Updated on November 14, 2022

How to Make a Mobile Game in 7 Steps

A guide to getting started with mobile game development that covers everything you need to make a game today, from design to programming to graphics and beyond.

Every person these days has a mobile phone, so it’s no surprise the mobile game market has skyrocketed. If you’re itching to know how to make a video game app of your own, this article will walk you through seven steps you need to take to get your video game app from idea to release.

Person playing a mobile game

Make a Mobile Game in 7 Steps

1. Make a game plan

Game cards with mobile game code in the background

Proper planning, or a lack of planning, can make or break your game. Before you start building your first game, you need to know what it is you want to make. Is it a side scroller? A puzzle game? Or some type of racer? Will it be 2D or 3D?

Take the time to write down ideas, come up with unique characters, play with different art styles, and think about the type of gameplay that would make your game fun. If you have no idea where to start, here's a list of popular mobile game genres from YouGov.

Once you've decided on the genre, make sure you sketch out and describe in writing how you want your game to look. It doesn't have to be extremely detailed. Keeping a notebook that describes a few things you want your game to do will help you stay organized as you create your game. 

2. Find the right mobile game development software

Why make creating a video game app harder than it needs to be? Take advantage of the advancement in development tools that do the coding for you so, you can focus on the more creative side of your creation.

  • Unity: This is by far the most widely used software among mobile game developers. It is completely free to use (until you put your game onto the market) and has very high graphics capabilities. 

  • UDK (Unreal Development Kit) powered by Unreal Engine: This comes with a pre-made basic project so you can have fun and practice making a prototype game to learn about the tool sets. If you're interested in both Unity and UDK, the previous link will take you to a guide comparing the two platforms. 

  • GameSalad: This requires absolutely no coding knowledge, but uses what they call a “behavior-based logic system.” Think of it as a sort of drag-and-drop game creator. Of course, there is still a learning curve and you won’t be creating complex games as soon as you open it. However, it is extremely powerful and can easily port your games onto iOS, Android, and Windows with the click of a button. We even have a course on creating a mobile game with GameSalad.

Mobile game character jumping out of a portal following by code

3. Learn your programming language

No matter which game development software you choose, it’s still extremely important to learn a programming language. A great place to start is C#, which is the most widely-used programming language among Unity developers. C# is an object-oriented programming language is simple and relatively easy to grasp. 

Python is another popular language for mobile game development. Among Python's many advantages is a rich variety of libraries to help take you mobile game to the next level. 

4. Starting your mobile game development project

While actually starting your project can feel intimidating, keeping things simple means you can quickly see results. Here's what to work from beginning to end:

  1. Start with the basic mechanics and rules of play. 
  2. Next, design your first level, implement your graphics, and test, test, test. 
  3. Finally, create the interface (screens, menus, options, etc.). 

5. Implement mobile game graphics

3D mobile game third-person shooter

The planning stage is the time to decide whether your game will have 2D or 3D graphics. By the time you're ready to implement them, you have to decide whether you want to do the graphics work yourself or hire a designer.

  1. You can create graphics yourself in Photoshop (for 2D graphics) or Maya or 3ds Max (for 3D graphics). 

  2. Outsource your graphics to another designer. There are plenty of sites that are dedicated to helping you hire a designer who will give you the look you’re after.

2D mobile racing game

6. Elevate your play

Once your game is laid out, you need to refine it in order to create an enjoyable and memorable experience. Here are some common tweaks that will ensure your game is well-recieved by players: 

  1. Ensure your game doesn’t pixelate.

  2. Make the controls easy and intuitive.

  3. Add an interesting and engaging storyline. 

  4. Create the mood through music that is fun and not distracting.

  5. Test, test, and test some more.

7. Releasing your mobile game

One mistake new game developers often make is trying too hard to make the game perfect, thus delaying the release of the game. Don't skip testing and refinement altogether, but know that it's better to get the game out the door quickly. If it finds an audience, that’s when you can improve upon the game by releasing updates.

If you’re serious about making money off of your game, you’ll also need to budget for its marketing. You can also submit your game for review to places like Mobile Startupz or Android Guys

To release your games, you're likely going to want to submit your app to a platform like Apple or Google Play. The links include important information from these platforms about how to submit your apps,