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Tutorial: Make web games with Phaser 3

Phaser is a popular JavaScript framework to build HTML5 games that run in the browser. It is free, powerful, simple to use, and actively maintained. I believe it's the perfect framework to start making games.

In this tutorial we will build a game where the player is getting points every time he touches a yellow coin. That's super basic, but it's also a great example to learn how Phaser works.

Here are all the topics we will cover: scenes, sprites, texts, collisions, and tweens!

phaser game preview

Set up

To set up our project we create a new directory called "first-game", and inside it we add:

Display the game

Let's start with the index.html file.

<!DOCTYPE html>
    <meta charset="UTF-8">
    <title>My First Phaser Game</title>
    <script src="https://cdn.jsdelivr.net/npm/phaser@3.14.0/dist/phaser.min.js"></script>
    <script src="game.js"></script>
    <h1>My First Phaser Game</h1>
    <div id="game"></div>
    <p>Use the arrow keys to move around and collect the coins.</p>

This is basic HTML, but there are two important things to notice:

Now we will focus our attention on the game.js file.

Create a scene

Every Phaser project is made out of scenes. In our case we are going to only have one that will contain the whole game.

To create our scene we write a class with three methods. It's important to understand what each of these methods is doing, since they are key to how Phaser works.

// Create our only scene called mainScene, in the game.js file
class mainScene {
  // The three methods currently empty

  preload() {
    // This method is called once at the beginning
    // It will load all the assets, like sprites and sounds  
  create() {
    // This method is called once, just after preload()
    // It will initialize our scene, like the positions of the sprites
  update() {
    // This method is called 60 times per second after create() 
    // It will handle all the game's logic, like movements

To summarize, these methods will be called in this order: preload()create()update()update()update() → etc.

Start the game

Now that our scene is created, it's time to start the game with Phaser.Game() at the end of the JavaScript file. There are a lot of optional parameters available, but here are the main ones.

new Phaser.Game({
  width: 700, // Width of the game in pixels
  height: 400, // Height of the game in pixels
  backgroundColor: '#3498db', // The background color (blue)
  scene: mainScene, // The name of the scene we created
  physics: { default: 'arcade' }, // The physics engine to use
  parent: 'game', // Create the game inside the <div id="game"> 

Our job in the rest of this tutorial will be to fill the preload(), create(), and update() methods.

Test the game

It's a good time to test what we did so far. However, directly opening the index.html file in a web browser is not enough, we need to use a local web server for Phaser to work properly.

There are multiple ways to set up a local web server. Here's my favourite technique using the Terminal:

Since our game is empty, you should only see a blue background for now.

empty phaser game

Add the player

The first element to add to the game is the player (the white monster). That can be achieved in two short steps.

Step 1, load the sprite. Since we are loading an asset, we have to do it in the preload() method.

// Parameters: name of the sprite, path of the image
this.load.image('player', 'assets/player.png');

Step 2, display the sprite on the screen. This is part of the initialization of the scene, so we do that in the create() method.

// Parameters: x position, y position, name of the sprite
this.player = this.physics.add.sprite(100, 100, 'player');

There are three interesting things to mention here:

Add the coin

Next, we will add a yellow coin that the player can catch. The process is going to be very similar to what we did previously.

First we load the image of the coin in preload().

this.load.image('coin', 'assets/coin.png');

Then we display the coin on the screen in create():

this.coin = this.physics.add.sprite(300, 300, 'coin');

Add the score

The last element missing from our game is a score. Since there are no assets to load, we write this code directly in the create() method.

// Store the score in a variable, initialized at 0
this.score = 0;

// The style of the text 
// A lot of options are available, these are the most important ones
let style = { font: '20px Arial', fill: '#fff' };

// Display the score in the top left corner
// Parameters: x position, y position, text, style
this.scoreText = this.add.text(20, 20, 'score: ' + this.score, style);

phaser game static

Move the player

In order to move the player around, we have to tell Phaser to use the arrow keys as inputs. For that, we type this line in the create() method.

this.arrow = this.input.keyboard.createCursorKeys();

With this new variable we can check which arrow key is pressed, and change the player's position accordingly. To be able to move the player continuously, we write the following code in the update() method that is called 60 times per second.

// Handle horizontal movements
if (this.arrow.right.isDown) {
  // If the right arrow is pressed, move to the right
  this.player.x += 3;
} else if (this.arrow.left.isDown) {
  // If the left arrow is pressed, move to the left
  this.player.x -= 3;

// Do the same for vertical movements
if (this.arrow.down.isDown) {
  this.player.y += 3;
} else if (this.arrow.up.isDown) {
  this.player.y -= 3;

Handle collisions

Every time the player touches the coin, we should move the coin to a random position and increment the score by 10. So let's code all of that in a new method called hit().

hit() {
  // Change the position x and y of the coin randomly
  this.coin.x = Phaser.Math.Between(100, 600);
  this.coin.y = Phaser.Math.Between(100, 300);

  // Increment the score by 10
  this.score += 10;

  // Display the updated score on the screen
  this.scoreText.setText('score: ' + this.score);

We need to call hit() when the player and the coin overlap. But how do we know when that happens? It's very simple with Phaser's built in physics engine, we just add this code at the beginning of update().

// If the player is overlapping with the coin
if (this.physics.overlap(this.player, this.coin)) {
  // Call the new hit() method

Improve collisions

Right now when grabbing a coin, the only thing that changes is the score. That's underwhelming, especially since it's the main goal of the game.

To improve this, let's make the player temporarily grow when he takes a coin. This can be done with a tween in the hit() method.

// Create a new tween 
  targets: this.player, // on the player 
  duration: 200, // for 200ms 
  scaleX: 1.2, // that scale vertically by 20% 
  scaleY: 1.2, // and scale horizontally by 20% 
  yoyo: true, // at the end, go back to original scale 

And we finished the game! Here's the final result.

phaser game result


In less than 60 lines of code we've built a game that is playable in a browser. Pretty cool!

If you want to learn more about Phaser, I wrote a 100+ page ebook on how to make games with it. Check it out here.

make 2d games book cover

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You can read my other tutorials or check my book "Make 2D Games".