best game development books [learn game development asap]

16 Best Game Development Books in 2021 [Learn Game Development ASAP]

What is game development?

Game development is the process of designing, building and releasing a video game. You need a unique skill set of coding, problem-solving, and creative thinking.

Games can be built by one person or literally hundreds of developers.

A never ending fish loop for Mario

This post contains affiliate links. I may receive compensation if you buy something. Read my disclosure for more details.

TLDR: Best Game Development Books

🔥 Best Overall 🔥
Game Programming Patterns

💸 Best Value 💸
Invent Your Own Computer Games with Python

💥 Best for Newbies 💥
Level Up! The Guide to Great Video Game Design

🎖️ Honorable Mention 🎖️
Blood, Sweat, and Pixels

Best Game Development Books

1. Game Programming Patterns

With a 5-star average rating, Game Programming Patterns is one of the best game development books on the market.

↘️ Ideal for: game programmers with some experience
↘️
Topics covered: game loops, patterns

Game Programming Patterns is a recipe book of classic design patterns you can use to maximize your game’s performance. In addition to learning how to write robust game loops, you’ll:

  • organize entities using components
  • use the CPUs cache to improve performance
  • learn how scripting engines encode behavior

And more.

Game Programming Patterns contains a collection of proven patterns to optimize your games.


2. Invent Your Own Computer Games with Python

Invent Your Own Computer Games with Python is one of the best game development books for absolute beginners.

↘️ Ideal for: programming newbies
↘️
Topics covered: programming, math, building games

Invent Your Own Computer Games with Python takes a hands-on approach to game building. You’ll work on tons of games including:

  • Hangman
  • Guess the Number
  • Tic Tac Toe

Then you’ll work on more advanced games like a text-based treasure hunting game and an animated collision-dodging game with sound effects. 🏎️

Invent Your Own Computer Games with Python teaches you how to build games while learning the fundamentals of Python programming and math.

What game developers are saying about this book

This book is a wonderful dive into both Python and game development. It's written for the newcomer to programming and assumes you have no former programming experience. - Troy Martin

This book is a wonderful dive into both Python and game development…

Troy Martin, Game Developer

🔥 Geena’s Hot Take

No Starch Press puts out nothing but bangers, including Invent Your Own Computer Games with Python.

We love them and they can do no wrong!

If you are a programming newbie that wants to learn how to build games, GET THIS BOOK. Get this book.

You’re gonna learn the fundamentals of programming and math, all while building piles of fun, familiar games you can immediately show off to your friends.


3. Level Up! The Guide to Great Video Game Design

Level Up! is one of the best game development books, and its price is nothing to shake a game controller at. 🎮

↘️ Ideal for: game developers
↘️
Topics covered: monetization, mobile gaming, development

In Level Up!, you’ll explore how to develop marketable gaming ideas. In addition, you’ll discover frequent mistakes during a game’s pre-production, production and post-production. Then you’ll find a wealth of creative ideas including:

  • learning how to design exciting levels and gnarly foes
  • creating games for mobile and consoles
  • monetizing your games
  • writing effective design documents

And beyond.

Level Up! offers professional advice from the designer of Pac Man World, Maximo and SpongeBob Squarepants.

Illustration of a gamer in Level Up!

A big thing going “BANG” in Grand Theft Auto

4. Blood, Sweat, and Pixels: The Triumphant, Turbulent Stories Behind How Video Games Are Made

Blood, Sweat, and Pixels is one of the best game development books relaying wild stories on how some video games are made.

↘️ Ideal for: game developers of all levels
↘️
Topics covered: challenges, marketplace demands, technical impossibilities

Blood, Sweat, and Pixels recounts multiple tales of game development with some of the most popular games in the industry:

And more.

You’ll read harrowing tales of overworked game developers. You’ll discover a wall of artistic challenges and technical impossibilities. And you’ll learn how these developers overcame these obstacles to bring you nicely packaged, fully-functional masterpieces.

Blood, Sweat, and Pixels takes you on a hellish journey of pitfalls, challenges and setbacks of some of the industry’s biggest games.

What game developers are saying about Blood, Sweat, and Pixels

10 individual case studies from well known video games. A great look into the creative chaos that produces some of the biggest video game hits to date, including Diablo III, Stardew Valley, and the Witcher. What struck me was how similar it is to movie or TV production, with a creative director balanced by a more business minded producer leading each team. Super interesting novel for anyone who wants to study up on this emerging industry. - Producer Wes

… A great look into the creative chaos that produces some of the biggest video game hits to date, including Diablo III, Stardew Valley, and the Witcher.

Producer Wes


5. Game Engine Architecture, 3rd Edition

Game Engine Architecture is one of the best game development books explaining technologies and techniques used in AAA game studios.

↘️ Ideal for: new and experienced game developers
↘️
Topics covered: technologies, techniques

Game Engine Architecture is a comprehensive beginner-friendly guide to the theory and practice of game engine software development. Author Jason Gregory draws from his decades-long experience at companies such as Midway, Electronic Arts and Naughty Dog.

You’ll start by learning technologies and techniques used by AAA game studios. Then you’ll get under the hood and examine:

  • compiler optimizations
  • C++ language standardization
  • 2D user interfaces
  • computer and CPU hardware and memory caches

And much more.

While geared towards beginners, Game Engine Architecture also contains content for senior engineers.

Engine differences across genres in Game Engine Architecture

6. Game Design Workshop: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Games, 4th Edition

Game Design Workshop is one of the best game development books for newbies with no programming experience.

↘️ Ideal for: game developer newbies with no programming experience
↘️
Topics covered: creative process, accessible guidance

Game Design Workshop assumes no prior programming or artistic experience. Within these newbie-friendly pages, you’ll find a non-technical approach to learning game design.

While learning about the creative process with clear and accessible guidance, you’ll find:

  • examples of popular games
  • design techniques
  • exercises

And more.

By understanding how game systems function, you’ll gain skills and tools to create engaging games.

Game Design Workshop uses a playful approach to creating inventive games.


My car go, escargo, 150 swiftly

7. The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses, 3rd Edition

↘️ Ideal for: game designers of all levels
↘️
Topics covered: fundamentals of different types of games

The Art of Game Design was written by Jesse Schell who has worked on such games as:

With over 100 questions, you’ll discover different ways, or lenses, to look at game development. From the deepest fundamentals of game development, you’ll learn how different tactics (board, card, athletic games) also work in the production of video games.

The Art of Game Design is meant to give you different perspectives you can apply to your own game development.

What game developers are saying about The Art of Game Design

If you're new to game development, this book is an awesome guide. It's like having an instructor on tap. Ora a friend helping with homework. An awesome resource at your side while learning UE4. - Johnny Bell

If you’re new to game development, this book is an awesome guide. It’s like having an instructor on tap…

Johnny Bell, Game Developer


8. Unity Game Development Cookbook: Essentials for Every Game

Unity Game Development Cookbook is one of the best game development books for learning Unity.

↘️ Ideal for: beginner and intermediate Unity developers
↘️
Topics covered: 2D and 3D graphics, animation, scripting

Unity Game Development Cookbook is a hands-on guide that teaches beginner and intermediate Unity developers:

  • 2D and 3D game development
  • scripting
  • tricks in gameplay, behavior, and animation

And much more.

You’ll learn with a series of recipes that teach specific software features. You’ll also find a collection of snippets you can use for common gameplay scenarios.

Unity Game Development Cookbook is a one-stop shop for learning tips and tricks to navigate Unity efficiently and effectively.


9. Foundations of Game Engine Development, Volume 1: Mathematics

Foundations of Game Engine Development is one of the best game engine development books for learning the math necessary to create complex games.

↘️ Ideal for: game developers who need help with math
↘️
Topics covered: algebra, geometry, etc.

Foundations of Game Engine Development is not an easy read. Rather, you’ll investigate all types of math you’ll realistically need to be a successful game engine developer. This includes, but is not limited to:

And much more.

Trying to build the next Unity? YOU NEED THIS BOOK.


10. Unity in Action: Multiplatform game development in C#

↘️ Ideal for: developers experienced in C#
↘️
Topics covered: best practices, 2D and 3D games, creating custom AI scripts

Unity in Action teaches you how to write and deploy games with Unity. With ample examples and hands-on practice, you’ll learn how to:

  • create custom AI scripts
  • build 2D and 3D games
  • make characters run and jump
  • connect your games to the internet

And beyond.

As you progress, you’ll go from application coder to game developer.

Unity in Action teaches C# programmers how to use Unity to enhance game play, graphics, and user experience.


11. Learning C# by Developing Games with Unity 2020

↘️ Ideal for: programming newbies
↘️
Topics covered: C# programming fundamentals, Unity, AI

Learning C# by Developing Games with Unity 2020 is a fun, intuitive way to start learning C# and Unity simultaneously. You’ll start by learning C# fundamentals. Then you’ll learn how to create and implement scripts in Unity.

After that, things get interesting. You’ll:

  • create basic game mechanics like shooting projectiles
  • solve complex programming problems
  • explore the basics of AI for games and use them to control enemy behavior

And much more.

Learning C# by Developing Games with Unity 2020 is a little backwards: It teaches you C# through the lens of Unity, not the other way around.


12. Developing 2D Games with Unity: Independent Game Programming with C#

↘️ Ideal for: experienced C# developers
↘️
Topics covered: building a 2D RPG game

Developing 2D Games with Unity is a hands-on approach to taking your C# programming skills and applying them to Unity. You’ll dive deep into Unity concepts such as:

Using Unity-specific tools, you’ll build a flexible and extensible game architecture. You’ll also learn how to deploy your games to your desktop.

Developing 2D Games with Unity will teach you how to build a 2D Role Playing Game (RPG) as you progress through the book.


Extremely satisfying Tetris clone, REEEEEEEEEEE!!!

13. Theory of Fun for Game Design

↘️ Ideal for: game developers of all experience levels
↘️
Topics covered: how to keep games engaging, the concept of fun

A Theory of Fun for Game Design is written by veteran game designer Raph Koster. This book is devoted entirely to identifying features that make games entertaining.

You’ll also learn how video games:

  • become boring quickly or conversely keep gamers engaged
  • serve as learning tools
  • teach primitive survival skills

And beyond.

A Theory of Fun for Game Design examines key elements that keep video games fun and engaging.

Game dev in natural habitat, Illustration 1-A

14. GAMEDEV: 10 Steps to Making Your First Game Successful

GAMEDEV is one of the best game development books for first-time developers.

↘️ Ideal for: first time game developers
↘️
Topics covered: skills, aspects of game development

GAMEDEV was written by Wlad Marhulets, the developer of Darq. Piggybacking off his own success, he created a 10-step process for your first game to become successful.

You’ll go through the steps to create a commercial game including learning:

  • mindset
  • preproduction
  • funding
  • development
  • publishing
  • distribution

And more.

As the title suggests, GAMEDEV is dedicated to providing you 10 steps to turn your first game into a success.


15. Unity From Zero to Proficiency

↘️ Ideal for: Unity newbies
↘️
Topics covered: core features, 2D and 3D creations

With Unity from Zero to Proficiency, you’ll learn the fundamentals of Unity with a series of hands-on exercises.

By the end of this book, you’ll be able to:

  • apply transformations
  • create a 3D maze
  • create a 2D platform game
  • use cameras and vehicles
  • export your games to the web

And beyond.

Unity from Zero to Proficiency teaches Unity newbies the foundations of Unity.


16. Coding for Kids: Python: Learn to Code with 50 Awesome Games and Activities

Coding for Kids: Python is one of the best game development books for kids or absolute newbies.

↘️ Ideal for: absolute newbies
↘️
Topics covered: learning Python with 50 games

While Coding for Kids: Python is geared towards kids, it’s also useful for absolute newbies.

I should know, I have it.

It’s really cool because you’ll learn Python while creating 50 fun, tangible games. This includes creating code blocks, drawing pictures and more.

Coding for Kids: Python uses easy-to-follow guidance and visual lessons to teach the absolute basics of Python by building 50 games.


Best Game Development Books: Conclusion

Today we looked at the best game development books including:

🔥 Best Overall 🔥
Game Programming Patterns

💸 Best Value 💸
Invent Your Own Computer Games with Python

💥 Best for Newbies 💥
Level Up! The Guide to Great Video Game Design

🎖️ Honorable Mention 🎖️
Blood, Sweat, and Pixels

So regardless of your needs, we’re think these are the best game development books for just about anyone.


Game developers are also reading:


  1. What is game development?

    Game development is the process of designing, building and releasing a video game. You need a unique skill set of coding, problem-solving, and creative thinking. Games can be built by one person or literally hundreds of developers.

  2. What are the best game development books?

    Overall, we think Game Programming Patterns is the best game development book. For value, we liked Invent Your Own Computer Games with Python. And for newbies, we chose Level Up! The Guide to Great Video Game Design.

  3. Is Blood, Sweat, and Pixels worth it?

    Yes, we think Blood, Sweat, and Pixels is worth it. You'll read harrowing tales of overworked game developers. You'll discover a wall of artistic challenges and technical impossibilities. And you'll learn how these developers overcame these obstacles to bring you nicely packaged, fully-functional masterpieces.

  4. Is Game Programming Patterns Worth it?

    Yes, we think so. Game Programming Patterns is a recipe book of classic design patterns you can use to maximize your game's performance. In addition to learning how to write robust game loops, you'll organize entities using components, use the CPUs cache to improve performance, learn how scripting engines encode behavior, and more.