I was the lead developer of 2 moderately successful browser games quite a few years back, and plan on working on a new game soon. At the time, I wrote them in pure PHP (no template engine or anything of the sort).

I'd like to start working on a new game, but have been out of the web development world for a while. Reading around, I hear a lot of good about Rails, Django, Node.js, etc., with which I have no experience (although I know my way around Python, Javascript, and the others quite well).

So my question is the following- if I were to go in my old ways and go with PHP again, would I be making things hard for myself? Would picking something more "trendy" have a real impact on my development?

In addition, does anyone have any pointers relating to specifically developing browser games with these more modern tools?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Node.js has the advantage of being JSON, all the way down, but you're going to be able to develop faster by sticking with what you know (and PHP has json_encode and json_decode if you want to work with JSON on the client) \$\endgroup\$
    – thedaian
    Commented Jul 12, 2011 at 13:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ Stick with PHP5, it's actively developed and does not have any features that would make it impossible to create a good browsergame. Webtechnologies have certain bottlenecks, such as the Webserver, the Databaseserver. Concerns you shouldn't link directly to you language choice. The language is just the environment, if you are confortable with PHP use PHP. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 20, 2011 at 18:56

4 Answers 4


PHP is still relevant for browser games. There are tons of companies (Gameforge, Funzio, Goodgame Studios, etc.) that use PHP for their online games.

I think PHP and Java are most widely used, but learning something like Node.js and Python can be beneficial as well. It really depends on what you want to focus on. Learn new technologies/a new programming language, or create a game with the tools you already know?

As others suggested, you could improve your game-client by using technologies like HTML5 and JavaScript. For the backend you can still use PHP. That might give you enough new stuff to learn while you can still benefit from your PHP programming skills.

  • \$\begingroup\$ +1, server programming is usually not hard, you're limited by client's language. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 4, 2012 at 14:22

PHP is still relevant and widely used.

According to the TIOBE Programming Community PHP is the fifth most popular language. It was in fourth position last year. That decrease could simply be due to an increase in the amount of available technologies.

I'm assuming there is some correlation between general programming language popularity and game programming language popularity.

Rails, Django and Node.js are frameworks or libraries so comparing them with PHP won't work so well, instead you could compare them with PHP frameworks such as Symfony and CakePHP. If you're already confident with PHP and don't have experience with Ruby/Python it may be worth using one of these.

Most of these frameworks offer model-view-controller architecture that could speed up development and keep your code cleaner and easier to maintain.

  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 for making the distinction between language/interpreter and framework. My friend's working at a startup now whose web backend is written in perl with the Catalyst framework. He hates perl, but quite likes the way it's used in Catalyst. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 30, 2011 at 2:46
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ -1 for calling Node.js a framework or library. It's a stand alone script environment, and in some ways it's actually fairly low level, which in my opinion makes it a better candidate for a game backend than PHP. For normal web development you'd want to put a framework on top of it just to bring it to the abstraction level of PHP. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 20, 2012 at 9:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ that tiobe page is a joke, python above java, javascript and php? ha ha ha XD \$\endgroup\$
    – wlf
    Commented Nov 3, 2020 at 22:24

The old brower games of the day have nothing in common with what you can achieve today with what's available.

The big question is about real-time; if you want to keep the same sort of game design as an old browser game, PHP should be fine. Thing is, the type of game was defined by the constraints at the time; I guess if you've already dabbled in these games, you'll probably want to take things a step further.

If you want to keep an older, static-time based game, you could very well keep with PHP and maybe make profit of the trendy canvas in HTML5. A step further could be to mix it up with a bit of AJAX to make things a bit more 'real time'; you probably used this in your older games anyway.

I don't know specifics of the other tools you taks about, but I'm familiar with PHP/AJAX games, and with you base knowlege, and the new power of HTML5, I believe that any browser game should work pretty well for you.

Of course; this is taking for fact that you want to make quite a static game.


For more modern tool, you can pick a WebGL powered game engine. Most of them are driven by JavaScript. You can checkout this list, see if any of it fits your need.

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ I think the question is aimed towards webpage-based games rather than traditional games running in a browser \$\endgroup\$
    – Ioachim
    Commented Jul 12, 2011 at 4:44

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