Game development is easy with a wide selection of assets. Check out our selection of the best websites for free Unity models.
Unity is a cross-platform game engine for creating 2D, 3D, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) games. It’s one of the top game engines used by game developers.
On the most basic level, to create a game using the Unity game engine, a developer would need to import all their game assets into the Unity game environment. To accommodate this, the Unity game engine can read FBX, Collada (.dae), 3DS, DXF, and OBJ files. Naturally, for 3D games, models must be in a 3D model format. (Note that the Unity game engine converts all 3D model files into the FBX format internally.)
In order to take advantage of this file format flexibility, we’ve compiled some of the best sources of free files that can be used in Unity. Before we get into them, though, there are a few things to consider.
There are lots of sources of free 3D models on the web. The websites that made the cut were selected based on the following criteria:
In Unity, the sizes of your files are very important when doing game development because the models used at runtime are dependent on the size of the imported model files. This means that when a game has too many large files, it could end up exhausting the resources of the platform its running on.
It’s important to consider this while planning your game and its therefore recommended to test it on as many devices as possible. With this in mind, let’s talk about how we chose the best websites for building your dream games.
Google Poly was launched by Google to help AR and VR developers find 3D models for their applications. The site is easy to navigate with a search bar at the top of the page where a user can enter the name of a model that they’re searching for. (Note that downloading assets from the website requires a Gmail account.)
Models found on this site are in the OBJ file format and have a Creative Commons license. As a result, models are free and can be used for commercial purposes, but they require attribution to the creator.
Google Poly has an API that allows a user to list assets, get a list of assets authored by them, find an asset when they know its ID, and upload an asset to the platform. Note that assets made with Google’s Tilt Brush (3D painting) software aren’t immediately available for download unless you “like” them, at which point they’ll appear in your library.
Poly also has a specific toolkit for Unity that allows game developers to import assets directly into their games from the Google Poly platform. Additionally, there are Poly plug-ins for Blender, Cinema 4D, Maya, and 3DS Max, which allow a creator to upload assets directly from their respective platforms.
If your game takes place in space, this next one’s for you. NASA’s 3D models website hosts over 300 downloadable models. A user can search for a model using the search bar at the top of the website or browse alphabetically.
Models are available in the OJB and MTL file formats and can be downloaded without the creation of an account on the website. All the models on the website are also available on GitHub.
As an aside, if you’re interested in 3D printing, the 3D models available on NASA’s website are suitable for game development as well as additive manufacturing.
The Unity Asset Store is a community-created platform with over 2,000 free 3D models that come as FBXs and OBJs. All assets found through the store can be used for commercial purposes.
To download models, you’ll need to have a registered version of the Unity game engine. Assets are then downloaded directly into the game engine and aren’t compatible with any other platform.
A royalty-free license is granted to users, commercial usage requires the permission of the creator of the model you intend to use.
Sketchfab gives users access to over three million models and contains both free and paid content. However, since there’s no specific filter for free 3D models, it’s difficult to tell just how many of those are free. Free models on the site use a Creative Commons license and all have a royalty-free license.
Although Sketchfab recommends OBJ, Blender, and FBX file formats, they also support many others. Downloading them requires you to create an account, but Sketchfab also has a download API. It allows you to search the entire Sketchfab database and download models into your application.
One thing that’s cool about the site is that it comes with a 3D and VR viewer, which lets you interact with the models in the browser.
TurboSquid is a marketplace with over 21,000 free 3D models and hundreds of thousands more in the paid category. The site is easy to navigate with a search bar in the middle of the screen and a carousel below the header image, which links to free models.
3D models for 3DS Max, Maya, Cinema 4D, and Blender can be found on TurboSquid. You can also find texture maps, sound effects, scripts, and software.
To download a model from the site, you’ll need to create an account. Models downloaded from TurboSquid are royalty-free and can be used for commercial purposes.
CGTrader has over 4,000 free low-poly models. Though easy to navigate, it’s a bit cluttered; a filter of free models will still intersperse paid content so that only every other image you’re looking at is actually free.
Like most sites, CGTrader also requires a login to download models. They’re available in the 3DS, MLT, C4D, Blender, STL, and FBX file formats. All models downloaded from the site have a royalty-free license.
Free3D contains over 16,000 free models and of that, about half are specifically low-poly. The models are available in a wide variety of formats, including 3DS Max, MLT, C4D, Blender, STL, and FBX. They can be downloaded without a login, but you’ll have to check the licensing of each.
On CADNav, you’ll find 3D models, textures, and software tools. It contains over 50,000 models available in the 3DS, MLT, C4D, Blender, STL, and FBX file formats. It also has a special game category filter.
The details of models that a user intends to download are displayed next to the model. As a result, a user can learn the polygon count, the number of vertices of the model, and the most suitable editing software.
The models available on the website are free for personal and commercial use, and downloading them doesn’t require a login.
OpenGameArt is a repository for 2D art, 3D art, textures, music, and sound effects. It has all the resources a game developer would need for graphics and sound production. OpenGameArt contains over 3,000 3D models and a forum where users can discuss with other game enthusiasts.
All the game assets on OpenGameArt are free for commercial usage. However, the user must study the individual license terms for the assets they intend to use in their projects.
Blend Swap has over 22,000 free 3D models for and by Blender users. Not surprisingly, all of them are available as Blender files. To download a model from the site, one must create an account.
Once a model has been downloaded from the website, importing the model into the Unity game engine isn’t difficult. Models on Blend Swap have three possible licenses and can also be searched for by license type.
Kenney is a great resource for game assets. Though the 3D model selection is a bit limited, in total, Kenney has over 40,000 images, audio files, and 3D models. The website has a Discord channel where a game developer can meet and share with other game developers.
Assets from Kenney are in the public domain and are completely free for usage in personal, educational, and commercial projects. Downloading assets from the website doesn’t require an account; all a user has to do is search for an asset, select it, and download it.
(Lead image source: Paul Bourke)
License: The text of "12 Best Sites for Free Unity 3D Models in 2020" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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