for developers.

Here are some of the key factors to consider in choosing the best mobile game development engine: 

Project Requirements

Before you choose a game engine, consider the scope of your project and unique requirements. For instance, the requirements of a 2D game will be different from that of a complex 3D game. 

Understanding the basics of your game design, such as the game genre, graphics requirements, audio, and general game mechanics, is a key step in choosing the game engine to use for development. For instance, if you intend to build a game with great visuals, you have to choose a game engine with powerful graphics capabilities for your development. 

Platform Compatibility

Next, consider the platform you’re building for. Not all game engines are suitable for building games for mobile. Ensure the game engine supports your target platform whether it’s iOS or Android. The top mobile game engines offer cross-platform compatibility. This is particularly great if you intend to create games for multiple platforms and system versions.

Budget Constraints

Determine how much you intend to spend on development and choose a game engine that delivers that. Although some game engines allow you to build for free, others charge a licensing fee. 

This may be in the form of a direct fee or a revenue-sharing model where you pay a percentage of your game profit to the game engine’s developers. Review the licensing terms of the game engine before you settle for it since it will impact your total game budget and profit in the long run. 

Developer Expertise 

You want to consider the skills of your development team and the overall intuitiveness of your game engine before making a decision. While some engines are generally easy to use, others are more suitable for experienced developers. You should also consider the scripting language or coding framework offered by the game engines and pick one that best aligns with your team’s expertise. 

Ease of Use

Some game engines have an intuitive interface which makes them easy to use even for beginner developers. Ease-of-use can also be in terms of the flexibility and customization options offered by the platform. It’s also great if the game engine has a robust community of developers and comprehensive documentation to guide users. 

Best Mobile Game Engines for Game Developers


Unity is a cross-platform game engine favored by both beginners and advanced developers due to its ease of use and versatility. Some of the most successful mobile games built with this game engine include Pokémon Go, Monument Valley, and Call of Duty: Mobile. 

It features an extensive asset store, a visual scripting system, and multiplayer support. Unity has a free plan with limitations, along with paid options starting from $39/month


  • Intuitive game engine 
  • Vast community of game developers and learning resources
  • Flexible for diverse game types
  • Excellent monetization options


  • Can be resource-intensive for complex games

Unreal Engine 

Unreal Engine is one of the best game development platforms for building games with high-end graphics and advanced features. Some of the most notable game titles built with this platform include Fortnite, Genshin Impact, and The Elder Scrolls: Blades. The game offers stunning visuals, and robust assets with advanced physics and animation tools. Unreal Engine has a free-to-use version but charges a 5% royalty on games with gross revenue exceeding $1 million. 


  • Great visuals for 3D and 2D games development 
  • Developers with no coding knowledge can use Unreal Engine to create high-quality games
  • Cross-platform games development


  • Resource intensive


Godot is one of the most versatile game engines. It can be used for both 2D and 3D games and supports multiple programming languages including Python, C#, and C++. Godot is particularly famous for its impressive UI editing features. 

Visually stunning games like Kingdoms of the Dump, Haiku, and Celeste were built with this platform’s node-based engine. Godot is an open-source game engine, and it is free for developers. 


  • Active community
  • Versatile game engine
  • Visual design capabilities 


  • Best suited for 2D games 


Buildbox is an easy-to-use engine that supports rapid game development. It is primarily a visual development platform which means non-coders can still create professional-looking games using the platform’s drag-and-drop functionality. Buildbox is also free to use, with built-in features to easily monetize your games. Examples of games built with this platform include Colour Switch, Ball Jump, and Fruit Ninja. 


  • Easy to use drag-and-drop interface
  • Supports fast prototyping
  • Includes templates and smart game assets


  • Buildbox is best used for simple 2D games. 

Solar 2D 

Formerly known as Corona SDK, Solar 2D is a lightweight game engine with Lua scripting capabilities. Games like FarmVille 2, DragonVale, and Flappy Bird were built with Solar 2D. In addition to the simplicity of using Solar 2D for development, it also has an integrated environment to easily test and run projects online instantly before deploying. Solar is an open-source project and is free for all users. 


  • Lightweight, ideal for simple games.
  • Live testing environment 
  • Active community and robust documentation


  • Best suited for 2D game development

GameMaker Studio 2

This game engine by YoYo Games has been used to develop famous game titles like Samurai Gunn 2, and Notebook Artillery among others. It features a drag-and-drop visual development interface along with a unique programming language known as the GML which can be used by both Novice and advanced users. 

Users can also find robust game assets and extensions on the GameMaker marketplace. GameMaker is free for development, but you’ll have to upgrade to a paid package to export games to multiple platforms. 


  • Suitable for developers at all skill levels. 
  • Easy-to-use drag-and-drop functionality 
  • Flexible game development platform


  • Developers may not be familiar with GML coding 


SpriteKit is Apple’s graphics framework for game development which makes it one of the top game development platforms for building games for iOS devices. 2D games like Squashy Bug, Trestle, and Accelebot have been built with this game engine. 

Designers can easily illustrate the game text, images, animations, and shapes using the platform’s 2D game designer and this makes it perfect for graphic-intensive applications. SpriteKit is free for all users. 


  • Rich graphics for game development 
  • Create and customize game animations with ease 
  • Realistic game physics 


  • Does not support cross-platform game development 


With over 1.4 million registered developers and more than 25, thousand games built to sar, Cocos is arguably one of the most popular game engines in the market. Lua is the scripting language of this platform but it also supports Javascript and C++. Some of the most notable game titles built with Cocos 2D-X include Magic Rush and Dragon Ball Z. 


  • High-quality graphics rendering
  • Detailed documentation and active community 
  • Suitable for both new and advanced developers 
  • Open-source game engine


  • Steep learning curve 


AppGameKit is another visual game development engine that supports different mobile platforms. The game’s visual scripting mode allows you to build robust game logic and deliver immersive mobile gaming experiences to players without complex coding. 

More experienced developers can also use the optional advanced C++ scripting for greater control and flexibility. Some of the games that have been built with this royalty-free game engine include Repton 2 and Skrobol. 


  • Easy to learn and use 
  • Affordable game engine (one-time purchase) 
  • All-in-one platform from concept to development 


  • AppGameKit’s visual fidelity may not be on par with the most advanced engines.

Fusion 2.5

Fusion 2.5 game engine supports game development without coding by using an event editor system. This system allows you to develop mobile games quickly by simply setting up conditions and actions on a visual interface.

Advanced mobile game developers can also program complex game logic using Lua scripting. Fusion 2.5 supports cross-platform development and has been used for games like Distraint, Quadle, and Bit Odyssey.


  • Beginner-friendly platform
  • Supports both 3D and 2D games development


  • Limited controls and customization. 

Game Engines Comparison

Game engines comparison blogpost infographic

How to Integrate Engines with Platforms?

Although game engines offer a robust set of mobile game development tools needed to design and build fully functional games, you’ll still have to integrate the platform with various external platforms and tools as part of the game-making process. For instance, you’ll have to integrate and export your game to iOS and Android platforms, depending on the type of game you’re building. 

Some of the best game engines in the market already have robust features for multi-platform integrations. This includes plugins and APIs that can help optimize your game for the different devices and operating systems you are building for. Some game engines also offer platform-specific packages that will help tailor your game to specific operating systems. 

Aside from platform integration, you may also have to integrate your game into other necessary services such as monetization networks and analytics services to track user behavior. Some engines have inbuilt monetization systems, which means you won’t have to worry about the process of incorporating ads, marketplace, and other features into your app. 

Game Monetization

The most straightforward way to monetize your app is to have players pay for it at the point of download. However, this is hardly practical, which is why most games on app stores are typically free to download. So how do you make money from your app when players can download it for free? Here are some of the most common monetization strategies you can explore: 

Freemium model – with the freemium model, gamers get to play for free and have access to the game’s core features at no cost. However, some of the extra features in the game (or higher game levels) are locked behind a paywall. They’ll have to subscribe to a premium plan to extend or unlock these features. 

In-app advertising – this monetization model gives players access to the app’s full features but displays ads. This way, revenue is generated from advertisers and not directly from the players. Some apps also combine the ads model with the freemium model. With this option, players can play a small token to remove ads entirely. 

Subscription – this is similar to the freemium model. With this monetization option, the app’s core features are available for free, but players have to pay a weekly, monthly, or yearly subscription to access extra features. 

In-app purchases – In apps that make money through in-app purchases, players have to pay money to unlock the game level and buy weapons, themes, avatars, skin, and other in-game assets. This can potentially make gameplay more interesting while providing a source of revenue for the game developer. 

Mobile Game Development with Experts

A mobile game development software provides a robust set of building blocks to simplify the development process. This includes visual builders and custom scripting for coding the logic and rendering game graphics. Game engines also offer in-game assets such as sprites, sound effects, and 3D models, so developers don’t have to create them from scratch for every game they build.

Whether you’re creating simple hyper-casual games or complex RPGs with advanced graphics, you’ll find a game engine with the unique set of features you need. Consider your options and ensure you pick a game engine that meets the unique needs of your project based on the scale, desired features, and skill set of your developers.

You should also enlist the help of expert developers like CrustLab for an efficient mobile game development process. We’ll help you select the best game engine for your project and efficiently bring your game idea to life. Contact us to learn more about our expert game development services. 

Frequently Asked Questions about Mobile Game Engines

  • What is mobile game development?

    Mobile game development refers to the process of building games specifically for mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. This involves several steps from defining the game logic, designing/prototyping, coding, and optimizing your game.

  • What engine do most mobile games use?

    There’s no single dominant engine. That’s because different game engines have unique capabilities depending on your development needs. For instance, while platforms like Buildbox are beginner-friendly, advanced mobile game developers who want to create games with high-quality graphics prefer Unreal Engine. Other commonly used options include Godo, Unity, and Solar 2D.

  • What is the best game engine for mobile game development?

    Choosing the best game engines depends on your needs and goals. In choosing the most suitable platform for you, you’ll have to consider the game type and complexity, developer skill set, and even your budget.

  • How much time does mobile game development take?

    It’s hard to give a specific time estimate for mobile game development. The complexity of the game and the size of your team are two of the biggest factors that determine how much time the process will take. For simple mobile games, development can be done in a matter of weeks. However, for more complex titles, you’ll need months or even years.

  • What is the easiest game engine to make a mobile game?

    Game engines that support visual game development are the easiest to use. They are easy to master, and even beginners will find them relatively easy to use. With a game engine like Buildbox for instance, you can build fully-functional games in just a single week. 

  • How much does it cost to develop a mobile game?

    The cost of developing games depends on various factors including engine fees, the cost of game assets, the platform submission fees, and the cost of other integrations and development kits you use. You can expect to spend between $3000 to $150,000 on the best mobile game engines depending on the game type and complexity. 

  • Which game engine can run on Android?

    Any game engine that supports cross-platform development can be used to develop Android games. Some of the best options include Unity, Unreal Engine, Godot Engine, Buildbox and Solar2D.

  • Can you use Unity for iOS games?

    Yes, Unity fully supports multiplatform development, which means it can be used for iOS games.

  • How good is Unreal Engine for mobile games?

    Unreal Engine is one of the best engines in the mobile gaming industry. It is particularly great for creating visually stunning mobile games. However, it does have a steep learning curve and requires more experience compared to other options.