Pathfinding in Unity: What is the best way to do it?

Pathfinding in Unity: What is the best way to do it?

Game development is an exciting, fast-paced industry, where innovations happen frequently. One of the most critical aspects of game development is the creation of realistic and efficient pathfinding systems. In this article, we will delve into the fascinating world of pathfinding, focusing primarily on the Unity game engine.

What is Pathfinding?

Pathfinding is a crucial component in game development, particularly in genres such as strategy games, role-playing games, and survival games. It involves finding an optimal path from a starting point to a destination within the game environment. Pathfinding algorithms determine this path, avoiding obstacles and minimizing costs such as time, distance, and risks.

Unity Game Engine

Unity is a game engine developed by Unity Technologies and has gained significant popularity in the game development industry. It offers a 3D environment that allows developers to integrate various multimedia data into one platform, making it a preferred choice for developing both 2D and 3D games.

Unity provides several elements such as the PhysX physics engine, animation system, terrain editor, and more. One of the reasons for its widespread use is that it is available for free, making it highly accessible to indie game developers. Unity uses the C# programming language and is a cross-platform development software, making it both beginner-friendly and powerful enough for experts.

Importance of Pathfinding in Unity

Pathfinding plays a dominant role in Unity game development. It enables game characters to navigate around obstacles and reach their destinations in the most efficient way possible. Unity provides built-in support for pathfinding, which developers can utilize to create more immersive and interactive gaming experiences.

Different Types of Pathfinding Algorithms

Several algorithms are used for pathfinding in game development. These include the Dijkstra algorithm, the A* algorithm, the Breadth-First Search (BFS), the Depth-First Search (DFS), the Greedy Best-First Search, and others. Each algorithm has its strengths and weaknesses and is suited to different types of games and scenarios.

Dijkstra Algorithm

The Dijkstra Algorithm is a classic pathfinding algorithm that finds the shortest path from a source node to all other nodes in a graph. It is a reliable algorithm that guarantees the shortest path but can be slower and require more memory than other algorithms.

A* Algorithm

The A* algorithm is one of the most popular pathfinding algorithms used in game development. It combines the strengths of Dijkstra's algorithm and the Greedy Best-First Search algorithm, providing a balance between performance and accuracy. The A* algorithm always finds the best path to the destination node given a starting node in a network.

Breadth-First Search (BFS) and Depth-First Search (DFS)

BFS and DFS are fundamental graph traversal algorithms. BFS explores all neighboring nodes at the present depth before moving on to nodes at the next depth level, guaranteeing the shortest path. DFS, on the other hand, explores as far as possible along each branch before backtracking, which can be faster but may not always find the shortest path.

Greedy Best-First Search

The Greedy Best-First Search algorithm selects the path that appears to be the most promising at the time. It can be faster than other algorithms but does not guarantee the shortest path, as it may get stuck in local optimums.

Implementing Pathfinding in Unity

Implementing pathfinding in Unity involves several steps, including creating a 3D environment, creating a node and grid script, and scripting for drawing and showing gizmos in the 3D environment.

Creating a 3D Environment

The first step is to create a new 3D scene, which includes a plane, obstacles (3D objects like a cube), a starting point, and an endpoint.

Creating Node and Grid Scripts

Node scripts help apply the chosen pathfinding algorithm in the 3D environment. A grid script, on the other hand, helps create the grid for the game environment.

Drawing Gizmos in 3D Environment

Gizmos are used in Unity to provide visual debugging or setup aids in the scene view. They can be used to draw the grid and the path found by the pathfinding algorithm.

Evaluating Pathfinding Algorithms in Unity

After implementing the pathfinding algorithms, it's essential to evaluate their performance. Important factors to consider include the execution time, the total number of iterations, the shortest path length, and the grid size.


Pathfinding is a critical aspect of game development in Unity. By understanding the various pathfinding algorithms and how to implement them in Unity, game developers can create more immersive and interactive gaming experiences. While the choice of algorithm depends on the specific needs of the game, understanding the strengths and weaknesses of each can help in making an informed decision.

No matter the algorithm chosen, the key to successful pathfinding is a balance between speed and accuracy, ensuring that game characters can navigate the game environment effectively and realistically. With the right algorithm and implementation, pathfinding can significantly enhance the gameplay experience, creating games that are not only fun to play but also impressive in their complexity and realism.