5 Best software for game animation to use right now

Milan Stanojevic
by Milan Stanojevic
Deputy Editor
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  • Achieving show-stopping results should be on every digital artist's list of priorities and game animators make no exception.
  • Luckily, game devs have powerful allies to rely on in their quest for overt-the-top realistic gameplay - this is what animation software does best.
  • We know that picking the right tool can seem like a daunting challenge, that's why our list below only highlights the best in business. Check out our Animation Software page as well for more in-depth info on the topic.
  • If beautifully rendered gameplay is constantly on the back of your mind, don't be shy to also explore our Video-Editing Software Hub.
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Game developers are striving to achieve ever more mind-boggling effects when it comes to animation. Through explosive effects, stunning graphics, and even VR, animation tools are taking us all one step closer to what we could barely imagine just a couple of years ago.

Geared up with all kinds of features, modeling and rendering software for design visualization, games, and animation are gaining more and more popularity because of their capacity to transport gaming aficionados into a whole new dimension. But regular users also benefit from the perks of storytelling beautifully rendered and this is exactly what animation tools are used for.

There are of course numerous options available on the market, so how exactly do you make your pick? Well, the decision will certainly be influenced by the budget you are prepared to invest in this purchase, by your skills as an animator and obviously, your preferences.

Of course, an aspiring animator will not choose the most complex tool just as an expert game developer will most likely not go for a free edition of software to design his or her artwork. And last, but not least, there is also the question of 2D versus 3D animation tools.

As you can see there are plenty of aspects that need to be taken into consideration when choosing the perfect software for game animation and we haven’t even started to address the individual features and capacities of these tools. No need to worry, we have highlighted only the top picks of the industry for you, so make sure to go through the list below and choose the one product that can perfectly meet your needs.

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What’s the best software for animation?

Adobe After Effects (Editor’s Choice)

Adobe After Effects_best game animation software

Part of the Adobe Creative Cloud, After Effects is the best of the best when it comes to motion graphics and visual effects software and there is practically nothing you can’t achieve with it.

Create anything you can imagine and get mind-blowing results every time. When it comes to games, perhaps you want to animate a character – make it spin, roll, twirl, bend it to reflect your artistic vision? You can easily set anything in motion with keyframes or expressions and you can do so from scratch for unique results or by using the available presets to kick-off your designs.

Get animated, combine videos and images and add explosive effects or create VR videos to drop your audience right into the action with the very best animation software on the market.

After Effects is always getting better, with new features coming out regularly. The best part is that you will never fall behind thanks to the fast and easy tutorials covering everything from the basics to the latest animation techniques.

Let’s quickly go through its key features:

  • Preview and playback performance enhancements (threading improvements and a new GPU-accelerated display system core)
  • Enhanced EXR workflows (12x faster performance) and faster shapes
  • Graphics and text enhancements (new dropdown menu expression controls, templates that are easier to update in Premiere Pro, etc.)
  • Expression improvements (40% faster processing)
  • Expanded format and better playback support (Canon XF-HEVC, Animation with delta frames and MJPEG)
  • Better notifications for system compatibility

Get Adobe After Effects now

Adobe Animate

Adobe Animate_best game animation software

If we’re talking about vector graphics and game animation, Adobe Animate is the tool for you. Also included in the Adobe Creative Cloud suite, this computer animation, and multimedia authoring program brings animation into the new age offering support for video and audio embedding, rich text, scripting, and raster graphics.

With powerful illustrations and animation tools, the Animate allows you to build game environments, design start screens, integrate audio and even share your artwork as augmented reality experiences. Designing interactive content for animations has never been so easy.

The brushes boasted by the tool are another quintessential feature cherished by animators since they allow you to create characters that truly come to life before your eyes.

As always, Adobe takes a particular interest in making the most of the user experience, thus getting started is fast and easy thanks to their step-by-step tutorials.

Let’s quickly go through its key features:

  • Fluid Brushes (brand new vector brushes in all sorts of styles)
  • Onion Skinning (this option allows you to draw new frames of animation on top of previous frames)
  • Infographics (including animated charts)
  • Layer parenting (introducing a simplified tool for modifying animated characters)
  • Publish to any platform (HTML5 Canvas, WebGL, Flash/Adobe AIR, desktop, mobile, and TV in order to reach viewers on any screen)

Get Adobe Animate now

Autodesk 3ds Max

Autodesk 3ds Max_best game animation software

A popular choice among video game developers, Autodesk 3ds Max is a professional computer graphics program for 3D animations with enhanced modeling capabilities and a flexible plugin architecture.

The tool enables you to create professional-quality 3D game animations thanks to its integrated texture/color editor and character animation and rigging tools or keyframe and procedural animation tools.

Design visualization is brought to the next level through stunning effects, embellishments, and high-quality imagery while procedural animation and scene modeling tools make incredibly realistic characters and game environments.

Let’s quickly go through its key features:

  • Flexible toolset (to create professional animation designs with full artistic control)
  • Create massive worlds in games
  • Visualize high-quality architectural renderings
  • Model finely detailed environments and objects
  • Bring characters and features to life with animation and VFX
  • Built-in Arnold renderer (for an interactive experience that can handle the most complex characters and scenes)

Check out Autodesk 3ds Max’s official page now

Houdini

Houdini_best game animation software

Packed with features for modeling, texturing, rigging and 3D animation, Houdini is used for high-quality graphics and intense, but accessible 3D animation experiences.

This animation maker comes as a solution for game devs that are required to come up with vast amounts of content without compromising the visual effects. Using motion graphics and even VR, the tool allows the creation of compelling animations that provide the user with interactive gameplay and unique game experience.

Let’s quickly go through its key features:

  • Game development (using procedural animation to bring a smarter way of creating quality games)
  • Realtime FX (award-winning particle and dynamics tools to create optimized game FX)
  • Procedural workflow
  • SideFX Labs Toolset (generating vertex animation textures for a wide range of FX to speed up game workflows)
  • Vertex animation (effective vertex shader playback of high-resolution simulations)

Check out Houdini’s official page now

Blender

Blender_best game animation software

A professional animation software, Blender makes an excellent choice for quality visual effects and video games offering features like rigging, modeling, animating, simulating, and, rendering.

Boasting masking and textured brushes for 3D painting, CPU, GPU, and VR rendering support, this animation software is also fully customizable thanks to its flexible Python controlled interface. You can match it with a wide array of add-ons to adjust layout, colors, size, and fonts or you can simply use the Blender’s Python scripting based API.

Let’s quickly go through its key features:

  • Cycles Render Engine (an integrated path-tracer engine that offers ultra-realistic rendering)
  • CPU, GPU, and VR rendering support
  • Advanced modeling and sculpting tools (sculpting brushes, 3D painting with textured brushes and masking)
  • Python scripting for custom tools and add-ons (customize the interface layout and colors or connect with the API)
  • High-quality rigging and animation tools (combine 2D with 3D in the viewport)
  • Full Animation Support with Onion Skinning

Check out Blender’s official page now

Depending on your skills, range of features boasted by each software and of course, the budget you can now make your choice securely knowing that the products listed above will bring you the very best when it comes to 2D or 3D game animation. What will it be? Do let us know what was the feature that most appealed to you in the comments section below.


FAQ: Learn more about animation software and Adobe

  • What software is used for animation?

There are various tools to which you may refer for building animation. The industry favorite is indisputably Adobe After Effects due to its enhanced motion graphics and visual effects capabilities which are most treasured by professional game animators.

  • What is the best software for animation as a beginner?

If your fairly new in the animation business, the most recommended tool would be another product of the Adobe Creative Cloud family: Adobe Animate which offers presets to kick-off your designs. Also, step-by-step tutorials are included to make your journey start even smoother.

  • Can you animate in Illustrator?

Adobe Illustrator also allows you to create individual animation frames and then export them as SWF files for a reduced size in order to integrate them into your website or project.