Whether you’re a PC or console gamer, there will have been times where you’ve wanted to access a game that’s geo-locked, wanted to play with a friend in a different country, or even worried about if the other team will DDoS you to gain an advantage.
Thankfully, there are multiple VPNs on the market that are fantastic for gamers. Today, we’re going to take a look at why you should consider using a VPN while you’re gaming, the key aspects of a great VPN for gaming, and which VPN provider is our top pick for gaming.
Best Paid VPN for Gaming
Our recommendation for gaming over VPN is NordVPN. They have over 5400 servers in more than 59 countries, all of which have built-in anti-DDoS protection and reliably high speeds. It’s also easy to find a server with low ping, as their search function displays how far away the server is from you, allowing you to pick the best option for speed while you’re gaming. You can also install NordVPN on your router to protect your gaming consoles.
Best Free VPN for Gaming
If you’re looking for a free gaming VPN, then your best option is ProtonVPN. It’s one of the few free VPNs that doesn’t have data or bandwidth restrictions, which makes it a great choice for gamers who regularly play with others online. However, the biggest issue we had with ProtonVPN is that its servers don’t usually run at a good enough speed for some of the most popular online games.
With that in mind, when you’re looking at gaming on a VPN, we recommend using a premium VPN that has high-speed servers and features that help you manage your speed.
Why You Need a VPN for Gaming
Most internet users don’t think about VPN and gaming, particularly as it seems that very little personal information is transferred when you’re in a game of League of Legends. Others think that using a VPN while gaming will slow down your connection and increase your ping, making it detrimental to their gaming performance.
While it’s true that using a VPN can slow down your connection, there is a myriad of benefits to using a VPN for gaming.
Get Around Geoblocks
It’s not unheard of for developers to geographically lock games, or versions of games, to prevent them from being played in other countries. It’s also usual for developers to lock certain game servers to certain countries to provide a better gaming experience for their players.
A VPN can help you to bypass these blocks, so you can play with your friends that live in different countries or access games that have been banned in your country.
Plus, developers will regularly release games early in a certain location, or even offer limited-time skins that are geo-locked to certain regions. By using a VPN, you can connect to a server in the country you want to access, allowing you to download that region-locked content despite potentially living thousands of miles away.
Remove IP Bans
Anti-cheat and anti-theft software often log your IP when a ban is issued, but sometimes, this software can ban a user without them having broken any rules. When you connect to a VPN, you’ll either use an IP address associated with the server, or you’ll be given a random IP address. So, you can go back to playing the game you were wrongly banned from.
DDoS and Hacking Prevention
When you game online, your IP address will be transmitted to the game’s servers, along with all of your game information. Some servers even collect information about your system and hardware, meaning that you’re giving away a lot of personal information every time you play a round of Fortnite.
A VPN can help to protect you from a DDoS attack or hacking attempt by obscuring your IP address and other personal information, which makes it harder for attackers to target you. Not only that, but some VPN providers also have dedicated anti-DDoS software, which automatically transfers you to a new server if it detects a massive influx of traffic.
Discord is banned in some countries, which makes communicating with your friends and people in your online communities difficult. However, if you use a VPN, you can choose a server in a country where Discord isn’t blocked.
Plus, some VPN providers support split tunneling, so even if you don’t want to use a VPN for your game, you can still access Discord through a VPN.
VPN and Gaming: Pros and Cons
- Protects you against DDoS and hacking attempts. A VPN will obscure your true IP address, so even if the other team tries dirty tactics to win, you’re covered.
- Access geo-locked content. Whether there’s a game releasing early in a certain country or you want to play something that’s not available in your country, then using a VPN server in that country can get around this.
- Access Steam abroad. As a safety measure, Steam might refuse your payment if your IP address doesn’t match the home country in your account information. With a VPN, you can connect to a server at home so you can pick up a game even when you’re away.
- Bypass IP bans. Anti-cheat/anti-theft software isn’t always perfect, but a VPN can help you gain access to your favorite game if you were wrongly banned.
- Reduced speeds and higher ping. Depending on which server you connect to, you might experience a significant drop in speed and a higher ping which can be detrimental to your gaming experience. We recommend using servers in your country for gaming where possible to combat this.
How to Set Up a VPN for Gaming
Whether you already use a VPN or not, there are a few key things you need to consider when you’re setting up a VPN for gaming.
Speed/Stability of VPN Protocols
Almost every VPN provider will offer a variety of VPN protocols for you to choose from, but what you might not know is that different protocols can affect your speed. Some protocols, such as the newer WireGuard, are also more unstable than others, meaning you’re more likely to experience a drop in connection.
The most common protocols are IKEv2 and OpenVPN, both of which are known for offering good speeds and being relatively stable. However, OpenVPN UDP is notably faster than OpenVPN TCP, but the latter is more stable than the former.
WireGuard, which is the newest VPN protocol, is often considered to be one of the fastest and most secure protocols on the market. While this might sound perfect for gaming, this protocol is still in its infancy, so it’s more likely that you’ll lose connection mid-game if you’re using this protocol.
If your provider offers all of the above, and you’re willing to experiment with the settings, then it’s worth doing some trial-runs with your chosen game/s to see which protocols offer you the best speed.
Check for P2P Support
Almost every modern online game uses a combination of P2P and dedicated servers to facilitate online multiplayer gaming. With that in mind, you need to make sure that your chosen VPN supports P2P on its servers.
Some VPN providers, such as NordVPN, offer dedicated P2P servers that are optimized for speed and user privacy. However, others like ExpressVPN will support P2P connections on all of their servers. Some may not allow for P2P connections at all.
When you need a VPN for gaming, it’s essential to find a provider that allows P2P connections on their servers or offers servers that are optimized for P2P connections. The latter is more ideal for gaming, as these servers typically offer the best available speeds.
Speed of VPN Servers
If you’re connecting to a VPN server, then you’re likely to have reduced speeds as a result. These speeds will, however, be based on the usual internet speeds you receive, and will depend on how far away the server you’re connecting to is.
As a rule of thumb, you’re likely to notice a very minute drop in speed, if you notice it at all when you connect to a server in the same country as you. The further away the server is, the more speed you’ll lose.
While VPN providers won’t necessarily be able to guarantee the speeds their servers provide, most good VPN apps will show you the current ping time of each server, which is a good indication of how much speed you’ll lose.
However, it’s worth noting that with some VPNs, you might experience an increase in speed. That’s because your ISP may be throttling your speed when you’re transmitting a lot of data, as is the case with online multiplayer gaming. VPNs help you get around this speed throttling, which is why your speeds might improve with some providers.
Disabling Non-Essential Features
The best VPN providers offer a range of features that give you improved security when you’re online, such as double VPN. While these features are great for everyday activities that don’t require super-fast speeds, such as browsing, they can be extremely detrimental to your gaming performance.
Double VPN, for example, is the most likely feature to slow down your Internet as your data is relayed through two servers instead of one. So, you should configure your settings to turn off any non-essential features before gaming to get the best speeds.
Testing Your Speed Before Gaming
Regardless of whether you’re a casual gamer or you’ve got dreams of making it in eSports, you’re going to want to test your internet speed before you join a big game. With some of the biggest games with online matches having ranked seasons, the last thing you want is to find out that the VPN you spent hours setting up is making your game unplayable.
Before you fire up your game, make sure you test your speed using speedtest.net. This is the best independent website for testing your speed, as sites provided by your ISP or sponsored by other companies may give you inflated results. If you’ve got the time, it’s worth switching to different servers and using different protocols to see what results give you the best possible speed.
Once you’ve found a server and protocol you’re happy with, we’d recommend playing a few practice games with your chosen settings to see how the game holds up while you’re using your VPN. Almost every game with online multiplayer will have modes that allow you to practice against bots, or play casual matches against other people that don’t impact your rankings for that season.
How to Set Up a VPN on a Gaming Console
While setting up a VPN on your PC is easy, unfortunately for console gamers, it requires a more manual approach. Since no VPN provider currently has a native app for gaming consoles, you have two main options. The first is to connect your gaming console to a computer running your VPN, and the second is to use Smart DNS 7 to set up a VPN on your gaming console directly.
Connecting to a PC
The simplest way to set up a VPN on a gaming console is to connect your console to your computer, which effectively turns your computer into a “middle man” for your data. If you’re not experienced with using VPNs, or you want a simple solution so you can get to gaming quicker, then this is a great option.
The first thing you need to do is to make sure that your computer has two ethernet ports. Most laptops only have one, so we recommend using a desktop computer if possible. While you might be able to get this method to work on a PC that connects to your home internet via WiFi, some of the settings you need might not appear, so ethernet routing is a more reliable option.
Here’s how to use a VPN on your console via your PC:
- Open the VPN client on your computer and connect to a server.
- Connect your console to your computer via ethernet cable.
- Enable Internet Connection Sharing on your computer.
Connecting via Smart DNS 7
If you’re more experienced with using a VPN, then connecting your console directly to the VPN by using Smart DNS 7 is a great option that avoids you needing to keep your computer turned on every time you use your console.
To do this, you’ll have to configure your console’s DNS settings manually to connect to the Smart DNS 7 servers. The setup process will depend on your console, but thankfully they have full guides for a range of modern and legacy consoles like the Playstation 4 and Xbox 360.
How to Set Up a VPN on a Router
Unfortunately, setting up a VPN on your router isn’t as easy as installing an app. Just like with connecting your gaming console to your VPN, you’ll have to manually configure your router to work with your chosen VPN service.
It’s worth mentioning that before you get your hopes up about installing a VPN on your router, there’s a good chance that your router won’t support this. While some routers might support OpenVPN and PPTP, most low-cost routers either don’t support this or don’t support these protocols reliably.
With that in mind, the easiest way to ensure that your router is VPN-enabled is to purchase one from a VPN provider. However, this can be a costly option, and it’s one that VPN users on a budget are likely to avoid.
Thankfully, most of the big names in VPN have handy guides to help you set their VPN up on your router, which will walk you through the process. Every VPN provider will have a different settings page that you need to work with, so, unfortunately, there’s no standard procedure for setting up a VPN on a router.
It’s also worth checking with your VPN provider to see if you need to use the OpenVPN protocol or you need to install their specific software.
Best VPN for Gaming: Our Top Picks
Express VPN is a British Virgin Islands-based provider with a great track record for fast speeds, high security, and for being a beginner-friendly service. You can install ExpressVPN on almost all of your devices, including your router. But, if you don’t want the hassle of configuring your router, ExpressVPN also sells routers pre-flashed with their software.
Number/Location of Servers
With more than 3,000 servers across 94 countries, all of which support P2P connections, users are never far from their nearest ExpressVPN server. This wide range of servers means it’s less likely for one server to be overloaded, and that you’re never far from the nearest server, both of which are key factors in reducing your ping when using a VPN.
ExpressVPN has a strict no-logs policy, and this has been proven through independent audits. Their servers are also RAM-only, meaning they’re completely wiped and rebuilt at every reboot cycle. You’re also covered by IPV6 and DNS leak blocking technology and Perfect Forward Security, in which each of your sessions are covered by a unique encryption key that changes every 60 minutes. So, even in case of a hacking attempt, you’re covered from all angles.
ExpressVPN has a speed tester built into its desktop applications which scans every available server to find the quickest one. During our testing, we found that there was an extremely minor drop in speed when we connected to a server in the same country as us, so much so that it was practically undetectable. When we connected to servers abroad, the speed drop was also relatively small compared to other VPN providers, making it a great choice for gamers who want to play on foreign servers with their friends.
ExpressVPN starts at less than $9/month when you sign up for an annual plan, or you can pay for it monthly at $12.95. While it’s not the cheapest VPN for gaming on the market, the amount of features and privacy protection is well worth the cost.
NordVPN is well known for being one of the biggest names in the VPN industry, and for good reason. Based in Panama, this VPN provider has a great reputation for its super-fast servers, ease of use, and great customer service.
Number/Location of Servers
NordVPN has over 5,000 servers across 59 countries, which is one of the best range of servers we’ve seen. With so many servers available, and their Quick Connect feature, it’s easy to find a fast, low ping server for gaming. Plus, you can favorite servers to make it easier to find them when you’re ready to game, and NordVPN has dedicated P2P servers for when you’re playing online multiplayer.
With NordVPN, you get access to their anti-DDoS protection, so even if the enemy team tries to shut you down, you’re protected. NordVPN is also transitioning to RAM-only servers, which ensures that any data lingering on servers is erased at every reboot. WifiSec, one of their newest offerings, makes sure that you automatically connect to NordVPN whenever you connect to an unfamiliar Wi-Fi, ensuring that you’re always protected wherever you are.
NordVPN’s clients are slick and user friendly, making it easy to adjust your VPN settings to achieve an optimized experience. They also maintain their own VPN protocol, NordLynx. While this is an extension of the increasingly popular WireGuard, it’s been further optimized for speed and security.
NordVPN starts at less than $4/month with a two-year plan, rising to $11.95/month if you’d rather pay monthly. This puts NordVPN on the more expensive end of the spectrum of gaming VPNs, but it’s certainly not the most expensive VPN out there when you consider the wide range of features you get.
Surfshark is perhaps best known as a streaming VPN, but it also has a strong offering for gamers. It’s a fantastic VPN for large households given its unlimited device connections, and it offers fast same-country server speeds, Smart DNS support for gaming consoles, and DDoS protection.
Number/Location of Servers
Surfshark has over 3,200 servers across 65 countries, all of which are P2P friendly and offer a wide range of VPN protocols so you can optimize your connection for faster speeds. You can also favorite reliable servers and quickly see a server’s load before connecting, so you have as little hassle as possible when you’re setting up your VPN before a gaming session.
Surfshark uses perfect forward secrecy protocols and integrity functions to avoid data tampering. Each server is also set up for Private DNS, which helps to keep your identity obscured while you’re online. They also use RAM-only servers that are regularly wiped and rebooted.
Surfshark’s clients make it easy to see which servers are experiencing heavy loads, making it easy for you to choose an available server with the best available bandwidth. They also offer WireGuard, which is becoming increasingly popular for its increased speeds over traditional VPN protocols.
Given the features that are available, Surfshark is a great value VPN that’s great for multiple uses outside of gaming. Surfshark costs less than $3/month if you sign up for a two-year plan, but if you want to pay for it monthly, it costs the same as ExpressVPN at $12.95/month.
CyberGhost is a lesser-known cheap VPN that has some great features for gamers on a budget. With CyberGhost, you get access to Smart DNS support for your gaming consoles, a wide range of servers, and DNS leak protection.
Number/Location of Servers
CyberGhost has an astonishing 6800 servers across 90 countries, which is one of the largest server offerings we’ve seen from a VPN. Unfortunately, not all of these servers are P2P friendly, but the large number of servers makes it easy to find one that is. They also have a list of NoSpy servers, which are those owned and operated by CyberGhost, which gives you an additional layer of security.
CyberGhost is based in Romania, which has some of the strictest online privacy laws in the EU. They also combine WireGuard with a REST API to assign dynamic IP addresses, where WireGuard alone would only assign a static IP. Your encryption key is also randomly generated each time you connect to CyberGhost.
CyberGhost offers a range of servers optimized for P2P connections, but you can only access these on desktop, meaning you’ll need to be a PC gamer or connect your console to your computer for optimized speeds.
CyberGhost is the most expensive monthly VPN on this list, costing $12.99 when you pay for it monthly. However, it costs only $2.25/month when you sign up for a three-year plan, which also comes with a 45-day money-back guarantee.
IPVanish is a US-based company that offers fairly reliable speeds across its extensive Tier-1 network. In addition to its extensive list of locations, you’ll also get access to obfuscated servers, DNS leak protection, and strong P2P connection support.
Number/Location of Servers
IPVanish independently owns and operates over 1,600 servers across more than 75 locations. While this might not be as extensive as some other VPN providers, IPVanish fully owns and controls all of their servers, minimizing the risk of third-party leaks. All of their servers are P2P friendly and offer reliable speeds.
IPVanish gives you a lot of control over how you use the OpenVPN protocol, allowing you to choose which port you connect to. You can also scramble your connection if you’re at risk of your VPN usage being detected. IPVanish also offers both IPv6 and DNS leak protection and has a strict no-logs policy.
In IPVanish’s clients, you can filter their servers by speed and current ping, which makes this VPN provider a great option for gamers who don’t want to spend time experimenting with different servers. The client also displays your current upload and download speeds, giving you a baseline from which to judge the servers you connect to.
IPVanish has one of the cheapest monthly costs at $10/month. Unlike some other VPN providers that we’ve reviewed, their longer-term plans don’t offer a significant discount over their monthly cost. The cheapest you can get IPVanish for is currently on their annual plan, which works out at $6.49/month. If you’re looking for a long-term deal with a VPN provider, you can get better savings with other providers.
There are a lot of things you need to consider when you’re looking for a gaming VPN, whether you’re considering what’s the best free gaming VPN or you want the fastest VPN for gaming. From the number of servers and their location to who owns those servers, there is a myriad of factors that can affect server speed, which is one of the key things you need to bear in mind with a gaming VPN.
With that being said, we recommend NordVPN for gaming over VPN. With a wide range of high-speed servers worldwide, it’s easy to find one that offers a low ping. And, with each server supporting P2P connections and anti-DDoS software, NordVPN is perfect for online gaming.
However, if you need a budget VPN for gaming, then CyberGhost is also a good option. While it doesn’t have as many features, its three-year plan offers a budget-friendly way to protect your identity when you’re gaming online.