Top-Down RPG Game Design Tools and Resources

    A lot of developers are starting out creating simple top-down rpgs as their first games. This genre can be a good choice for a first game for a few reasons. For one it's a very popular format so there are countless resources available to help you on your journey. Another reason is they are fairly straight forward to design and don't require a lot of technical ability to make. If you are new to art, pixel-art isn't too hard to get into, if you're new to programming there are many tools, libraries and game engines with built-in tools, a lot of which don't require you to code at all. And the last reason is related to design; it's easy to envision what your game will look like when it's done before you even get started because the genre is so classic all the design problems have already been solved for you in games from decades ago. So without further ado here is a list of all the tools and resources I could find to help out someone who's just starting out developing a top-down rpg game.

Game Engines


    Godot Is my favorite Game engine by far so my opinion will be biased here. It's great for beginners there's plenty of tutorials available, and it's completely free and open-source so you don't have to worry about some company taking a piece of your profits. Right now it's lacking in some 3d features but since this article is about retro rpg style games that shouldn't matter too much. 

Rpg Maker

    RPG maker is great for beginners because you don't have to code, there's lots of free art and sound assets build in and it's designed specifically for making, you guessed it, top-down RPGs. There are a few downsides however. It's not free, the cheapest version as of writing is $25, so not too bad. Another problem is how restricted you are in the types of games you can make. If you want to make anything other than the cookie-cutter RPG-Maker style game you are going to run into problems. 


    Unity is a great all-purpose game engine. It's one of the most widely used by far, so the amount of tutorials are endless, so finding a specific tutorial for almost exactly what your trying to accomplish is very likely. The downsides aren't too bad either. The first one being that once your company makes over $100k annually you have to buy a monthly subscription for unity pro for $150/month. The other is that unity was designed as a 3d engine first so 2d features sometimes take a back-seat, this can sometimes lead to frustrating bugs where your 2d objects get lost somewhere in 3d space, but this is really just a nit-pick and can easily be fixed. So overall Unity is a very solid choice.  


    GameMakerStudio is A great game engine targeted specifically at beginners who are a little afraid of code. It has a powerful drag-and-drop visual scripting language that a lot of people really seem to like. It's a really popular choice for 2d games. It's not free though and buying all the add-ons to build your game for different platforms can get really pricey. 

Art and Design


     Aseprite is probably the most popular pixel editor recently. It costs under $15 dollars and the price is well worth it in my opinion. There are lots of youtube tutorials to help you learn it's many features. There's not much else to say, it's a great choice. 


    Krita is free and open source. It's a general use digital art program so you have to do some set up to get a good pixel art workflow going but it has all the features you'll need and more. 


    Tiled has been the most used 2d map editor for a long time. It's free and open source. It may not be very intuitive to use but once you get the hang of it you can get some serious efficiency out of it. And once you make a map in Tiled you can easily export it to basically any of the popular games engines on the market.  


    This one isn't so much a tool as it is a resource. OpenGameArt is a site where you gen get royalty free game assets to use in your game. If you aren't very good at making art and have no budget this is probably your best bet. 


  1. Become a game designer with our comprehensive game design curriculum for game designers of all levels - whether you're new to game design or an experienced game designer looking for new tools. These pixel art software tools help you explore game design for traditional RPGs with an emphasis on pixel art. Create pixel art with Photoshop, Paint Tool SAI, Sketchbook, Adobe Illustrator, Pixelmator, MacPaint. With almost every detail modeled with pixel-perfect precision, this is one app I can't wait to explore with my students.


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