Top iPhone Game Engines

There are several great game frameworks available for download. Some of these frameworks require little to no programming experience and, best of all, some of them are free. In this blog you will find a list of the best to date iPhone and mobile game development frameworks.

What is Game Engine? A game engine is a system designed for the creation and development of video games. There are many game engines that are designed to work on video game consoles and personal computers. The core functionality typically provided by a game engine includes a rendering engine (“renderer”) for 2D or 3D graphics, a physics engine or collision detection (and collision response), sound, scripting, animation, artificial intelligence, networking, streaming, memory management, threading, localization support, and a scene graph.

COCOS 2D (Pricing Below) Skill Level: Intermediate/Advanced (basic programming knowledge and basic understanding of the C-programming language) Cocos2d for iPhone is a framework for creating 2d games, demos, and interactive interfaces. Cocos2d is an open source Objective-C library. Using Cocos2D, you will need a basic understanding of the C-language. The libraries and API’s for Cocos2d allow developers to easily use scene management, sprites, effects, particles, menus, and much more. Ported to Linux, Mac OS X, iOS, and windows. iOs port is written in Objective-C and integrated with Box2D and Chipmunk physics engines.

  • Integrated physics engine (both Box2d and Chipmunk)
  • OpenGL ES 1.1 based (iOS) / OpenGL 1.5 based (Mac)

CORONA MOBILE DEVELOPMENT PLATFORM (Pricing Below) Skill Level: Intermediate (Basic knowledge of programming techniques) Corona makes it easy for any user with little programming knowledge to create full featured mobile applications. Corona abstracts Objective-C from mobile development and brings to life the ease of the LUA programming language. Using Corona and LUA, you can easily create a ‘Hello World’ application in one line of code, or easily implement physics in only 5 lines. Creating mobile games has never been easier. Corona has a fantastic built-in mobile simulator, so you can test and build everything out without having to use Xcode.


  • Proprietary OpenGL-ES rendering engine allows for full hardware acceleration of graphics, including sprites that animate at full GPU speed.
  • Transition library enables tweening of Corona-powered sprites’ position, rotation, alpha, or any other property.
  • Supports native iPhone and Android UI. Developers can access the iPhone’s native text features including all fonts, multi-line fields, and keyboard input.
  • Apps built with Corona start at under 400KB in size.
  • Subscription-based purchase model allows users to have new updates as soon as they are rolled out.
  • Full feature integration with device camera, accelerometer, magnetometer, video player, compass, and/or GPS.

GAME SALAD (Pricing Below) Skill Level: Beginner Game Salad is an excellent tool/framework for creating iPhone games. It’s not only for beginners, even if you are an advanced game developer you will still be able to take advantage of some of the awesome features that Game Salad has to offer. Game Salad has a WYSIWYG creator where you can literally drag and drop images and objects onto the creator. Then you can assign specific attributes to these objects and images such as collision detection, gravity, animation, and much more. You don’t need to have any programming experience to develop your iPhone game masterpiece.


  • Used by game developers for rapidly prototyping, building and self-publishing cross-platform games and interactive media.
  • The application runs on Mac OS X and can produce iPhone, web browser-based content in HTML 5, and Mac applications.

iTorque 2D (Pricing Below) Skill Level: Beginner/Intermediate (A little knowledge of C++ would be helpful) Torque Game Builder is one of the worlds easiest to use 2d game creator. Garage Games has now created a branch of the Torque 2D game builder which is called iTorque2D. iTorque2D has a WYSIWYG interface which allows users to drag and drop elements onto the interface and add functionality to each object through a simple to use interface. There may be some portions of this engine that may require a user to manipulate a little C++ code; however, the engine is very intuitive to new game creators.


  • TGE provided networking code, scripting, in-engine world editing, and GUI creation.
  • The source code could be compiled for Windows, Macintosh, Linux, Wii, Xbox 360, and iPhone platforms.

Sparrow Framework (Pricing Below) Skill Level: Intermediate/Advanced (You will need knowledge of basic C-programming techniques) Sparrow Framework is an open-source project which eliminates the need for any OpenGL code. Sparrow Framework allows developers to write clean C-code which blends seamlessly with Cocoa. Additionally, Sparrow allows users to leverage their Flash and Flex skills with no need to learn a new API. If you consider yourself a good C-programmer and would like to leverage features that cut your development time in half, you may want to check out the Sparrow Framework.


  • No need to write any OpenGL code and easy to extend, even with custom OpenGL code
  • Allows direct use of iPhone features like accelerometer or vibration – no need for a wrapper!
  • Leverages your existing Flash/Flex skills (no need to learn a new API!)

Unity 3D Game Development Tool (Pricing Below) Skill Level: Advanced (You will need basic programming knowledge as well as 3d knowledge) Unity 3D has the all-in-one programming and graphic creation tools for mobile, console, and desktop game publishing. If you are familiar with 3D rendering tools and have a basic knowledge of programming and scripting, you are well on your way to create your first 3D mobile game. The easy-to-use tools by Unity 3D integrates easily and seamlessly with each other. Unity is offered as two different types of licenses. Unity and Unity Pro. If you are a company that turned over more than $100,000 for the previous fiscal year you must purchase Unity Pro. Otherwise, as a small indie developer you can have the license for free.

  • Integrated development environment with hierarchical, visual editing, detailed property inspectors and live game preview.
  • Deployment on multiple platforms like Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X , Nintendo, iPhone/iPad , Android
  • Assets are automatically imported, and are re-imported if the asset is updated. Unity supports integration with 3ds Max, Maya, Softimage, Blender, Modo, ZBrush, Cinema 4D, Cheetah3D, Photoshop and Allegorithmic Substance.
  • Graphics engine uses Direct3D (Windows), OpenGL (Mac, Windows), OpenGL ES (iOS, Android), and proprietary APIs (Wii).
  • Support for bump mapping, reflection mapping, parallax mapping, Screen Space Ambient Occlusion, dynamic shadows using shadow maps, render-to-texture and full-screen post processing effects.
Frameworks Price Platform supported
Cocos2d Free ios, Android
Corona OS developer: $199/yrAndroid developer: $199/yrAll Platforms: $349/yr ios, Android, Amazon Kindle Fire
Game Salad Free ios, Android
iTorque2d $128 Mac Os X, Microsoft Windows
Sparrow Free ios
Unity 3D Unity: FreeUnity Pro: $1500

Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, Nintendo, ios, Android