Unity Vs. Marmalade Vs. V-Play Vs. Corona Vs. Cocos2D: Five Cross-platform Game Engines Compared


Previously, game developers only released their creations on one platform at a time. That was before 2007 (or before the very first iPhone was launched), when only a few people were convinced that mobile devices could revolutionize the entire video game industry, said Christopher Reynolds of Mobyaffiliates.

But, with the onset of powerful mobile devices running varying operating systems (Android, iOS, Windows Phone, and BlackBerry OS) and the advent of next-gen consoles (such as Xbox One, PS4, and Wii U), the need to create a “one-size-fits-all” title has become a standard among game developers. The only way of fulfilling this goal is by using cross-platform game engines when coding an app.

If you are looking for the best game engines to code your brilliant concepts and bring your imaginations to life, we’ve got you covered. We’ll feature the various cross-platform engines you can use with a detailed overview of their pros and cons.


Since first release in 2005, Unity has been one of the most popular game engines for neophyte and professional developers in the industry. It enables you to create your games by manipulating objects and elements in 3D and attaching multiple components to them (visual effects, shadows, etc.). Developing an app using the engine requires all scripts to be written in C#, UnityScript, or Boo and attached to various 3D objects as components.

The free version offers a short, closed-source, cross-platform game development kit with full support for Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, and major mobile platforms (iOS, Android). Its pro version (which requires an add-on license) includes a full support for PlayStation, Xbox 360, and Nintendo Wii.

Pros: Whenever you need to develop a 3D cross-platform game, there is no other powerful tool like Unity.
Cons: As pointed out by Nat Weiss of Binpress, upon “launching Unity for the first time, you may feel like the pilot of a 747 jet plane.”
It’s not easy to master and getting familiar with its tools would normally take up to 8-12 hours.
Examples of games built with Unity: Bad Piggies (Rovio), Temple Run Oz (Disney), Call of Duty®: Strike Team (Activision Publishing, Inc.).


The Marmalade SDK is billed as the fastest solution to build cross-platform games on C++, wrote Aaron Lee on Develop-online.net. The best thing about this engine is that it allows you to open Visual Studio and Xcode projects, apart from its built-in emulator.

Marmalade enables you to easily convert your projects for Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Tizen, BlackBerry, Windows OS, and Mac OS from a single source code. It also gives you the opportunity to integrate standard and third-party libraries without needing virtual machines (such as Java VM) or cross-language translation.

Pros: Mac is not required to create iOS build of your game, Marmalade can do it right from your PC. However, it still provides an option of building it from Mac.
Cons: The only downside of Marmalade, according to Gamedevcoder, is that it has some occasional bugs in its SDK. You’ll also find it difficult to submit your creations to the Apple Store without Mac, although it’s not really too big of a deal if you’re going to publish your games on other ecosystems.
Examples of games built with Marmalade: Draw Something (OMGPOP), Bejeweled Blitz, Plants vs. Zombies (PopCap/Electronic Arts).


Released in 2013, V-Play is the “youngest” game engine focused on rapid 2D game development. It provides you with a regularly updated documentations, code examples, and useful tips to get you going. In fact, the average time frame in which you can create a game for mobile, tablet, or desktop with native performance will only take around about 3 days. According to an article from V-play.net, the outputs generated from the engine are smaller in size, as opposed to the bulky apps with sluggish startup time.

Aside from a bunch of mobile indie games developed by V-Play team, the game engine was used by numerous indie app devs who managed to create a Flappy Bird clone, when Ha Dong Nguyen removed the controversial game on January 17, 2014. They created a clone in a day, using only 800 lines of code. Although, based on the Bloomberg story shared by Let’s Get Wise, the game is not really that difficult to create. Flappy Bird is just one of the pixelated and retro-looking games available on the app stores which don’t require complicated coding process to build.

Pros: V-Play contains a customizable in-game level editor. That saves time and efforts you would have to spend on creating own editor, and empowers players to generate new levels in your game.
Cons: The engine is perfect for making 2D apps. As of the moment, it won’t allow you to write 3D games.
Examples of games built with V-Play: Trix (Maysalward), Chicken Outbreak (V-Play).

Corona SDK

Once you've written a game using the Corona SDK, you are free to run it on any other platform (both mobile devices and PCs). The code is written once with conditional code for all platforms. As featured by Overpass, the SDK app uses a lot of music files and images, where game designers are given the opportunity to focus on both the design and user experience of the app that they are creating. It also features the fastest and the most responsive emulator that refreshes the project each time you save a file.

Pros: Corona SDK runs quickly, is easily adjusted for various screen resolutions and allows you to add audio/visual elements with one or two lines of code.
Cons: Overpass mentioned that the emulator may be quick, but the device has limited plugins and game network integration. It’s also very expensive at around $600 per year.
Examples of games built with Corona SDK: Fun Run (DIRTYBIT DA), Blast Monkey (Yobonja), Freeze! (Frozengun).

Cocos2D JS

Cocos2D JS is an open-source game engine designed for making 2D/2.5D games and deploying them to iOS, Android, Blackberry, Windows Phone, Mac, Windows, and Linux. The game code is written entirely in JavaScript. That works perfectly fine for both native mobile or desktop platforms where it’s bound to native C++ objects, and for web platforms which run pure JS and render in Canvas or WebGL.

Pros: It is a free, liberally MIT licensed tool. The good thing about it for entry-level game developers is that they can detect bugs and optimization opportunities while reading the game code.
Cons: Alike to most open-source products, the weak point of Cocos2D JS is online documentation.
Examples of games built with Cocos2D JS: Contra: Evolution (Konami), MT Online (LOCOJOY), ZENONIA® 5: Wheel of Destiny (Gamevil).

These are some of the best engines that we can recommend for experienced and prospective game developers. Have you tried any other engines that you wish to share with our readers? Good luck with your current and future projects.

This is a guest article provided by Jennifer Birch.
Jennifer Birch is a UK-based tech geek who is always thirsty for more discoveries in the tech and gaming world. Want to share some mind-blowing news with here? Follow her on Twitter: twitter.com/writtenbyjenni

Posted by Renatus on June 17, 2014