The best game design programs, ranked by the Princeton Review 2021

Students in a gaming conference
(Image credit: University of Southern University)

Even in these ridiculous times, video games are there to comfort, challenge, and inspire us. It takes a lot of work to make your favorite games, though, and a lot of smarts. It’s dangerous to go alone, as one famous adventure told us, and that’s where these game design programs come in.

So take a moment to think about what kind of game developer you’d like to be. Do you want to use your artistic flourish to design fascinating worlds and new characters? Do you want to manage the business of running a studio? Or do you want to get your hands dirty in the coding and programming that makes games run? Maybe you’re also looking to master your skill set with a graduate degree.

Every adventurer knows that the first steps can often be the most important. If you’re ready to take that leap, read on to find out where you should start your journey.

Want to know more? Check out The Princeton Review’s website for further information on game design programs: 

Whether you’re taking your first steps or refining your skills, there’s a game design program for anyone. Check out the 50 best undergraduate and 25 best graduate programs out there.

The top 50 best game design undergraduate programs

1. University of Southern California

College students collaborating

(Image credit: University of Southern California)

Total Courses: 277
2020 Grads Hired: 90%
2020 Grads Salary: $65,000
Faculty: Gary Schyman (Composer, BioShock series), Artem Kovalovs (Programmer, The Last of Us)
Graduates: Ryan Coogler (Black Panther), Jeff Kaplan (Overwatch)

2. Becker College

College students collaborating

(Image credit: Becker College)

Total Courses: 125
2020 Grads Hired: 54%
2020 Grads Salary: $62,321
Faculty: Keo Heng (Senior Animator, Sony Computer Entertainment), Christina Alejandre (Director of Publishing & Esports, WB Entertainment)
Graduates: Lawrence Preston (Environment Artist, Sony Bend), Katelyn Anthony (QA Lead, Riot Games)

3. New York University

Two men looking at computer

(Image credit: New York University)

Total Courses: 564
2020 Grads Hired: 40%
2020 Grads Salary: $55,000
Faculty: Dr. Bennet Foddy (Getting Over It)
Graduates: Carol Mertz (Designer, Exploding Kittens), Robert Meyer (Designer, Just Cause)

4. Rochester Institute of Technology

College students

(Image credit: Rochester Institute of Technology)

5. DigiPen Institute of Technology
Kim Swift (Portal, Google Stadia), Adam Brennecke (Pillars of Eternity)
2020 Grads Salary: $81,500

6. Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Keith Zizza (sound designer, BioShock Infinite), Ed Gutierrez (Disney/Pixar)
Graduates: Alex Schwartz (Job Simulator), Michael Gesner (Riot Games)
2020 Grads Salary: $72,350

7. Michigan State University
Ricardo Guimaraes (concept artist, Blizzard Entertainment, Ubisoft), Elizabeth LaPensée (Indigenous game designer)
2020 Grads Hired: 81%
2020 Grads Salary: $58,000

8. University of Utah
Doug Bowser (President, Nintendo), Nolan Bushnell (Founder, Atari)
2020 Grads Hired: 40%
2020 Grads Salary: $62,145

9. Bradley University
2020 Grads Salary:
2020 Grads Hired: 60%

10. Shawnee State University
2020 Grads Hired:
2020 Grads Salary: $59,200

11. LaSalle College Vancouver
2020 Grads Hired:
Graduates: Greg Findlay (Tomb Raider, Thief), David Larmour (Capcom)

12. Vancouver Film School
Scott Henshaw (EA), Jeff Plamondon (Capcom Vancouver)
Graduates: Armando Troisi (Narrative Director, Ubisoft), Boris Wong (EA)

13. Drexel University
2020 Grads Hired:
Graduates: Anna Nguyen (Injustice 2, I Expect You to Die), Glen Winters (Red Dead Redemption 2)

14. University of Central Florida
Fun Fact:
One of 16 Microsoft Flagship Schools
Graduates: Richard Ugarte (Producer, Epic Games), Alex Madeville (Facebook Games)

15. Abertay University
2020 Grads Hired:
Graduates: David Jones (creator of Grand Theft Auto), Timea Tabori (Engine Programmer, Rockstar Games)

16. Breda University of Applied Sciences
2020 Grads Hired:
Graduates: Jendrik Illner (3D Programmer, Ubisoft), Nathalie Jankie (Level Designer, Remedy)

17. Champlain College
2020 Grads Hired:
Faculty: Nathan Walpole (Character Animator, Halo, ESO), Christopher Cao (Character Artist, Bethesda)

18. Cogswell University of Silicon Valley
2020 Grads Salary:
Fun Fact: Recently added a program focusing on business, marketing, and production of games.

19. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
2020 Grads Salary:
Graduates: Zach Barth (ZachTronics), Curtis R. Priem (NVIDIA)

20. The University of Texas at Dallas
Matt Charles (Gearbox Software), Ricardo Flores (Animator, Naughty Dog)
2020 Gender Breakdown: 50% Male, 50% Female

21. Hampshire College
2020 Grads Salary:
2020 Grads Hired: 60%

22. Savannah College of Art and Design
2020 Grads Salary:
Graduates: Chad Dezern (CCO, Insomniac), Harrison Pink (Quest Designer, Blizzard)

23. Laguna College of Art + Design
Greg Baldwin (Character Artist, Insomniac), Nicole Tan (Level Architect, Arkane)

24. Howest University of Applied Sciences
2020 Grads Hired:
Faculty: Tristan Clarysse (Artist, Larian, BioWare), Kevin Hoefman (Larian)

25. University of Wisconsin - Stout
2020 Grads Hired:
Graduates: Mitchel Clayton (Environment Artist, Naughty Dog), Mic Rooney (Gameplay Programmer)