Godot 4: Getting Started

Learn the basics of how to use Godot 4 to create games and applications in this tutorial aimed at beginners. By Eric Van de Kerckhove.

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Godot is an open-source game engine that supports the creation of 2D, 3D, and mixed projects that runs on Windows, macOS, Linux and even Android. First released in 2014, it has gained popularity as a viable alternative to larger engines like Unity and Unreal Engine. Some well-known project created with Godot include Dungeondraft, Brotato, Dome Keeper and Sonic Colors: Ultimate.

One of the strengths of Godot is its user-friendly interface and intuitive design. The engine utilizes a node-based system and a Python-like programming language called GDScript, making it easy to create games and applications. It also has built-in nodes for 2D, 3D, and UI, which allows for minimal boilerplate code. Godot is a great choice for game development, especially for beginners.

A GIF of a roguelike game|One of my 2D projects running in Godot

The latest version of Godot, version 4, offers significant improvements over its predecessor, version 3.5. Godot 4 provides a more powerful and versatile game development platform with a wealth of new features and improvements to enhance the game development experience.
Some of the key features of Godot 4 include:

  • A modern Vulkan renderer for improved graphics and performance
  • Support for .NET 6, allowing developers to write scripts using C#
  • An upgraded GDScript, the engine’s primary scripting language, with improved performance and syntax
  • A high-performance physics engine
  • Enhancements to multiplayer functionality
  • A new 3D importer that supports glTF and Blender
  • Countless other features and improvements

This tutorial focuses on getting you introduced to Godot 4. It touches lightly on some key aspects of the engine so you’ll be able to delver deeper in future tutorials. Here are some of the topics covered:

  • Downloading and opening Godot
  • Getting to know the user interface
  • Creating nodes and scenes
  • Running and instancing scenes
  • Creating scripts

You can download the materials for this project by using the link at the top or bottom of this tutorial. It only includes the final project as you’ll be creating a new project from scratch yourself.
Time to get started with Godot!

Getting Started

To start off, download Godot 4 from its official download page: https://godotengine.org/download

After the zip has finished downloading, unzip the file and move the folder somewhere safe. Godot’s editor doesn’t need to be installed, so you can even put it on a USB stick or an external drive if you want. The next step is actually running the editor for the first time, how exciting!

Creating a Project

Open the Godot 4 folder and run the executable. Depending on your OS, this may be a .exe, .app or .x86_64 file. If this is the first time you’ve ever ran Godot 4 on your system, you’ll get a dialog window asking you if you wish to explore the example projects. Click the Cancel button to decline and continue to the Project Manager.

A window asking if you'd like to explore example projects

The Project Manager lets you open and create Godot projects. It has two tabs:

  • Local Projects: These are projects that are stored on your device. Any new projects you create will show up here. You can also import existing projects to add them to the list.
  • Asset Library Projects: This is a list of templates, projects and demos pulled from AssetLib, Godot’s official repository of user-submitted assets. You can use these as a starting point or for learning how to use certain engine features.

To create a brand-new project, click the New Project button at the top right.

The New Project button

This will open up the Create New Project dialog window. By default, the project directory will be somewhere in your user directory. This will act as the root folder of all your projects. You can change it by clicking the Browse button to the at the right. I changed mine to C:/GodotProjects for example.

Browse button is highlighted

The next step is creating a folder for the project itself. To do this, fill in the name for the project name, “GettingStarted” and click the Create Folder button. This will create a new subfolder at the project path’s location you set up in the previous step.

GettingStarted is filled in as the name, the Create Folder button is highlighted

Next, leave the other options at their default values and click the Create & Edit button at the bottom to generate a blank project and open the main editor.

Create & Edit button

Interface Tour

If everything went well with the project creation, you’ll be greeted by Godot’s main interface. It may look daunting at first, but no worries, you’ll be navigating it like a champ in no time!

Godot 4 full interface


Godot’s editor is split up into areas, one for every cardinal direction and a center screen. I’ll give an overview of these in the following sections.

Top bar

The top contains the following features from left to right:

  • Menus: These contain project-wide settings and allow you to save scenes, set debug options and open the documentation just to name a few features.
  • Screen tabs: This switches the content of the center screen to a different main screen. More on that below.
  • Playtest buttons: These buttons allow you to run and stop the project or a specific scene.
  • Renderer dropdown: This switches what renderer is used to display graphics, from the full-featured Forward+ at the top to the lightweight Performance mode.

Center of the window, with the viewport

The content of the center screen depends heavily on the chosen screen mode in the screen tabs. All screens besides AssetLib have the following features in common:

  • Scene tabs: This lets you switch between scenes or create a new empty one using the plus button. By default an empty one is active. At the end is a maximize button to fill the application window with the center screen.
  • Toolbar: A collection of buttons, toggles and menus that apply to the viewport. Here you can switch between selecting, moving, rotating and scaling selected nodes with the first four buttons for example.
  • Viewport: The main view of the scene in most cases. This is a flat plane in 2D mode, a 3D environment in 3D mode and an integrated development environment (IDE) in Script mode.

Left side of the window

The Scene dock at the top shows a hierarchy of the nodes in the active scene. When you have an empty scene open like you do now, it shows buttons to let you choose the root node type. I’ll explain what nodes and scenes are in Godot in the next section. For now, think of them as any objects used in your game, from sprites and 3D meshes to buttons and audio players.
The FileSystem dock at the bottom shows all files in your project like images, scripts and 3D models. The root of the project folder is res://, which stands for resources. By default, Godot comes with a single image: the Godot logo. You’ll get familiar with it soon. :]

Right side of the window

The dock on the right holds the Inspector, which allows you to view and edit the properties of any selected node or resource. Besides the Inspector, there are two more tabs: Node and History. The Node tab contains an overview of the selected node’s signals and groups while the History tab shows a list of the last actions you performed in the project, like moving a node or adjusting a setting for example.

Bottom side of the window

The bottom panel hides the output window, debug console, audio mixer, animation editor and the shader editor. Any context-sensitive editors like the tilemap editor will also appear here when needed. The panel can be folded out by clicking any of the buttons.
Try clicking on the Output button for example to see Godot’s initial output.

Output button at the bottom is highlighted