If you’re on the fence about using a VPN while gaming, we’re here to show you the light. Any gamer interested in beating ISP throttling, unlocking cheaper international game purchases, or preventing DDoS attacks should use a VPN. Today, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know to game online like a pro.
You spend hundreds of hours grinding away at your favorite online games. Just one more level, one more raid, then you’ll call it a day! Making the most out of your gaming sessions means more than just finding the right loot, however. You need to maintain privacy and security, and you need to break through artificial barriers put in place by content producers.
VPNs are a gamer’s best friend. Unblock foreign servers, beat throttling, and stay safe while gaming with these VPNs:
- NordVPN – Best Gaming VPN – NordVPN is the best choice for gaming. Available on PC, routers, and consoles, you’ll enjoy fast speeds free from throttling, plus ready access to geoblocked content all over the world.
- Surfshark – A relatively young VPN with some of the most impressive privacy features we’ve seen. Demolishes censorship and surveillance for not a lot of money per month.
- ExpressVPN – Often touted as the fastest VPN, and for good reason. Thousands of servers, built-in speed test, no logging.
By running a VPN in the background, you can do all of this and much more. Below we take a look at the upside of using a VPN while gaming on consoles, PC, and even mobile devices.
Online Gaming – Everybody Does It
The old stereotype of online gamers being shut-ins who live in their parents’ basement has long since passed. These days, just about everyone plays online games, whether they realize it or not. Some of the most popular mobile titles have a strong online component, for example, and games like Hearthstone, PUBG, and League of Legends wouldn’t exist without a sturdy connection to the web.
Even if a game doesn’t focus on multiplayer or online connectivity, chances are it accesses the internet from time to time. Maybe it’s content updates, maybe it’s to share scores. Either way, you never know when a title is pushing information to remote servers. It’s a moderate privacy risk if you’re using a PC or a gaming console, but if you’re playing on your phone, apps sending data without your permission can drain your data plan and severely compromise your security.
Does using a VPN affect gaming?
Virtual private networks are a fast, easy to use solution to the problems of online security. VPNs encrypt data before it leaves your device, preventing third parties from tracking your location or monitoring your online activity. They also break through censorship walls and ensure ISPs can’t throttle your connection. The best part is all you have to do to take advantage of a VPN is sign up and run an app in the background. No complicated setup procedures or configurations, just download and go, even on mobile devices.
What is the best VPN for gaming?
Finding the right VPN to use with gaming is more complicated than it seems. There’s a lot of information to research, everything from encryption methods to privacy policies, speed scores, latency issues, and network size. We’ve done the hard work for you by comparing some of the top providers in the industry. Our recommendations are below, and they’re absolutely perfect for gaming on any platform.
NordVPN is the top gaming VPN for a number of reasons. First, they offer an unrivaled sever network encompassing over 5,500 nodes in 59 countries. This makes it easy to sneak past IP bans and access foreign gaming servers, as well as to sniff out better deals in other countries. Each connection is protected by 256-bit AES encryption, backed by an independently audited no-logging policy.
Speeds are strong across the board, though you have a ton of freedom to tweak encryption settings for even better performance and lag-free matches. We recommend gamers check out the anti-DDoS specialty server, in particular.
Read our full NordVPN review.
- Unblocks US Netflix, iPlayer, Amazon Prime and other streaming services
- Mind-boggling number of servers
- Connect up to 6 devices at once
- Strict zero logs policy on both traffic and metadata
- 24/7 Chat Support.
- Not much
- Apps can sometime be slow to connect.
Get a huge 70% discount on the 3-year plan ($3.49/mo), backed by a hassle-free 30-day money-back guarantee.
If you’re strapped for cash, then Surfshark is the VPN you want for gaming. In addition to low prices, they offer unlimited simultaneous connections–a rare feature that enables you to share with a friend to split the cost further.
They maintain an impressive RAM-only server network numbering 3200+ servers in 65 countries, which offers stable speeds and low latency. Surfshark has ditched outdated and slow tunneling protocols in favor of OpenVPN, IKEv2/IPSec, WireGuard, guarded by the cutting-edge 256-AES-GCM cipher. This is not only incredible strong, but light on encryption overhead that makes so many other providers slow as sin.
Based in the BVI, Surfshark is legitimately able to promise they’ll never keep logs of your activity, enabling you to game with complete anonymity.
- Every server optimized for unblocking Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, and more
- Every server is a speciality server
- No questions asked money back guarantee
- Based in the British Virgin Islands, where there are no data retention laws
- Responsive customer support available 24/7.
- Growing network doesn’t have same coverage as more mature VPNs
- New-kid-on-the-block status may not instill same trust as larger providers.
Read our full Surfshark review.
ExpressVPN operates a lightning fast network that spans 3,000+ servers across 94 different countries, plenty to guarantee a lag-free connection no matter where you’re connecting from. Data is kept safe with 256-bit AES encryption along with a zero-logging policy, and both kill switch and DNS leak protection features lock down private information so it doesn’t sneak through. ExpressVPN also works with a wide variety of devices, even some modern gaming consoles, making it an ideal choice for players from any background.
Read our full ExpressVPN review.
- Unblocking Netflix USA, iPlayer, Amazon Prime
- Fastest servers we have tested
- Torrenting/P2P allowed
- No personal information logs kept
- 24/7 Customer Service.
- Limited configuration options
- High cost for month-to-month users.
5 Reasons to Use a VPN While Gaming
Slow connection speeds? Lots of lag? Game banned in your country? There are plenty of reasons to use a VPN while gaming online. We’ve selected five of the most important ones below.
Reason 1 – Better, Cheaper Regional Availability
In our modern, always-connected, global digital marketplace, everyone has access to shops and products from around the world, instantly. You would think this evens the playing field for players purchasing games from other regions, but the sad truth is this isn’t the case. Region locks prevent people from downloading games and DLC packs on a daily basis. They also artificially inflate prices depending on your country of origin. If you don’t think that’s a fair deal, well, you need to use a VPN!
One of a VPN’s main features is the ability to switch virtual locations. By connecting to servers located in different countries, you can essentially fool marketplaces and online games into thinking you’ve moved to a different part of the world. It’s the perfect solution if a game is banned in your country or only offers restricted access. If you’re met with a connection error, simply change your VPN server, reload, and start playing.
Another common issue with video games is publishers charge more money for releases depending on the region. (Australian players, you know what we mean.) A quick and effective way to fix this is to log out of your marketplace account, switch VPN servers to a new country, then log back in. The prices should instantly update to reflect your virtual location.
Reason 2 – Stay Safe from DDoS Attacks
Few things are scarier to online gamers than a direct denial of service (DDoS) attack. While they may not be as common as urban legends would have you think, getting hit by a DDoS can instantly ruin your evening. DDoS works by overwhelming your connection with small packets of information, blocking data from reaching the server and kicking you out of the game. The attacks are based on your IP address, allowing users to target you directly, all without your knowledge.
Just about anyone can launch a DDoS attack, especially those young punks you just trampled during the last round. Most ISPs have rudimentary DDoS protection in place, but they pale in comparison to what a VPN can offer. The right virtual private network can keep you safe from DDoS attacks by shutting them down the moment they begin. Rapid fire packets are detected and rejected before they can kick you from the game, allowing you to frag and forget with abandon.
Reason 3 – Cut through Speed Barriers
Gamers fear the speed throttle. ISPs have been known to artificially slow down user connections if they detect a high amount of traffic passing through their servers. This happens when streaming HD movies, downloading files through BitTorrent, or even playing online games. Speeds start off fine but slowly shrink as the day goes by. And when it happens, there’s nothing you can do about it, just sit and stare at the loading screen a little longer.
VPNs offer up a quick and easy method for bypassing ISP throttles. Encryption provides a good first wave defense, making it more difficult for service providers to separate gaming traffic from standard packets. Failing that, a good VPN can switch which port you’re using, bypassing throttling techniques in an instant. Oftentimes you don’t even have to do anything to break through these speed barriers. The VPN simply takes care of it for you in the background.
Reason 4 – Keep Your Identity a Secret
Let’s say you’re playing a nice online mobile game with a few players. We’ll call them swansong8117 and x1-mega-otis. You make a particularly good play that angers these two fine players. You win the round, you collect your prizes, and you go on with your day. But swansong8117 and x1-mega-otis, they’re not too pleased with losing. They decide to exact some revenge by grabbing your IP address, looking up your location, and engaging in a little social engineering to find out your real name. Before you know it, all of your social media accounts are bombarded with insults and nasty memes. You can’t even check Facebook without wading through all the garbage. And all of this happened because you won a silly little round of a silly little game.
Having your identity compromised in an online game isn’t all that common. After all, most players lack the tools and the software necessary to pull something like this off. It does happen, though, and unless you have a reliable VPN in place, there’s very little standing in their way. VPNs obscure your IP address by replacing it with a separate, non-local IP. Even if someone did try to find your real name or location, all they would get is the server operated by your VPN.
Reason 5 – Early Release Games
A nice, often overlooked benefit of using a VPN is the ability to download certain games and content updates before they’re released in your country. Publishers usually stagger releases in different regions, pushing games out in North America and Japan first, followed by Europe, Australia, and the rest of the world. If you’re not keen on waiting in line for no reason, a good VPN can help you bypass this restriction and download a game the moment it’s ready.
To get a game before its release in your area, simply change your VPN’s virtual location to a server in the release region. If it’s out in the U.S., for example, and you like in the UK, just use a U.S. server, reload the marketplace, and enjoy. It’s important to note that this method isn’t 100% effective. Some marketplaces base your location on payment details, not IP address. Steam is one of the biggest sticklers for region-based content locking, so you won’t be able to grab early titles using this method. For other stores, though, it’s fair game.
Online Gaming – PC, Console, Mobile
Online games aren’t just for PC owners anymore. An increasing number of mobile titles feature heavy online components, everything from daily content updates to competitive multiplayer, all in the palm of your hand. Gaming consoles, too, are turning to internet connectivity to enhance our playing experience. And the good news for us is that VPNs support all the above platforms for complete security no matter where you game.
Gaming VPNs on Mobile Devices
Mobile devices are prime targets for data theft. They go wherever we go, and they access all kinds of public networks, everything from Wi-Fi in cafes to hotel internet. It’s easy to get caught off guard when using your phone with an unknown connection, especially if you’re just accessing it for a quick round of Ragewar or MapleStory Blitz.
When you install a VPN for a mobile device and connect to a server, it automatically runs in the background, securing every piece of data that leaves the phone. This includes web browsing, file downloads, and online games, and it even ensures your identity remains hidden on public hotspots.
VPNs for Gaming Consoles
Few people think about using a VPN when connecting through an Xbox One or PlayStation 4. They’re just as useful here as they are on your PC or smartphone, however. Our recommended VPN service above works extremely well with online games on home consoles. You can install it on your router or access DNS-based protection to route Xbox and PS4 connections through that way. No matter which method you choose, using a VPN with your console games provides all the benefits listed above, and more.
VPNs Aren’t Foolproof
Just because you have a VPN active doesn’t mean you’re invincible. Even strong encryption and impenetrable server networks have their vulnerabilities. It’s important to keep this in mind as you play online games. Don’t let running a VPN be your excuse for acting like a jerk. You also need to remember that VPNs won’t always be able to bypass region locks and fix content prices. If a marketplace or gaming company blocks VPNs, you could be out of luck.
Speed Up a Slow VPN Connection
VPNs are known to be a little slower than unsecured internet connections. If you choose a fast service this is rarely a problem, but when it comes to online gaming, there’s no such thing as too much speed. Check out the quick tips below to reduce lag and fix slow VPN connections on your gaming device.
Change servers – Server location matters when it comes to speed and latency. If you don’t need to connect to a country on the other side of the world, switch to a VPN server closer by. This can provide a serious speed boost almost instantly.
Use a wired connection – Wi-Fi isn’t the most reliable way to connect to the internet. Crowded channels or physically blocked signals can drop your performance significantly. If you can’t move the router, try hooking a network cable into your PC or console for faster speeds.
Come back later – Server lag and slow speeds are often caused by heavy traffic. The only way to fix this is to try again at a later time. Finish your homework, read a book, go for a walk. The game will be there when you get back!
Disable security software – If you’re gaming on a PC you probably have a firewall and anti-virus software running in the background. It’s smart to keep them active whenever possible, but they can create severe lag if you’re doing some heavy gaming. Try disabling one or both while playing, see if that boosts your speed.
Change ports – VPNs use specific ports to connect to the internet. ISPs are known to throttle some of these ports on occasion, so you may need to play with your VPN’s port settings to find one that works.
Turn off the VPN entirely – Yes, you read that right! In the rare event you can’t get the speeds you need while playing an online game, you can always try switching off your VPN for a few hours. Maybe their servers are under heavy load, or maybe your ISP is throttling VPN connections altogether. Either way, it’s worth a shot. Just be sure to turn it back on when you’re done.
Nothing beats coming home at the end of a long day, firing up Hearthstone, and taking on opponents from around the world. Especially if you can do it from behind the cloak of a good VPN! Using a VPN while playing online games can serve as an incredible boost to your connection speed. The benefits are enormous and the drawbacks are practically non-existent, making them indespensable additions to your daily gaming repertoire.
If you need a VPN for a short while when traveling for example, you can get our top ranked VPN free of charge. NordVPN includes a 30-day money-back guarantee. You will need to pay for the subscription, that’s a fact, but it allows full access for 30 days and then you cancel for a full refund. Their no-questions-asked cancellation policy lives up to its name.