The Very Best Game Programming Books

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With books, you're less likely to drop your phone in the toilet.

With books, you’re less likely to drop your phone in the toilet.
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It’s easy to get started with game programming, thanks to a variety of pre-made game engines that help you create basic games quickly. But to make anything substantial – not to mention anything unique or ground-breaking – you’ll need to invest time and effort into your programming skills.

For learning a deep topic like game programming, nothing beats a book. You can throw it in your bag and read it anywhere – on the bus, at school, on your lunch break, on the toil… well, you get the idea.

The game programming books listed below are some of the best available, and they come highly recommended by professional game programmers like Brandon Fogerty, David Galloway, Dan Posluns, Brian Gish, and Yours Truly – me. Start at the top, and build your coding chops as you work through the list.

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Books for Beginning Game Programmers

Beginning C++ Through Game Programming

Beginning C++ Through Game Programming

by Michael Dawson

To program games, you must start by learning a programming language. C++ is the most popular language for games, and this book teaches you C++ and game programming at the same time.

Recommended by Jason W. Bay

Game Programming Patterns

Game Programming Patterns

Patterns are like “recipes” for coding the most common (and complicated) things in game development. Don’t reinvent the wheel – learn these patterns and use them to make your games faster and better.

Recommended by Jason W. Bay

Books for Intermediate Game Programmers

Game Engine Architecture

Game Engine Architecture

by Jason Gregory

Hailed as a “must-have textbook,” this book provides readers with a complete guide to the theory and practice of game engine software development.

Recommended by David Galloway

Programming Game AI By Example

Programming Game AI By Example

by Mat Buckland

This covers everything you need to know to implement artificial intelligence (AI) agents for video games. It’s chock full of clever and useful AI patterns.

Recommended by Jason W. Bay

Data Structures & Algorithm Analysis in C++

Data Structures & Algorithm Analysis in C++

by Mark A. Weiss

“This book was like the bible to me. Almost everything I’ve learned from that book has come up in an interview at some point in time or another.”

Recommended by Brian Gish

Practical Linear Algebra- A Geometry Toolbox

Practical Linear Algebra: A Geometry Toolbox

by Farin, Hansford

Teach yourself linear algebra, which is essential for game programming. This book teaches many examples and real-world applications.

Recommended by David Galloway

Books for Advanced Game Programmers

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Real-Time Collision Detection

Real-Time Collision Detection

by Christer Ericson

“A great systems book! Has perhaps the best chapter on optimization in any book related to game production.”

Recommended by David Galloway

Getting Started in 3D with Maya

Getting Started in 3D with Maya: Create a Project from Start to Finish – Model, Texture, Rig, Animate, and Render in Maya

by Adam Watkins

Deliver professional-level 3D content in no time with this comprehensive guide to 3D animation with Maya.

Recommended by Brandon Fogerty

Books for Graphics Programmers

Ray Tracing from the Ground Up

Ray Tracing from the Ground Up

by Kevin Suffern

This book takes readers through the whole process of building a modern ray tracer from scratch in C++.

Recommended by Brandon Fogerty

Best book for learning Unity 3D shaders

Unity Shaders and Effects Cookbook

by Kenny Lammers

Shaders promote gaming realism but are not always easy to implement. This book seeks to change that with a cookbook approach to teaching you how to create stunning Shaders using your knowledge of Unity3D.

Recommended by Brandon Fogerty

Shaders for Game Programmers and Artists

Shaders for Game Programmers and Artists

by Sebastien St-Laurent

This is the first book approaching the topic of shaders in an accessible manner. It takes a simple, easy-to-follow approach to the high-level language of the topic.

Recommended by Brandon Fogerty

Do you have a favorite programming book that’s not on the list? Let us know in the comments below!

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