Tutorials > Applications reviews > 19 Free 3D Game Engines to create your own 3D Games !

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Have you ever dream of creating your own 3D game for free ?

Game creation is a long and complex processus, you need a good idear, moddeling and texturing techniques, level design knowledge and some script writing competences. Probably you'll have to share your competences and knowledges and distribute work with some other friends.
Finally you have to find the right tools to create, manage, test and distribute your game.
There are many, many commercial 3D game engines wich can help you reaching this goal, some are available at a reasonnable cost, but some are really high priced.

Fortunatly  there are also a bunch of FREE 3D game engines and development kits you can use. And it's not because they are free, that they are not good !. Some of the best modern game engines and dev kit are available for FREE. (Idtech4, CryEngine3, Unity or Unreal development Kit for example)
Here is a list of the 18 major Free game engines you can use to create your games. Some are all purpose game creation, some are dedicated to specific type of games (isometric, FPS, RTS, Flash) but all of them have a very large user community, many forums, free utility tools, information blogs and tutorials to help you starting from nothing.

This list is not totally completed, so feel free to tell us about a free game engine you could have miss !

Complete listing after the link.

3D RAD

3drad3D Rad is a freeware development tool used to create 3D games, interactive 3D applications and physics-based simulations for Microsoft Windows XP/Vista/7. Works created with 3D Rad can be delivered to the final user as stand-alone applications or web-based applets.
Specifically designed with computer graphics artists and non-coders in mind, 3D Rad aims to provide the simplest developing workflow possible, without sacrificing flexibility. The editor is based on a collection of components (called 'objects') that can be combined and configured to interact in various ways. Without writing any code, goals like opening a door when a character approaches or avoiding obstacles with a car while following a race track can be easily achieved.

Homepage: http://www.3drad.com/
type : 3D game dev tool
plateform : Windows

Required level : Beginner
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Aleph One

alephoneAleph One is the open source continuation of Bungie's Marathon 2 game engine. Available for Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux, Aleph One supports Marathon 2 and Marathon Infinity natively, and Marathon through a fan-made conversion. Many third party scenarios and net maps are also available.
It's now a very old game, and a very old 3D egine but it still have a large fan community !
Aleph One is available under the terms of the GNU General Public License (GPL).

Homepage: http://marathon.sourceforge.net/
type : 3D game dev tool
plateform : Windows, MacOSX, Linux
Required level : Beginner

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ARdor 3D

ardor3D

Ardor3D is a scengraph based 3D game engine, written entirely in Java and utilizing OpenGL for high performance gaming and visualization. He is a professionally oriented, open source, Java based 3D engine.  A tool to create better real-time 3D games and simulations. Ardor3D was quickly adopted by several companies, independent game studios, and government agencies.

Homepage: http://ardor3d.com/
type : 3D game dev tool
plateform : Cross-platform
Required level : Beginner

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Away3D

prefab3DAway3D is a realtime 3D engine for Flash in ActionScript 3.0. Started in 2007 by Alexander Zadorozhny and Rob Bateman. The engine is Open Source under the Apache 2.0 license and is free to use for any purpose, also commercial projects. Away3D can be used to render 3D models and perform various other 3D computations, Import/export of several popular formats, including animated meshes
Away3D is also the only Open Source 3D library for the Flash Player that is still actively maintained and keeps adding support for new features and new Flash Players

Prefab3D companion app
Written in Adobe AIR, this companion app provides a visual interface to many of the most advanced Away3D features such as the generators, but also adds a bunch of tricks to your arsenal such as visual tweaking of UV maps, path editing, optimization and error checking of imported models, export to several formats (including AC3D) and it even has a a live connection to your Flash file, so you can export and play with geometry created at runtime.

Homepage: http://away3d.org/
type : Flash 3D engine
plateform : Windows

Required level : Intermediate

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CAFU

cafuThe Cafu Engine is an all-purpose, modern 3D graphics engine and game development kit, feature complete to get you started quickly.
Cafu is available to everyone as 100% free software under the GNU General Public License (GPLv3). It can be used to create a variety of 3D applications, including games, simulations, and training and architectural software. Written in C++, the tools, libraries and framework have been designed to make the development of new games and other 3D applications easy. They are actively and continuously developed in order to provide the latest technology.
Cafu includes a graphical editor, CaWE, that contains all the tools required to create new levels: a Map Editor, GUI Editor, Font-Wizard, Material Browser and Model Editor.

Homepage: http://www.cafu.de/
type : 3D game dev tool
plateform : Windows
, Linux
Required level : Intermediate

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Cube 2 Sauerbraten

cube2Cube 2 is a Quake like game, but it integrate authoring tool in-game !
The game features single-player and multiplayer gameplay and contains an in-game level editor, its main feature. The engine supporting the game is entirely original in code & design, and its code is Open Source.
Level editing has never been so much fun: a press of a key allows you to modify the geometry / textures / entities in-game, on the fly. Even more novel, you can make maps together with others online, in the unique "coop edit" mode. It use a unique "6-directional heighfield deformable cube octree" world structure that is the basis for its in-game editing. Occlusion culling, pixel & vertex shaders, very accurate lightmapping, robust custom physics system, network system, models, sound, scripting...

Homepage:  http://sauerbraten.sourceforge.net/
type : Game Engine
plateform : Windows, Linux, Unix, Mac OS X
Required level : Beginner

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CryENGINE 3

cryengineThe CryEngine 3 is now free of charge for non-commercial use. The award winning SDK provides the complete game engine to create AAA quality next generation games for PC, and includes the CryENGINE®3 Sandbox™ level editor, a production-proven, 3rd generation “What you see is what you play” (WYSIWYP) - tool designed by and for professional developers. The free toolset is available for download at crydev.net.
An impressive app, one of the best if not the best graphical engine on the market.

Homepage: http://www.crydev.net/
type : 3D game engine & SDK
plateform : Windows
Required level : Intermediate

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Delta3D

delta3dDelta3D is a widely used and well-supported open source game and simulation engine. Delta3D is a fully-featured game engine appropriate for a wide variety of uses including training, education, visualization, and entertainment. Delta3D is unique because it offers features specifically suited to the Modeling and Simulation and DoD communities such as High Level Architecture (HLA), After Action Review (AAR), large scale terrain support, and SCORM Learning Management System (LMS) integration.
Delta3D is an Open Source engine which can be used for games, simulations, or other graphical applications. Its modular design integrates other well-known Open Source projects such as Open Scene Graph, Open Dynamics Engine, Character Animation Library, and OpenAL. Rather than bury the underlying modules, Delta3D integrates them together in an easy-to-use API -- always allowing access to the important underlying components. This provides a high-level API while still allowing the end user the optional, low-level functionality.

Homepage: http://delta3d.org/
type : 3D game dev tool
plateform : Windows, Mac OS X
Required level : Beginner

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DXStudio

dxstudioDX Studio is a complete integrated development environment for creating interactive 3D graphics. The system comprises of both a 
real-time 3D engine and a suite of editing tools.  Using DX Studio you can build complete real-time interactive applications, simulations or games, for standalone use or for embedding in other Microsoft Office/Visual Studio applications. DXStudio is distributed freely but you can upgrade to the next higher license by just paying the difference in price from your current version to the new version. For example if its $50.00 more for the next higher license thats all you pay.

Homepage: http://www.dxstudio.com/
type : 3D game dev tool
plateform : Windows
Required level : Beginner

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FIFE (Flexible Isometric Free Engine)

fifeThe Flexible Isometric Free Engine (FIFE) is an open source, cross-platform game engine written in C++ with Python scripting abilities. It is licensed under the GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPL), which allows creating independent commercial games.
Inspired by the isometric view found on Fallout and Fallout 2, it can nonetheless be used to create about any 2D game, as the flexible on the name implies. The non-tridimensional approach ensure FIFE games can run on less powerful hardware, and also simplifies framework programming and content creation.

Homepage: http://fifengine.net/
type : Isometric Game Engine
plateform : Windows, Linux, Mac OS X.
Required level : Intermediate

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Game Blender

blenderThe Blender Game Engine is a component of the leading open source 3D App : Blender, its a free and open-source comprehensive 3D production suite, used for making real-time interactive content. The game engine was written from scratch in C++ as a mostly independent component, and includes support for features such as Python scripting and OpenAL 3D sound.
It uses a system of graphical "logic bricks" (a combination of "sensors", "controllers" and "actuators") to control the movement and display of objects in the engine. The game engine can also be extended via a set of Python bindings.

Homepage: http://www.blender.org/
type : 3D game dev tool
plateform : Windows, Linux, Mac OS X.
Required level : Advanced

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ID TECH 4

GtkRadiantID TECH 4 Engine SDK has been released in october 2011. It's the 3D engine from ID Software running the blockbusters , DOOM3, QUAKE4, PREY  it's a open source code. Many soft are available for creating games with this engine.

http://www.iddevnet.com/

GtkRadiant

The Radiant family of level design tools was originally developed by id Software. GtkRadiant is powered by the Gtk+ toolkit and is maintained by id Software and a community of volunteers, released under a GPL license. This site is focused on the GtkRadiant branch of level editors.
There is one prominent fork; DarkRadiant, An open-source level editor for Doom 3 and The Dark Mod which is specifically optimised for id Tech 4 engine. It was originally created for the needs of a Doom 3 mod called The Dark Mod.
ZeroRadiant (or GTKRadiant 1.6.0) is an upcoming version of the GTKRadiant level editor based upon the 1.4.0 architecture and design. It is currently in development for new id Games projects. It will be used to create maps for a number of computer games. It is maintained by id Software together with a number of volunteers.

Homepage: http://darkradiant.sourceforge.net/
type : 3D game dev tool
plateform : Windows, MacOS, Linux
Required level : Advanced

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Irrlicht

irrlichtThe Irrlicht Engine is an open source high performance realtime 3D engine written and usable in C++ and also available for .NET languages. It is completely cross-platform, using D3D, OpenGL and its own software renderer, and has all of the state-of-the-art features which can be found in commercial 3d engines.
Irrlicht supports 3D rendering via OpenGL, DirectX 8 and 9, OpenGL ES, and internal software rasterizers. External renderers and windowing systems plug in through simple interfaces, giving rise to community-made SDL, iPhone and SymbianOS devices. The engine comes with a library of standard material renderers, allowing fallback materials where user hardware is unable to handle advanced techniques. New materials can be added to the engine at run-time, allowing users to write their own as required. In addition to legacy fixed-function pipeline materials, programmable Pixel and Vertex Shaders (1.1 to 3.0 and 4.0 using GLSL), ARB Fragment and Vertex Programs, HLSL and GLSL materials are supported.

Irrlicht was designed to be able to load and save the current scene to an XML file; this combined with the engine's open-source licensing model has attracted various programmers and developers to create world editors for Irrlicht to simplify the world-creation process.

Homepage: http://irrlicht.sourceforge.net/
type : 3D game dev tool
plateform : cross-platform
Required level : Beginner

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JMonkey Engine

jmonkeyEasy: It’s a free game engine, made especially for game developers who want to create 3D games with modern technology standards. The software is programmed entirely in Java, intended for wide accessibility and quick deployment. jMonkeyEngine is a community-centric open source project released under the new BSD license. It is used by several commercial game studios and educational institutions. The default jMonkeyEngine 3 download comes readily integrated with an advanced SDK.
jMonkeyEngine 3 comes bundled with a complete software development kit. Novice users should not have to think twice about how to set up their own development environment. That said, the SDK comes with such an abundance of jME-specific workflow tools that we recommend it even for very advanced users.

Homepage: http://jmonkeyengine.org/
type : 3D game dev tool
plateform : Cross-platform
Required level : Beginner

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Panda3D

panda3DPanda3D is a game engine, a framework for 3D rendering and game development for Python and C++ programs. Panda3D is Open Source and free for any purpose, including commercial ventures, thanks to its liberal license.
To learn more about Panda3D's capabilities, visit the gallery and the feature list. To learn how to use Panda3D, check the documentation resources. If you get stuck, ask for help from our community, which is very active.
Panda3D is a scene graph engine. This means that the virtual world is initially an empty Cartesian space into which the game programmer inserts 3D models. Panda3D does not distinguish between "large" 3D models, such as the model of an entire dungeon or island, and "small" 3D models, such as a model of a table or a sword. Both large and small models are created using a standard modeling program such as Blender, 3ds Max or Maya, loaded into Panda3D, and then inserted into the Cartesian space.

Homepage: http://www.panda3d.org/
type : 3D game dev tool
plateform : Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, FreeBSD
Required level : Intermediate

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PIXELLIGHT

pixellightPixelLight is an free open-source framework that allows you to create 3D applications easily. As a cross-platform library it is designed to create desktop applications for several platforms. Due to it's modular design, it is suitable not only for games, but for any kind of 3D applications like e.g. product presentations or simulations.
The design focuses on high modularity and flexibility for application developers and content designers. It consists of a large set of libraries and tools that provide a wide variety of components to produce state of the art realtime applications and multimedia products.

Homepage: http://www.pixellight.org/
type : 3D framework
plateform : Windows, Linux
Required level : Beginner

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The Spring project

springSpring is a free, open source, fully 3D, real-time strategy game engine. Originally designed to run content from Total Annihilation. Since it's early days, the engine has matured significantly. While retaining some support for units in TA formats, games for the Spring Engine can now be developed using more modern technologies. Using the Lua scripting language to allow everything from extending the GUI and Gameplay to Unit Animation, allowing units to be created in modern 3D model formats and an extensible AI framework all while having an open licencing model (GNU GPL), the Spring Engine is an excellent choice for any RTS Game Developer.

Homepage: http://springrts.com/
type : 3D RTS dev tool
plateform : Windows
Required level : Intermediate

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UNREAL DEVELOPMENT KIT

unreal-devkitThe UDK is FREE for non-commercial use. Unreal Engine 3 offers a fully integrated editing environment through the renowned Unreal Editor. All of the engine’s key tools are accessible through UnrealEd. The editor itself is actually a suite of tools designed for realizing your content as quickly and easily as possible. For example, you can test gameplay in one window while you edit content in another.
UDK features a 64-bit color HDR rendering pipeline. The gamma-correct, linear color space renderer provides for immaculate color precision while supporting a wide range of post-processing effects such as motion blur, depth of field, bloom, ambient occlusion and artist-defined materials.

Homepage: http://www.udk.com/
type : 3D game engine
plateform : Windows
Required level : Intermediate

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UNITY

unityUnity is an Integrated development environment with hierarchical, visual editing, detailed property inspectors and live game preview. Unity consists of both an editor for developing/designing content and a game engine for executing the final product.There are two main licenses: Unity and Unity Pro, with the Pro version being available for a price and the non Pro version being free.The Free version, displays a splash screen (in standalone games) and a watermark (in web games) that cannot be customized or disabled. Unity is a very powerful 3D gaming development tool that can produce stunning results in the right hands.

Homepage: http://unity3d.com/
type : 3D game dev tool
plateform : Windows, Mac OS X
Required level : Beginner

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