What Is Unreal Engine? Is It Available For Free?

In short, it's a sophisticated tool for creating high-quality games.


Unreal Engine is a proprietary game engine that many developers use to create high-quality games. It was built by Epic Games and was first introduced in Epic’s FPS game, Unreal, back in 1998.

Although primarily targeted for creating 3D FPS games, Unreal Engine has broken into various other game genres and has been handy for the movie industry as well. It has a high learning curve and is highly portable, thanks to its code being written in C++.

For programming, the engine uses UnrealScript which makes it convenient for developers by skipping coding everything from scratch. Besides a comprehensive programming environment, it also features built-in tools for game art and design.

In April 2022, Epic Games announced Unreal Engine 5, marking the beginning of a new era for games. Subsequently, the firm released a playable demo, titled “The Matrix Awakens,” which showcased the new engine’s capabilities. You can watch the playable demo footage below.

Is Unreal Engine available for free?

Epic Games allows developers to use its engine for free for learning purposes. However, those who use it to make commercial products have to pay a 5% royalty fee if their revenue crosses $1 million USD.

Both AAA and indie game studios have employed this engine for their projects. A few years ago, Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney — also the Unreal Engine author — revealed that over 7.5 million game developers were making games using his firm’s game engine.

From mostly featuring in some in-house games to spreading across the game dev community, Epic’s game engine has come a long way in the past 24 years. Here’s a list of some of the most renowned titles that have used this cutting-edge piece of software:

Unreal Engine

  • Unreal Tournament (1999)
  • Deus Ex (2000)
  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001)
  • X-COM: Enforcer (2001)
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)

Unreal Engine 2

  • Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell (2002)
  • Medal of Honor: Rising Sun (2003)
  • Spider-man 2 (2004)
  • Tom Clancy’s Rainbox Six: Vegas (2006)
  • Bioshock 2 (2010)

Unreal Engine 3

  • Gears of War (2006)
  • Mass Effect (2007)
  • Batman Arkham Asylum (2009)
  • Rocket League (2015)
  • Mortal Kombat 11 (2019)

Unreal Engine 4

  • Street Fighter V (2016)
  • Fortnite (2017)
  • PUBG Mobile (2018)
  • Psychonauts 2 (2021)
  • Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League (scheduled for 2023)

Unreal Engine 5

  • Black Myth: Wukong (scheduled for 2023)
  • Kingdom Hearts IV (TBA)
  • Payday 3 (TBA)
  • Untitled Witcher game (TBA)
  • Untitled Tomb Raider game (TBA)

Finally, that wraps up our overview of Epic’s Unreal Engine and its uses. If you are interested in reading similar explainers, check out our Short Bytes section.

Priye Rai

Priye Rai

Priye is a tech writer who writes about anything remotely related to tech, including gaming, smartphones, social media, etc. He prefers to be called a "video game journalist" and grimaces when he doesn't get to be "Player 1." If you want to share feedback or talk about games, reach out to @priyeakapj on Twitter.
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