JavaScript Game Development: Building a 2D Game Engine

JavaScript is a versatile programming language that can be used for various applications, including game development. In this article, we will dive into the exciting world of JavaScript game development and explore the process of building a 2D game engine. We will provide code examples with explanations and showcase their output to help you understand the concepts better. So, let's get started!

Understanding the Basics

Before we begin building our game engine, let's familiarize ourselves with some fundamental concepts of game development. In a 2D game, we typically deal with objects, sprites, game loops, and collision detection.

  • Objects  Objects represent the various entities in our game, such as players, enemies, or obstacles. They have properties like position, size, and velocity.

  • Sprites  Sprites are the visual representation of objects. They are images or animations that give life to the game's elements.

  • Game Loop  A game loop is a continuous process that updates the game state and renders the graphics. It typically consists of an update phase, where we update the positions and properties of objects, and a render phase, where we draw the updated game state.

  • Collision Detection  Collision detection determines if two or more objects have intersected. It is crucial for handling interactions between game entities.

Building the 2D Game Engine

Now that we understand the basics, let's start building our 2D game engine step by step. We'll focus on creating a simple game engine that handles object management, rendering, and basic collision detection.

Step 1: Setting Up the Canvas

We begin by creating an HTML file with a canvas element that will serve as the game's display area. Here's an example −


<!DOCTYPE html>
   <title>2D Game Engine</title>
      canvas {
         border: 1px solid #000;
   <canvas id="gameCanvas" width="800" height="600"></canvas>
   <script src="game.js"></script>

Step 2: Initialising the Game Engine

In our JavaScript file (`game.js`), we start by initialising the game engine. We set up the canvas and obtain the drawing context to manipulate the graphics. Additionally, we define an array to store the game objects.

// game.js

// Initialize the game engine
const canvas = document.getElementById('gameCanvas');
const ctx = canvas.getContext('2d');
const gameObjects = [];

Step 3: Creating the GameObject Class

Next, we define a `GameObject` class to represent game entities. Each object will have a position, size, and an `update` method that will be called during the game loop.

// game.js

class GameObject {
   constructor(x, y, width, height) {
      this.x = x;
      this.y = y;
      this.width = width;
      this.height = height;

   update() {
      // Update the game object

   draw() {
      // Draw the game object

Step 4: Adding Objects to the Game

We can now add objects to the game by creating instances of the `GameObject` class and pushing them into the `gameObjects` array. For example, let's create a simple square object 

// game.js

// Create a square object
const square = new GameObject(100, 100, 50, 50);

// Add the square object to the game

Step 5: Implementing the Game Loop

To make our game interactive, we need a game loop that updates and renders the game objects continuously. We use the `requestAnimationFrame` function to achieve this. In the game loop, we call the `update` and `draw` methods of each game object.

// game.js

function gameLoop() {
   // Clear the canvas
   ctx.clearRect(0, 0, canvas.width, canvas.height);

   // Update and draw each game object
   gameObjects.forEach(object => {

   // Call the game loop recursively

// Start the game loop

Step 6: Drawing Game Objects

Now, let's implement the `draw` method of the `GameObject` class to render the objects on the canvas. We'll use the `fillRect` method to draw a rectangle for each game object.

// game.js

class GameObject {
   // ...

   draw() {
      ctx.fillRect(this.x, this.y, this.width, this.height);

Step 7: Updating Game Objects

To update the game objects' positions and properties, we'll implement the `update` method of the `GameObject` class. For simplicity, let's move the square object by changing its `x` position on each update.

// game.js

class GameObject {
   // ...

   update() {
      this.x += 1; // Move the object by 1 pixel

Step 8: Handling Keyboard Input

To make our game interactive, we can handle keyboard input to control game objects. We'll listen for keydown events and update the object's properties accordingly. Let's modify the `update` method to handle left and right arrow keys for the square object −

// game.js

class GameObject {
   // ...

   update() {
      if (keys['ArrowLeft']) {
         this.x -= 1; // Move left

      if (keys['ArrowRight']) {
         this.x += 1; // Move right

// Keyboard input handling
const keys = {};

document.addEventListener('keydown', (event) => {
   keys[event.key] = true;

document.addEventListener('keyup', (event) => {
   keys[event.key] = false;


You have successfully built a simple 2D game engine using JavaScript. We explored the fundamental concepts of game development, including objects, sprites, game loops, and collision detection. By following the step-by-step process and examining code examples with explanations, you should now have a good understanding of how to create a basic game engine in JavaScript.

From here, you can continue expanding your game engine's capabilities by adding more complex features, such as collision detection and response, sprite animations, audio, and user interfaces.

Game development is a vast and exciting field, and JavaScript provides a great platform to unleash your creativity and bring your game ideas to life.

Updated on: 25-Jul-2023


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