Unity vs Unreal Engine: Understanding the 7 Key Differences

Before starting work on a new game, every game developer at least once thinks about what engine to choose: Unreal or Unity. Based on the experience of our team, we agree that it’s a difficult choice and it will impact the game creation process.

So, in this article, we will sort things out and finally decide what is better, Unity or Unreal.

Two robots flanking a confused boy, with Unity and Unreal Engine logos above, comparison of the two game engines features, Choosing Between Unity and Unreal

Unity vs. Unreal Engine

Without a doubt, these 2 game engines are the most popular platforms for game development nowadays. Many experienced and professional specialists argue about this topic and can’t finally decide the winner in the battle of Unity vs. Unreal. Both of them have unique features and tempting offers.

So, let’s leave everything on the pitch and define the best game engine.

A 3D-rendered cartoon-style elf character the type of engaging character design achievable with Unity software

What is Unity?

Unity was founded in 2004 in Copenhagen. Generally, it’s known for creating 2D and 3D video games but it’s not even half of the engine’s potential. It’s also used for developing simulations, architectural visualizations, and interactive experiences.

In short, whatever a game developer wants to create he can do it with Unity’s help.
Also, Unity allows to create games and applications for a variety of platforms, including Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, consoles, and more.

It is worth noting that Unity is like a magic wand for indie game developers. The popular mobile game Subway Surfers was created by Indies with the use of Unity. So, now, this engine helps to power indie devs’ success by providing different useful instruments.

Small fact: more than 50% of games were created with Unity’s help.

A cute alien character holding a 'What is Unreal Engine?' sign, promoting the game engine's features, Unreal Engine 5 Could Change Games, Movies and the Metaverse

What is Unreal Engine?

Created by Epic Games in 1998, Unreal Engine is a very powerful game development engine and framework.
Like Unity, Unreal Engine focuses on developing 2D and 3D video games with additional features such as virtual reality experiences.

Our Unreal Engine game developers specifically highlight cool graphics and realistic visuals of this game engine.

Ready to experience graphics like never before?

Unfortunately, it doesn’t have such a big variety of accessible platforms (just Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, consoles, and a few more) but it offers AAA quality and unique visual design opportunities for graphic designers.

The perfect example of the effective use of Unreal Engine’s potential is the game Fortnite. Amazing graphics and gameplay involved more than 200 million users and generated revenue of more than $1 billion.

Two contrasting characters, a simple cube figure and a complex robotic warrior, against the logos of Unity and Unreal Engine, Which Game Engine Should You Choose

Unity vs. Unreal Engine: 7 Key Differences

It’s hard to say is Unity or Unreal better because both of them have pros and cons that can be subjectively discussed by different game developers. But no one will argue that Unity and Unreal are used by different audiences of game developers. Even if a lot of professional game studios use Unity, it still has a strong presence in the indie game development community. In return, Unreal Engine is used by both indie developers and large studios but has a strong focus on creating graphically intensive games.

Talking about programming languages, for newcomers Unity wins in a battle of Unity vs Unreal Engine.
It uses C# which is an easy-to-learn scripting language. Unreal Engine offers two primary languages: Blueprints and  C++, and both of them are used for more advanced or performance-critical tasks.

Generally saying, Unity is the best option as for hobbyists and indie developers as for professionals who prefer to create games without extensive programming knowledge.
In return, Unreal Engine is the best decision for developers looking to create high-fidelity 3D games with cutting-edge graphics. 

But there are many more differences between Unity vs Unreal. Let’s examine them closely.

3D-rendered character with elf-like features with the Unreal Engine logo high-quality character rendering possible Both Unity and Unreal Engine 5 offer specific benefits and potential drawbacks to consider

1. Licensing and Pricing

In this case, the difference between Unity and Unreal is huge. Unity offers a range of licensing models to accommodate different types of developers and projects.

Among them are: 

Licensing Model
Main Features
Unity Personal
Free version of Unity for small or hobbyist projects.

Designed for individuals and small organizations with a revenue and fundraising total of less than $100,000 in the past 12 months.
Unity Pro
Paid licensing option aimed at professional game developers and studios.

Unity Pro is priced at $1800 per user annually, offering heightened flexibility and an expanded toolkit compared to the previous plans. It includes advanced cloud diagnostics, a premium package of artistic resources, and a dedicated support team, providing users with a more comprehensive development experience.
Unity Enterprise
For larger organizations.

Starts at $4,000 per month for 20 seats, and you can customize packages for more seats as needed. It provides the same tools as Unity Pro but goes further by offering technical support, personalized training programs, and additional features for creation. Additionally, it includes a dedicated customer success manager.

In return, Unreal Engine is available for free with complete source code access, allowing developers to use it without an upfront cost. However, Epic Games requires a royalty payment for commercial projects that exceed a certain revenue threshold.

A collection of brightly colored game icons for in-app purchases, chests, and resources, asset creation for game monetization strategies in Unity Game Engine

2. Graphics and Visuals

Unity is known for its physically-based rendering system, support for a wide range of rendering pipelines, and a post-processing stack for enhancing visuals.

While it may not be as popular due to hyperrealistic graphics as Unreal Engine, it is more accessible and user-friendly.

It makes Unity a great choice for indie developers, small studios, and those who want to use game engines for Android, iOS, PC, etc to create a recognizable and fun game project.

Unreal Engine is so popular because of its amazing industry-leading graphics and visual capabilities.

So, if the game developer wants to create an AAA game or other graphically intensive application, the choice of Unreal or Unity is obvious.

While Unreal Engine’s emphasis on graphics can make it more technically demanding for developers, it’s the go-to choice for projects where top-tier visuals are a primary consideration, such as in high-end gaming.

3. Asset Store vs Marketplace

Unity is known for its physically-based rendering system, support for a wide range of rendering pipelines, and a post-processing stack for enhancing visuals.

While it may not be as popular due to hyperrealistic graphics as Unreal Engine, it is more accessible and user-friendly. It makes Unity a great choice for indie developers, small studios, and those who want to use game engines for Android, iOS, PC, etc to create a recognizable and fun game project.

Unreal Engine is so popular because of its amazing industry-leading graphics and visual capabilities. So, if the game developer wants to create an AAA game or other graphically intensive application, the choice of Unreal or Unity is obvious. While Unreal Engine’s emphasis on graphics can make it more technically demanding for developers, it’s the go-to choice for projects where top-tier visuals are a primary consideration, such as in high-end gaming.

A boy interacting with robots in a futuristic game scene, demonstrating Unity's animation potential, how to choose the best game engine

4. Cross-Platform Support

Do you need accessible multi-platform support to create games and applications for a wide range of platforms?

In this case, Unity’s options are the best! For instance, the Unity engine has a Build Settings feature, that simplifies the process of targeting different platforms, and developers can often reuse a significant portion of their code and assets across platforms.

Unreal Engine also provides strong support for cross-platform development, especially for Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, and consoles. Of course, this engine is mostly known for its focus on high-end graphics, so it may be limited to some specific platforms.

Anyway, developers can leverage Unreal Engine’s powerful rendering capabilities to create visually impressive content that runs smoothly on a lot of various devices.

What’s cool is that Unity and Unreal Engine have robust support for VR and AR development. Unity is especially well-known for its accessibility in this regard, with a dedicated platform called Unity XR that simplifies the development of VR and AR experiences.

Also, Unity supports a wide range of VR and AR devices, such as Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.

5. Performance Optimization

Unity vs Unreal performance optimization is a big field for arguments because both platforms have very useful instruments for the game development process.

Unity’s built-in Profiler is one of them. It allows developers to analyze and monitor such aspects of their game’s performance as CPU and GPU usage, memory consumption, and rendering statistics.

Also, Unity offers GPU Instancing as a technique to render multiple identical objects efficiently in a single draw call.

Unreal Engine provides a GPU particle system too. It utilizes the graphics card’s processing power for particle simulations.

But the most cool instrument is Blueprints. This Unreal Engine’s visual scripting system allows the creation of game logic and interactions without coding. Due to these outstanding instruments, developers can maintain smooth performance even with complex interactions.

6. Game Development

Which strengths are game developers more likely to choose: Unity or Unreal Engine?

Unity is highly versatile and can be used to develop a wide range of games, from 2D and 3D to mobile, PC, consoles, and even web-based games. It also has a user-friendly interface and visual scripting system, along with a vast library of tutorials and a large community. 

But, Unreal Engine has high-fidelity graphics capabilities, for example, real-time ray tracing. It’s an ideal choice for developers looking to create visually impressive games with outstanding details. And of course, Unreal Engine’s visual scripting system, Blueprints, enables artists and designers to create game interactions without extensive coding.

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3 Best Games Made Using Unity

In the battle of Unity vs Unreal Engine, the winner is Unreal Engine if the talk is about AAA games.

But Unity’s advantage is that it demonstrates the huge range of experiences for any gaming genre from farming and exploration to action-packed adventures. Let’s look at the most popular titles made with the use of Unity.

Retro-style video game characters illustrating the artistic flexibility in game development, example of games Building with Unity and Unreal
  • Hollow Knight

Developed by Team Cherry, Hollow Knight is a 2D action-adventure game with an atmospheric world, challenging gameplay, and deep lore.

  • Cuphead

Cuphead by Studio MDHR is a run-and-gun platformer known for its distinctive 1930s cartoon-style visuals.

  • Stardew Valley

Developed by ConcernedApe, this farming simulation with pixel art style lets players manage a farm, interact with the townsfolk, and explore the charming world. So, video games similar to Stardew Valley prove that Unity is the best game engine for isometric games.

3 Best Games Made Using Unreal

Due to Unreal Engine’s exceptional graphics capabilities and powerful tools, it gained significant recognition and dominance in the development of AAA games.

A collage showcasing diverse video game environments, the versatility of game engines, Great Games That Use The Unreal 4 Game Engine

Among them are:

  • Fortnite

We’ve already mentioned this game today, but it is one of the most popular and successful battle royale games globally. Developed by Epic Games, it has stunning high-quality graphics and real-time physics which boost the player’s experience and make it unforgettable.

  • Gears 5

The Gears of War series by The Coalition has consistently utilized Unreal Engine for its AAA titles. Gears 5 particularly showcases the engine’s ability to deliver breathtaking visuals and intense gameplay.

  • Final Fantasy VII Remake

Square Enix used Unreal Engine for the remake of the iconic RPG, Final Fantasy VII. The engine enabled the development team to recreate the game’s world with stunning graphics and cinematic quality.

A 3D model of a fantasy warrior character, showcasing high-quality game asset design, showing WHICH IS THE RIGHT ENGINE FOR YOU

7. Animation and Physics

Maybe, the constant question of all game developers forever will be:

Which game company provides better game animation services: with the use of Unreal Engine or Unity?

Talking about Unity, this engine provides an animation system to create and control animations for characters, objects, and other game elements. It includes features like keyframe animation, blend trees, and animation events, making it suitable for both 2D and 3D games.

Unity’s built-in physics engine, Unity Physics, provides realistic and stable physics simulations for games. It includes 2D and 3D physics components, such as rigid bodies, colliders, and joints, to create interactions like object collisions, gravity, and kinematic animations. 

In return, Unreal Engine uses the Animation Blueprint system, a visual scripting tool that allows to creation of complex character animations and behaviors without writing code. It is used to drive character movements, blend animations, and respond to game events.

Also, stunning AAA games that require advanced physics simulations would be impossible to create without Unreal Engine’s Chaos Physics system. It is a high-quality physics simulation tool that provides realistic physics interactions, including soft-body dynamics, destruction, and complex simulations.

Stylized robots representing Unity and Unreal Engine in a face-off, ideal for game engine comparison, Difference Between Unreal Engine and Unity

Unity vs. Unreal for 2D

Unity and Unreal Engine are both powerful game development engines, but when it comes to 2D game development, Unity is often the preferred choice. While Unreal Engine is known for its strength in creating high-end 3D games with stunning graphics, many developers choose Unity to create amazing 2D projects.

Unity is a better choice because it offers a dedicated suite of 2D features and tools that are specifically designed for creating 2D games. This includes a 2D physics system, 2D sprite rendering, and a Tilemap system for easily building 2D environments. This includes a powerful 2D animation system too, making it easy to create and animate 2D characters, objects, and UI elements. 

In return, Unreal Engine focuses on 3D game development and excels in creating high-quality 3D environments with advanced graphics features. While it does support 2D game development, it lacks the dedicated 2D tools and features that Unity offers.

So, if you want to create an interesting and memorable 2D game, it's better to choose a company that specializes in 2D game art outsourcing with the professional use of Unity.

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Unity or Unreal for 3D

In this case, the situation is completely reversal. Choosing between Unity vs. Unreal for 3D game development depends on various factors, but Unreal Engine is better. Why?

Because Unreal Engine is often used for developing AAA 3D titles, as it can deliver top-tier graphics and performance. Its visual scripting system, Blueprints, empowers artists and designers to create complex 3D game logic and interactions without extensive coding, which simplifies 3D game development a lot. 

In return, you can also use Unity to create a 3D project but it doesn’t have as many instruments for unique 3D animations and graphics as Unreal Engine. Of course, Unity has an Asset Store that offers a vast marketplace of 3D assets, tools, and plugins that can accelerate development and enhance the quality of 3D games. But it still isn’t enough to suit all the needs of the 3D project.

If you need an outstanding 3D game, use 3D game art outsourcing services because it can provide excellent knowledge of all details about Unreal Engine.

Small advice from our team
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Unity vs. Unreal for Mobile Games

So, you should choose Unity, if you:

  • need to develop a wide range of projects, from 2D games to VR simulations.
  • if you’re looking for an engine that’s user-friendly and accessible to developers with a small level of experience.
  • you are an indie developer and you are searching for a cost-effective open-source 2D game engine.
  • need to export your project to a variety of platforms, including PCs, consoles, or mobile.
  • want to create an outstanding 2D title. 

Choose Unreal Engine, if you:

  • If your project demands top-tier 3D graphics and you want to create visually stunning and graphically intensive games.
  • want to create an AAA game.
  • complex game logic and interactions without extensive coding is very important for you as a game developer.
  • if your game requires accurate and realistic physics interactions.

frequently asked question about unity VS unreal

  • Graphics and visuals: Unreal Engine is well-known for its high-end graphics capabilities, and Unity offers solid graphics but is more accessible for a wide range of game genres.

  • Ease of use: Unity is known for its user-friendly interface and is often considered more approachable. In return, Unreal Engine has a steeper learning curve but provides advanced tools and visual scripting for experienced developers.

  • Pricing models: Unity offers a range of pricing options, including a free version for small projects and subscription-based models for more advanced features. Unreal Engine offers the engine for free.

  • 2D vs. 3D: Unity has strong 2D game development features, making it a preferred choice for 2D games. Unreal Engine excels in 3D graphics, making it a top choice for high-quality 3D titles.

Whether Unreal Engine is better than Unity depends on the specific requirements of the project.

Unreal Engine is often preferred for creating visually stunning, high-end 3D games, especially for AAA titles.

On the other hand, Unity is more accessible, making it suitable for a broader range of game genres and platforms.

Unreal Engine can have a steeper learning curve compared to Unity, primarily due to its more advanced graphical capabilities and the use of C++ for scripting.

While Unity’s user-friendly interface and visual scripting in C# make it accessible to beginners, Unreal Engine’s more extensive features and blueprint system may take more time to master.