My students frequently ask me how to get started in Unity game development. While I have many recommendations I give based on this question, including Unity's fantastic learning pathways, I don't often have a single book recommendation for them.
Recently I had the chance to take a look at Fanatical's Unity Game Development 3rd Edition book bundle and I wanted to cover the books that are in this bundle (because I've read most of them at this point) and some overall thoughts on the bundle itself.
Full disclaimer: I was provided the bundle for free, but am not otherwise being compensated by Fanatical, Packt, or the authors for my writeup here.
This is the minimal tier you get if you pay at least $1. This is likely worth it just for the first two books alone.
Hands-On Unity 2021 Game Development, 2nd Edition
This book is presents a guided project in building a simple game from the concept and design document stage to the final touches. Along the way it introduces most of the major pieces of the Unity 2021 editor, before concluding with a random chapter on augmented reality. Overall, I think this book is a good help for someone wanting to follow a step-by-step guide, though I wonder if a learning pathway or video course might be better for such an approach. Still, if you learn best by following guided steps and prefer books, this book will be a good fit for you.
Learning C# by Developing Games with Unity 2021
This is the book I'd recommend to someone who hasn't programmed or hasn't done much programming before and wants to learn both Unity and C# programming. It covers the basics of the C# language and then transitions into discussions of major features of the Unity editor. This book was written for beginners and should be a good "first step" for many learners.
Unity 2021 Cookbook, 4th Edition
As you build your first game you will inevitably reach a point where you ask "How do I do X?". This book aims to help you with that by giving a broad set of categorical guides to specific common tasks within these categories from moving to an object when the user clicks it to animating specific body parts to implementing a slight delay before playing an audio sound effect. This book can't address everything that you'll get stuck on, but it has a large volume of wisdom for the types of problems that disrupt many projects.
Unity 2021 Shaders and Effects Cookbook, 4th Edition
If you're looking at improving the graphical polish of your game, this book is a good fit as it walks through the processes of creating and customizing your own effects and shaders. This is a specialized discipline and this cookbook approach to common tasks will help you develop your skills in these areas while solving common tasks related to shaders and effects.
This tier includes everything in tier 1 and a few more key resources.
Game Development Patterns with Unity 2021, 2nd Edition
This book is a book on programming design patterns applied to game development in Unity. I would recommend this book to anyone who feels their code is not structured well enough and is struggling with the complexity of what they've written or for someone looking to grow their knowledge as a software developer in general and wants to use Unity as a gateway for this.
Unity Game Optimization, 3rd Edition
I've read both the 3rd and 2nd edition of this book. This is a lovely book for someone trying to figure out why their game is slow or how their game's performance could be improved. Unity projects often seem fine early on and then struggle at scale as you have a larger number of objects and AI agents active in your game world. This book aims to give you tools to understand, diagnose, and resolve common performance problems (including problems with art assets) and is a good quick source of specialized knowledge.
Unity Certified Programmer: Exam Guide
A few years ago I was thinking about taking the Unity Certified Programmer exam and got this book as a reference resource. While I ultimately decided that the certification didn't suit my career goals, particularly given the renewal process, this book would have been my primary resource while preparing for the exam.
Even if you're not looking to get the Unity Certified Programmer certification, this book will help expand and deepen your Unity programming knowledge and help you move to the next level of comfort and experience.
Unity 2020 Mobile Game Development, 2nd Edition
If you're looking to do mobile development or support players using your games on mobile, this is a good targeted resource at the things you need to think about while doing Unity development for mobile devices. This is not an area I've explored much on my own, but the book covers Android and iOS development, mobile input, notifications, resolution concerns, and mobile-specific concerns such as ads and in-app purchases.
Learning C# by Developing Games with Unity 2020, 5th Edition
This is the 2020 edition of the book included in Tier 1. I don't much see the point of reading this instead of the newer one, but perhaps it has benefit if you wanted to work with Unity 2020 instead of Unity 2021.
Hands-On Unity 2020 Game Development
This is another prior edition of a book currently in this bundle. It's useful if you want to use Unity 2020 instead of Unity 2021, but otherwise I'd prefer the newer content.
This tier is the full bundle and includes tiers 1 and 2 as well.
Mastering UI Development with Unity
Working on user interface development in Unity is radically different than most other types of development in Unity. I've personally found times when I needed to move from active game development to working on my user interface and I've witnessed how that took the wind out of my sails and brought me to a standstill. This book looks to help you solve common user interface development tasks in Unity. The book covers common user interface components and interactions as well as more advanced things such as mobile user interfaces and effects in the user interface and representing your user interface in your 3D game world.
Mastering Unity 2D Game Development, 2nd Edition
Unity is perhaps best known for its use in 3D game development, but the engine is a capable one for building 2D games as well. I read the first edition of this book awhile back and enjoyed it and the 2nd edition seems to have grown and improved since then. The book follows a role playing game project, which is a fairly common use of a 2D game engine and should be helpful for a variety of people. Along the way it covers the user interface, effects, animations, and systems like a shopping cart and combat.
Unity Game Development Blueprints
This book is an interesting collection of game prototypes from a variety of projects. It's a very helpful book for understanding how you might structure a new project and the major challenges you'll need to overcome in building your new game. It also carries two very helpful chapters on letting users save their games and understanding Unity's new user interface.
Mastering Unity Scripting
If you understand the basics of working with Unity and know the basics of the C# language, this book will help you deepen your knowledge by showing you ways of working with Unity-specific tasks such as cameras, scenes, and text assets. This book isn't necessarily for an advanced C# developer, but should help you get from beginner to intermediate. I particularly liked the chapter on artificial intelligence.
Unity Game Development Scripting
This is similar to Mastering Unity Scripting, but more task-focused on things you want to achieve. There are some chapters in here that are really interesting to me such as save game management and programmatically managing game music and ambiance. This is a relatively short book, but it is to the point and focuses on legitimate areas of interest to most developers instead of focusing on the C# language or scripting in general in Unity.
Overall, I really like this bundle. I do wish it had maybe a bit more on AI in Unity or Unity multiplayer, but I think this bundle of books is useful for someone taking their projects from the beginner to the intermediate level and getting past most common obstacles. At the cost of a bit over $15 at the moment, this is a bundle that should be worth it to purchase, even if you think you'll only get value from a book or two.