There are two incredibly popular modern game engines: Unreal and Unity. In a recent post we covered the best Unity books and in this post I want to focus solely on the Unreal game engine.
I’ve sifted through a handful of books selecting a wide variety of content and difficulty levels. In this post you’ll find the absolute best Unreal Engine books to help you master the art of video game development.
Absolute beginners can pick up some of these books and get started, although you’ll likely get further if you already have some programming experience(preferably C or C++). But peruse through this gallery and see if any titles catch your attention.
Absolute beginners with no experience using Unreal may not be sure where to start. I’d personally recommend Unreal Engine 4 Game Development in 24 Hours just because the writing style is gentle and simplistic.
There’s a lot to cover with Unreal and C++ so if you’re just getting started it’s better to start small to keep your confidence up. This book will do just that and it’s long enough to cover everything you need to know as a beginner.
Here’s one of the newest Unreal engine books targeted at game developers who want a deep dive into the program. Learning Unreal Engine Game Development covers 2D and 3D game development with the latest Unreal v4.
This book starts from the very beginning with a history of Unreal and how it’s currently used in professional game studios. You’ll learn about the basic interface controls and how to use these in conjunction with a real game workflow.
I do not think this book would work great for absolute beginners, although with some dedication you could make your way through the material. But this is geared more towards folks who already know a bit about C++ or game design principles and want to apply those ideas to Unreal.
You’ll cover a variety of topics like level design, 3D terrains, game animations, and creating interactive objects all within the span of 274 pages. Great intro guide to the Unreal program itself, but this will not take you all the way to full competency.
This is another new Unreal book and this one focuses more on mobile game development for Android and iOS.
Unreal Engine Essentials talks about static and dynamic lighting, Unreal 4 blueprints, the Material editor, and other similar features. The early chapters teach you the basics with a step-by-step approach and in the later chapters you learn to build custom projects with UI controls and an on-screen health bar.
This book covers many of the same topics as the previous book “Learning Unreal Engine”. However I think Unreal Engine Essentials would be a tad easier as an introduction to the software. It doesn’t cover as much ground, but it does focus on Unreal 4 which is the latest release.
Plus this book also gets into the basics of C++ for Unreal engine so it can be a great choice if you need a software+programming guide.
The best thing about Sams Teach Yourself is that anybody can pick up this book and get started. This is true for almost all of their books, and it’s the main reason I recommend this content to a majority of people.
Unreal Engine 4 Game Development in 24 Hours totals just about 500 pages so it’s one hell of a book. You’ll learn the absolute basics and move through exercises presented in a tutorial approach. You’ll learn about the Unreal 4 interface along with the best tools and common workflows adopted by professional game developers.
The Static Mesh Editor, the Persona Editor, and even the sound library are all touched upon in this book. You’ll build real games that handle player inputs with realistic physics engines and on-screen interfaces.
Plus the book caters to all forms of gaming from consoles to mobile devices. This means you’ll learn how to program control-based inputs and touch-based inputs all from the same Unreal interface. Anyone just getting started with Unreal should definitely consider this book as their first resource.
Most programmers learn by actually doing and messing up along the way. Failure is the best teacher and the best way to fail is to attempt real project work.
Unreal Engine 4.X By Example is the best book you can get for actual Unreal game development with sample projects. This book totals 506 pages and it teaches you how to build 4 unique games from scratch, each building on a different skillset.
You should know a little about programming before picking up this book. It does cover a lot of C++ techniques but it’s not meant to be the perfect intro to C++ programming. You get into the nitty-gritty details building a first-person shooter and even networking techniques for multiplayer games.
These exercises will bring you to a high level of competence with Unreal game development. Before picking up this book you should already have some familiarity with the engine, but you can weasel your way through if you’re tenacious.
Alireza Tavakkoli is the author of this book and holds a PhD in computer science. Alireza has years of experience teaching programming for games and simulations.
That’s why Game Development and Simulation with Unreal Technology is such a powerful book because it covers a broad range of topics. You’ll learn the Unreal Engine but you’ll also learn about the underlying technology for building levels, multiplayer features, textures, and even basic AI for enemies.
This book is huge. It totals 740 pages and the material covers everything from beginner to advanced topics. You could pick up this book with little-to-no prior experience and by the end you could be very comfortable working with Unreal.
You’ll work your way through three sections of the book. First is an intro to Unreal 4, then you get into detailed rendering like textures and shading. Then finally the last section teaches advanced game development with real examples.
It’s a pricey option but I do think this book is worth the price tag. Great book for mastering Unreal 4 and learning from a teacher who’s worthy of authoring this book.
The Unreal Editor comes with a powerful blueprints feature for visual scripting. It’s very complicated and there’s nothing else quite like it in other engines.
Many of the beginner books in this list touch upon Blueprints, but none get truly in-depth. However Blueprints Visual Scripting for Unreal Engine is the perfect guide for learning and mastering the Blueprints feature.
This book teaches you how to interact with the blueprints interface and how to use it for complex game features. This includes player controls, on-screen UI, artificial intelligence, and story mapping for cutscenes.
By the end you’ll have created a custom first person shooter using the Blueprints feature at every turn. This book is perfect for anyone somewhat comfortable with Unreal 4 that wants to delve much deeper into Blueprints scripting.
Many beginner books start with Unreal and expect you to pick up C++ as you go. However Learning C++ by Creating Games with UE4 flips this idea on its head.
You can start this book with zero knowledge in Unreal or C++ and walk away feeling comfortable with both. I’d recommend this more to programmers who want to get into programming but aren’t 100% sold on Unreal.
Yes you will learn about the Unreal 4 interface. But you’ll also learn about how to code C++ and how this affects your game development workflow.
The author teaches you the fundamentals of C++ and how these apply to game development. This includes reusable DRY code, memory management, and working with more complex game libraries. You do not need any prior knowledge of development or even an IDE. This book gets you started on the right track and shares everything you’d need to know.
The intricacies of rendering light and shadow can seem endless. Artists study this topic for years and game developers need to understand many of the same concepts.
Thankfully computers make it easier to render shadows, but it’s still important to understand how to do so. Unreal Engine Lighting and Rendering Essentials teaches you how to work with Unreal’s built-in library for shading and lighting.
When you consider lighting you also need to consider materials in the game map. Metal, wood, and pavement all reflect light differently. The same is true for how shadows fall on the ground or fall over objects.
This book teaches the fundamentals of lighting in Unreal 4 along with related libraries like the Cascade particle editor. You’ll learn about lighting and shadow across different devices and how to handle visuals for smaller 3D games.
To be upfront, this is not an easy book. You should already have some experience working with Unreal before you get deep into the lighting/shading engines. But if you’re ready for this topic then I can’t imagine a better reference guide.
From in-game enemies to NPCs there’s a real need for AI development. This has been around since the early days of NES/SNES but has advanced tremendously in recent years.
With Unreal Engine 4 AI Programming Essentials you’ll learn about the absolute basics of artificial intelligence as it relates to game design. You do not need any background in AI or machine learning to pick up this book. However you should have prior experience building a couple games in Unreal.
There is no introduction for newbies so you’ll already need Unreal 4 experience and some C++ experience. But the examples in this book are fantastic covering probability and debugging with AI behavior.
You’ll walk away with greatly advanced knowledge of AI development and this is undeniably one of the better AI books on the market. However the concepts do not carry over well to Unity so this book is best left for Unreal 4 users.
Here’s another newer Unreal book that I think fits the title perfectly. Mastering Unreal Engine 4.X teaches developers with some experience how to take Unreal to the next level.
The goal is to teach developers how AAA game studios use Unreal by following a step-by-step workflow. You should already be able to build a custom game with Unreal and you should be very comfortable writing C++ code.
This book spans 384 pages and each chapter delves into a tutorial-style exercise teaching more advanced aspects of Unreal game development. Topics include AI development, in-game cutscenes, detailed game menus, custom audio, and improving the game’s overall performance.
If you can already build an Unreal game from scratch without following a tutorial then you’re ready for this book.
I’m tossing this book into the mix for anyone with a side interest in 3D visual art. Rendering with Blender is very complicated and while it is easier than Maya, it’s still a powerful tool used by professionals in AAA studios.
3D Game Design with Unreal Engine 4 and Blender teaches you how to incorporate 3D modeling with Blender into your Unreal engine game development workflow. This is meant primarily for indie developers who tend to follow the jack-of-all-trades route.
But professional game designers can also improve their skillset with Unreal or Blender(or both, depending on experience).
If you’re already comfortable with Unreal then this book is perfect for you.
It’ll teach you how to incorporate Blender for game animations, 3D renders, and how to improve lighting/shading for 3D environments. You’ll also learn how to swap files between both programs which is a necessity in the world of pro game development.
Lastly we come to the most detailed intermediate-to-advanced book in this whole post. I’m a huge fan of cookbooks because the code snippets solve real world problems that you can apply to most projects.
Unreal Engine 4 Scripting with C++ Cookbook offers 431 pages full of 80+ different recipes for Unreal game development. Note this is not an Unreal cookbook, but rather a C++ cookbook. It’s primarily meant for programmers who are working with Unreal Engine.
The initial chapters can feel rather basic covering UI controls and game mechanics. Later chapters get into debugging, improving performance, and adding 3rd party libraries to improve visuals & animations.
If you don’t want C++ recipes you can always check out the slightly older Unreal Engine Cookbook, but personally I think the C++ cookbook is much better when it comes to advanced AAA Unreal Engine game development techniques.
I know this post is long and full of many books to choose from. I’ve tried to order the books ranging from easiest down to more advanced titles, but you can always mix between books depending on your comfort level.
Absolute beginners who need a very simple guide should check out Unreal Engine 4 Game Development in 24 Hours. The writing style is straightforward and super easy to read making it the perfect starting point for any aspiring game developer.
But if you’re willing to go deep I’d highly recommend the 700 page tome Game Development and Simulation with Unreal Technology. It’ll be tough to wade through with no experience, but it’ll also bring you from a complete novice to a rather advanced Unreal Engine developer.
And for advanced users I would naturally recommend the Unreal4/C++ Scripting Cookbook. The recipes are stunning and it’s easily one of the best cookbooks I’ve seen in the realm of game development.
But no matter where you’re at there’s bound to be something in this post to help you advance your Unreal Engine skills to the next level.