What is GDNative?¶
GDNative is a Godot-specific technology that lets the engine interact with native shared libraries at run-time. You can use it to run native code without compiling it with the engine.
GDNative is not a scripting language and has no relation to GDScript.
Differences between GDNative and C++ modules¶
You can use both GDNative and C++ modules to run C or C++ code in a Godot project.
They also both allow you to integrate third-party libraries into Godot. The one you should choose depends on your needs.
Advantages of GDNative¶
Unlike modules, GDNative doesn't require compiling the engine's source code, making it easier to distribute your work. It gives you access to most of the API available to GDScript C#, allowing you to code game logic with full control regarding performance. It's ideal if you need high-performance code you'd like to distribute as an add-on in the asset library.
GDNative is not limited to C and C++. Thanks to third-party bindings, you can use it with many other languages.
You can use the same compiled GDNative library in the editor and exported project. With C++ modules, you have to recompile all the export templates you plan to use if you require its functionality at run-time.
GDNative only requires you to compile your library, not the whole engine. That's unlike C++ modules, which are statically compiled into the engine. Every time you change a module, you need to recompile the engine. Even with incremental builds, this process is slower than using GDNative.
Advantages of C++ modules¶
We recommend C++ modules in cases where GDNative isn't enough:
C++ modules provide deeper integration into the engine. GDNative's access is limited to what the scripting API exposes.
You can use C++ modules to provide additional features in a project without carrying native library files around. This extends to exported projects.
C++ modules are supported on all platforms. In contrast, GDNative has only limited support on HTML5 (cannot be used together with multi-threading), and is not supported on Universal Windows Platform (UWP).
C++ modules can be faster than GDNative, especially when the code requires a lot of communication through the scripting API.
The Godot developers officially support the following language bindings for GDNative:
There are no plans to support additional languages with GDNative officially. That said, the community offers several bindings for other languages (see below).
The bindings below are developed and maintained by the community:
Not all bindings mentioned here may be production-ready. Make sure to research options thoroughly before starting a project with one of those. Also, double-check whether the binding is compatible with the Godot version you're using.
Unlike Godot itself, GDNative has stricter version compatibility requirements as it relies on low-level ptrcalls to function.
GDNative add-ons compiled for a given Godot version are only guaranteed to work with the same minor release series. For example, a GDNative add-on compiled for Godot 3.4 will only work with Godot 3.4, 3.4.1, 3.4.2… but not Godot 3.3 or 3.5.