Learn Game Development and Game Design with These Courses

If you want to make an indie game or you want to dabble in game development or game design, here are some beginner's courses to get you started.

If you want to make the next Undertale or Stardew Valley but you don't know where to start, online game design and game development courses are an affordable option for the driven learner. They're much cheaper than a university degree, and you can work at your own pace. Below, we've compiled some of the best short-courses for game development and game design offered by online learning organizations.


Udemy is an online learning marketplace where different subject matter experts across a variety of topics create online courses. You pay for individual courses and are free to take them at your own pace. Prices range from free to $200, but Udemy also hosts some excellent flash sales that cuts cost dramatically. Below are three, top-rated introductory courses covering the major game engines. 

Become A Game Maker with GameMaker Studio

GameMaker Studio is a great place to dive into development as its drag and drop interface helps you get started quickly. This introductory course will help you create a polished platform game from scratch. Along the way, you'll learn how to program, design game levels, and program basic artificial intelligence for enemies in your game. The course, priced at $150.00, will take about 10 hours to complete and includes video tutorials and quizzes to test your knowledge.


The Unreal Engine Developer Course - Learn C++ and Make Games

Unreal Engine is used by AAA studios and indie developers to create 2D mobile games, VR games and everything in between. Unreal Engine is a great choice for indie developers, and it's also free to use. Not only will this course get you started on your first game, you'll also learn C++ along the way. This course will take you about 40 hours to complete and costs $195. In addition to video lectures and quizzes, you'll also gain access to the course discussion forum where you can share ideas with instructors and other students. 

Learn to Code by Making Games - The Complete Unity Developer

If 3D games are your thing, this course will teach you how to create video games using Unity 3D. The course is project based, so you'll learn C# and apply what you learn as you build seven demo games. (That's right, seven.) At $195, this course will take you approximately 50 hours to complete, and includes video tutorials, project files, quizzes, and support from the instructor and other students via the course forum. 


In providing "universal access to the world's best education," Coursera has partnered with prominent universities and organizations to offer free, college-level courses. Students have the option of taking individual courses for free, or earning a certificate via Specialization learning tracks. Unlike Udemy, courses on this platform have set start and end dates, so if you see something you like you may have to wait for the class to open up. Coursera also offers financial aid for students who can't afford multi-course specialization fees. 

Game Design and Development 

Michigan State University's 5-course specialization in game design and development covers theoretical and practical foundations of video game production using the Unity 3D game engine. Some prior experience with computer programming and interaction design will help, but isn't necessary. Classes include Introduction to Game Development, Principles of Game Design, Business of Games and Entrepreneurship, Game Development for Modern Platforms, and a Capstone Class. This specialization will take 6 months to complete. You have the option of subscribing to the course material for $49 a month, or paying $196 upfront for 12 months of access. 

You will have a solid foundation to work toward an industry role as a gameplay designer, level designer, technical designer, technical artist, programmer, or video game producer. You will understand the video game industry, and you will be able to work effectively as part of a team to pitch a game concept, develop a prototype, and test and iterate to produce a polished final product.

-- Course Description 

Game Design: Art and Concepts 

Offered by California Institute of the Arts, this certified, 5-course specialization provides a deep understanding of video game design. Classes include Introduction to Game Design, Story and Narrative Development for Video Games, World Design for Video Games, Character Design for Video Games, and a Capstone Class. The specialization course will take 6 months to complete. 

You'll be able to recognize and articulate foundational game principles; organize, present, and envision story concepts in outline pitches and storyboards; and create character designs. You’ll be equipped to conceptualize, develop, and present thriving worlds for proposed game titles through presentation art and written synopses or pitches.

-- Course Description 

Of course, you can take individual courses as they're offered, without the certificate, for free! 

Online Games: Literature, New Media and Narrative

This isn't a game development or game design course, but as an English nerd I had to include it. This Vanderbilt University English class explores games created around literature. It's completely free, and runs for six weeks. 

Intended for both newcomers who are curious about video games and experienced gamers who want to reflect on their passion, this course will explore what happens to stories, paintings, and films when they become the basis of massively multiplayer online games. The Lord of the Rings trilogy—the novels, films, and video game—are our central example of how “remediation” transforms familiar stories as they move across media.

-- Course Description


Similar to Coursera, with EDX  you can take independent courses for free, or you can pay to receive a verified certificate for the course from the educational institution. They also offer XSeries, which is a group of courses that provides you an in-depth area of study. You pay for each course, and will receive a certificate once work is completed. 

MIT: Design and Development of Games for Learning 

In this project-based course, you'll learn what makes a good learning game and how to create one. This is a great opportunity to learn about the evolution of educational video games and make your own in the process! 

The premise of learning games from some perspectives seems like a perfect and easy solution - get people to learn things they don’t want to by motivating them through game play. To others it seems like an oxymoron - if learning is hard then it can’t possibly be fun at the same time. The key to designing good learning games is to reconcile these perspectives by creating games that focus on creating environments based on “hard fun.”

--- edX Course Description

This class will take 9 weeks to complete with a 6 - 10 hour time commitment each week. You can take this course for free, or you can take the course and receive a certificate of completion for $99. 

If you're interested in the complete set of courses in MIT's Educational Technology series, click here

Additional Resources

This is just the very tip of the iceberg when it comes to resources. In addition to the platforms listed above, YouTube tutorials, Lynda, and CreativeLive are also great sites to learn from. New courses are being added to each of these sites daily, so subscribe for updates from your favorite instructors. You can also check out this list of additional resources and tutorials for aspiring game developers.  Developing a game is a serious undertaking, but with the right tools and hard work, it's an achievable (and enjoyable) goal. Happy programming! 

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Published Nov. 9th 2016

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