In this guide to the best VPN for gaming, we’re going to explain why you should use a virtual private network when playing online. If you’re a gamer and tech enthusiast, it’s easy to get offended by the barrage of “gamer” products — like blue-light filter glasses — that plague the internet. It may be tempting to put virtual private networks in that category, but you shouldn’t.
Though VPN services are mostly used to access exclusive titles on Netflix or protect people from the onslaught of government spying in foreign countries, using a gaming VPN is a wise move. Not only can it protect your privacy while gaming online, but it can also help you avoid things like ISP throttling and lack of online security.
- ExpressVPN gets you a combination of speed, latency and security that makes it the best VPN for gaming.
- NordVPN is another premium provider that is neck-and-neck against ExpressVPN for upload and download speeds, but its latency is higher.
- Surfshark and CyberGhost are excellent alternatives if you’re looking for something affordable that’s reasonably fast.
- ProtonVPN and Windscribe are both solid free choices for a gaming VPN.
ExpressVPN is our top pick for the best gaming VPN, which shouldn’t come as a surprise. It has the best blend of features, security and speed, making it an ideal choice for almost any scenario. Even so, there are other VPN services that play the gaming VPN role well, so read on if you want more options.
01/01/2022 Facts checked
Since the last time we looked at the best VPN for gaming, Surfshark made our list at spot number three.
A VPN provides added protection to your connection when you’re gaming, keeping it private and away from prying eyes.
Thanks to a combination of excellent speeds, low latency and solid security, ExpressVPN is the best VPN for gaming.
Some pro gamers use a VPN to protect their connection and make sure it’s stable, but not many. Streamers in particular might want to use a VPN to protect themselves from DDoS attacks and swatting.
You can choose between WireGuard or OpenVPN with UDP — both are very fast and provide minimal latency in most cases.
Top VPNs for Gaming
- : PayPal, Credit card, Bitcoin, regional payment systems, WebMoney
- : 5
- : Credit card, Google Pay, AmazonPay, ACH Transfer, UnionPay, Crypto Currencies, PayPal (via Paddle)
- : 6
- : PayPal, Credit card, Google Pay, Amazon Pay
- : Unlimited
- : PayPal, Credit card, bitcoin
- : 7
- : PayPal, Credit card, Cash, Bank Transfer
- : 5
What Makes the Best VPN for Gaming?
When we recommend VPNs, gaming isn’t the first topic that comes up. Anyone well versed in the internet understands that VPNs protect your privacy from government agencies, internet service providers and network snoopers. Though that’s easy to see, the upside for gaming isn’t as apparent.
- ExpressVPN — The best, fast VPN with good latency for gaming
- NordVPN — Fast and affordable, but latency falls just short of ExpressVPN
- Surfshark — Excellent value gaming VPN with decent speed performance
- CyberGhost — Highly affordable VPN with great server network
- Mullvad — Very secure VPN, provides better worldwide latency average
Because VPNs affect speed, we picked providers from our fastest VPN guide to ensure you don’t lag out.
A faster VPN will give you more overhead, so even if you do lose a bit of speed, you still have more than enough to comfortably keep on gaming. If a VPN hogs your speed too much, you’ll end up with a subpar gaming experience at best, especially if it causes dips in latency.
Online Gaming With a VPN: Latency & Ping
When it comes to online gaming, latency is the most important metric. Latency refers to how long it takes for the signal to go from your device to the game’s server and back.
By using a gaming VPN, you add another server the signal needs to pass through, which will make latency worse. Choosing a VPN that has a minimal impact on latency is particularly important for gamers. Generally, latency of 40 to 60 ms (or less) is acceptable for gaming, while latency near 100 ms will result in noticeable lag.
The security aspect of VPNs isn’t lost, either. Distributed denial-of-service attacks have been a devil for gamers. Plus, without protection, you run the risk of falling victim of cybercrime. A gaming VPN will encrypt your connection so no one can get into your data stream.
The 5 Best VPNs for Gaming
We picked the providers based on the aforementioned list of priorities, but we also considered their pricing, how easy they are to use and the features they have. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the best gaming VPN providers.
More details about ExpressVPN:
- Pricing: $6.67 per month for the yearly plan, plus three months free
- Provider website: expressvpn.com
- Excellent speeds & latency
- Great security
- App for almost any platform
ExpressVPN is the best VPN on the market, so it’s no surprise that it tops this list. In addition to being the fastest VPN we’ve tested, it is especially good at bypassing geoblocks, making it an excellent choice for snagging an exclusive on PSN or protecting yourself while gaming online. Not to mention its top-notch security, which will come in handy with things like DDoS attacks.
Our unprotected latency started at 23 ms in the U.S. The average latency with U.S. servers was 26, while the average latency for servers around the world was 331 ms. That means our latency increased by 14x during testing with servers around the world, but it increased just over 1x for U.S. servers.
It’s one thing to be fast when connecting to a server close to home, but if you’re trying to access competition in other parts of the world, you may run into more lag issues.
Excellent Platform Compatibility
ExpressVPN has apps for almost every platform, which is especially important for gaming. No VPN we’ve tested has apps for Xbox Series X or PlayStation 5, and ExpressVPN doesn’t break that trend (though it is our top pick for the best VPN for Xbox One).
Even so, it has a simple installer for routers, which will secure all of your outgoing traffic, regardless of which device you’re gaming on.
ExpressVPN is not just the best VPN for gaming, but also the most expensive one. However, in our ExpressVPN review we’ve found it’s worth every penny, and if you get it and don’t agree with that, you have a 30-day money-back guarantee to fall back on.
More details about NordVPN:
- Pricing: $3.71 per month for the two-year plan
- Provider website: nordvpn.com
- Very feature-rich
- Built-in malware & ad blocker
- Excellent security
- Inconsistent speeds across servers
NordVPN offers a blend of security and speed that marks it as a premium VPN provider. In our U.S. speed tests, it managed a latency of just 25 ms, which was very close to our unprotected latency of 13 ms — just under a 2x increase. However, the latency for servers around the world averaged 369 ms, which is an increase of 28 times.
Everything else about the service is great. NordVPN is on par with ExpressVPN when it comes to bypassing geoblocks, so you should be able to browse region-locked servers or find games that are exclusive to other parts of the world. It’s also got peer-to-peer servers in case you want to torrent a game…only for testing purposes, of course.
Specialty Servers Galore
NordVPN has several types of specialty servers, but for gaming, the ones that should be of interest are the Onion over VPN servers and the obfuscated servers. Both are incredibly secure, with the former routing your connection through the Onion network (in addition to the VPN server), and the latter being excellent for users who want to game from countries with restricted access.
As we mentioned in our NordVPN review, the service is fairly affordable if you commit to a two-year plan, and if you decide it doesn’t keep your latency low on the servers you’re tunneling to, there is a 30-day money-back guarantee.
More details about Surfshark:
- Pricing: $2.21 per month for the two-year plan, plus three months free
- Provider website: surfshark.com
- Unlimited simultaneous connections
- Very low latency
- Well-organized server list
- Expensive monthly plan
Surfshark’s forte is that it doesn’t really have a single strength, but is instead an excellent all-around VPN. This makes it perfect for gaming, because it combines all the things you need a gaming VPN to do in one easy-to-use package. There’s a double-hop functionality, an ad blocker, and even an antivirus (at a monthly premium, of course).
As we mentioned in our Surfshark review, the VPN provider has a respectable number of servers. At the time of writing, you have over 3,200 servers in 65 locations, which lets you get region-specific games very easily.
Surfshark did very well with latency when close to home. Compared to our unprotected latency of 19 ms, the U.S. server increased it by about 1.5x to 29 ms. The average latency for worldwide servers were 376 ms, or about 20x increase, which actually beats NordVPN’s results. However, NordVPN offers other security features that helps it rank higher in this list.
Unlimited Simultaneous Connections and Data
If you’re gaming on multiple devices (or sharing your VPN account with your family), Surfshark lets you use it on as many devices as you want at the same time. There is no data limit either, and it has VPN apps for most popular platforms.
While it’s certainly not affordable on a monthly plan, Surfshark’s long-term plans are among the best VPN deals. You also get 30 days to change your mind and ask for a refund.
More details about CyberGhost:
- Pricing: $2.15 per month for the three-year plan, plus three months free
- Provider website: cyberghostvpn.com
- Incredibly affordable pricing
- Great speed & latency with IKEv2
- Compatible with most platforms
- OpenVPN performance is mediocre
We’ve always been fans of CyberGhost — it is an extremely affordable VPN with apps for almost any platform and respectable performance. The overall performance is excellent, provided you use the right VPN protocol.
In fact, its latency on our closest server was just 28 ms, which is almost the same as our unprotected performance of 16 ms, an increase of only 1.75x. Like the other VPNs on this list, its worldwide latency rose a decent amount — to 310 ms, just under 20x.
CyberGhost’s website heavily advertises its compatibility with consoles, but since there are still no dedicated apps for Xbox or PlayStation, setting it up is similar to any other VPN provider. Performance via the VPN connection was great when we used IKEv2, but switching to OpenVPN saw mediocre speeds, which isn’t too impressive.
Gaming-Specific Specialty Servers
When it comes to a gaming VPN, CyberGhost offers gaming-specific VPN servers in multiple popular locations such as Germany and the U.S. In the menu, you’ll get the estimated latency, letting you quickly judge whether or not that’s the VPN server you want to route your internet connection through.
CyberGhost is an incredibly affordable VPN, provided you’re willing to commit to a single VPN company for three years. You get a money-back guarantee that’s longer than the competition, though, at 45 days. You can find out more in our CyberGhost review.
More details about Mullvad:
- Pricing: $6 per month
- Provider website: mullvad.net
- Doesn’t store any user data
- Very fast
- Not exactly feature-rich
Mullvad doesn’t often make our “best VPN” guides, despite being an excellent service. Though it doesn’t do anything especially well, it offers good security and speed for the price.
We measured an average latency of 24 ms during testing, which was 1.6x increase from our unprotected latency of 15 ms. For servers around the world, Mullvad actually averaged better results, with 261 ms, an increase of 17.5x.
Unfortunately, the VPN fails to impress when it comes to features. Almost any competitor has more features, and while it gets you the basics like a kill switch and a strict no-logs policy, it doesn’t really do much else. We cover this in more detail in our Mullvad VPN review.
Innovative Sign-Up Process
When it comes to gaming VPNs, Mullvad has an ace up its sleeve. When you sign up, you don’t need to enter any user data whatsoever — not even an email address.
If you want to keep things even more private, you can even mail Mullvad cash as a payment to eliminate any connection between you and the service. This goes a long way toward protecting user data.
As far as prices go, Mullvad is relatively affordable. Given its lack of features, it can’t afford to be expensive, and you have 30 days to refund it if you don’t like it. Unfortunately, this doesn’t apply if you mail them cash as a payment.
Which Free VPN Is Best for Gaming?
When we’re talking about free VPNs, we usually have two suggestions: Windscribe and ProtonVPN, though both come with drawbacks. Other free VPNs tend to be unsafe — some might log your data and sell it to advertisers, and some may bundle malware with their installation files.
The Best Free VPN for Gaming
For the casual gamer, Windscribe is a great choice. It comes with 10 locations to choose from in the free plan, as well as excellent security and features like a kill switch and split tunneling. Servers have reasonably low latency, and the speeds are certainly good for gaming.
However, Windscribe comes with a 10GB data limit on its free plan. If you factor in that some games can use up to 150MB of data per hour, this is a major drawback for avid gamers who spend more than two to three hours gaming every day.
As we mentioned in our Windscribe review, you can get more data by tweeting, but it won’t make enough of a difference in this case.
As an alternative, you can try ProtonVPN, which we covered in detail in our ProtonVPN review. Rather than restricting the amount of data, it restricts your speed. Even with that, however, we’ve found that it still does a solid job for gaming provided the latency is low.
A much bigger downside would be the limitation to only three locations: Japan, Netherlands and the United States. If you’re looking to connect to one of these destinations, ProtonVPN is a good way to save money; if not, you’re better off with one of the providers we discussed earlier.
Though a VPN isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when gaming is in question, it’s an important step to keeping yourself safe while playing online. Any open stream invites unwanted network activity and using a VPN can protect you from falling victim to any schemes.
ExpressVPN has the best balance of features, security and speed, with especially impressive latency. NordVPN comes close, providing a smooth gaming experience for a cheaper price. If you’re looking for an even more affordable solution, Surfshark or CyberGhost have you covered. Meanwhile, if you’re gaming from further away, Mullvad might be your best bet.
What VPN are you using for gaming? Do you agree with our list? Let us know in the comments below. As always, thanks for reading.