- Best VPN for Gaming 2021
- Choosing the Best VPN for Gaming
- The Best VPNs for Gaming
- 1. ExpressVPN
- Other Reasons We Like ExpressVPN
In this guide to the best VPN for gaming, we’re going to explain why you should use a VPN when playing online. As a gamer and tech enthusiast, it’s easy to get offended with the barrage of “gamer” products that plague the internet. A pair of blue-light filter glasses and a bottle of Mountain Dew won’t change how well you play, so it’s tempting to write off all “gamer” products as simple trends.
Virtual private networks often fit in that category, but they shouldn’t. Though VPNs are mostly used to access exclusive titles on Netflix or protect people from the onslaught of government spying in most countries, using one can keep you safe while gaming online, too.
ExpressVPN is our top pick, 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 providers that play the gaming role well, so read on if you want more options.
Best VPN for Gaming 2021
- : 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, bitcoin
- : 7
- : PayPal, Credit card, Cash, Bank Transfer, Bitcoin, bitcoin cash, Swish
- : 5
- : PayPal, Credit card
- : 8
Choosing 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 they 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 — Best VPN for gaming, fastest VPN
- NordVPN — Great gaming VPN for the U.S.
- CyberGhost — Affordable VPN for gaming
- Mullvad — Very secure VPN that accepts cash payments
- TorGuard — Highly configurable VPN
First, and most obvious, VPNs allow you to access geoblocked content. Though a major concern for Netflix junkies, that has implications for gaming, too. You can browse the exclusive titles on PlayStation Network, Steam or Xbox Live that might not be available in your region. In some cases, that means getting a AAA title before launch in your country, too.
That doesn’t come without drawbacks, though. VPNs affect speed, so you’ll be giving up some of your connection while using one. Because of that, we picked providers from our fastest VPN guide to ensure you don’t lag out. Check our test results in our sheet.
Though we picked from that guide, the order isn’t the same. Gaming, particularly online gaming, is more concerned with latency than bandwidth, the latter of which is considered the “speed.” Since the textures and models are stored and rendered locally, the only information that needs to be sent between consoles or PCs is how the player is interacting with the world.
Minimizing that latency is important, but sometimes a VPN can actually improve it. If the server you’re connected to is closer to the server you’re gaming on, there’s less distance for a packet to travel. Furthermore, using a VPN may allow you to access servers that might have less traffic in other parts of the world.
The security aspect of VPNs isn’t lost, either. Distributed denial-of-service attacks have been a devil for esports events and, as with any open connection, you run the risk of falling victim to cybercrime. Though it doesn’t come up as often as it does while, say, torrenting movies, it’s possible. A VPN will encrypt your connection so no one can get into your data stream.
The Best VPNs for Gaming
We picked our providers based on the above list. First, we addressed latency times. A VPN isn’t worth it if it’s going to ruin the thing it’s supposed to protect. Next, we looked at security. A combination of top-notch 256-bit AES and OpenVPN usually does the trick.
While those were our focus, we also factored in price, ease of use and features, but those aspects are less important for gaming. Let’s take a closer look at each of the top VPN providers for gaming.
- Easy router installer
ExpressVPN is the best VPN on the market, so it’s no surprise that it’s the best for gaming, too. 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.
Our latency stayed around 75 milliseconds during testing, which is acceptable for gaming. Its ping results weren’t the fastest, but they were the most consistent. 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 issues. With ExpressVPN, that problem is avoided.
Plus, ExpressVPN has apps for almost every platform, which is especially important for gaming. No VPN that we’ve tested has apps for Xbox One or PlayStation 4, 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. It has apps for iOS and Android to protect your mobile gaming, as well.
As for security, ExpressVPN is one of the best options on the market. In addition to using top-notch AES 256-bit encryption with the OpenVPN protocol, it maintains a strict no-logging policy. It’s headquartered in the British Virgin Islands, which has some of the best privacy laws in the world. No matter what you’re trying to protect, ExpressVPN has you covered.
Other Reasons We Like ExpressVPN
VPNs are great for gaming, but you can use them for a lot of other purposes, too. ExpressVPN is our best VPN for streaming, not only for its excellent speeds, but also for its ability to bypass the strict proxy locks that streaming platforms use.
If you’re trying to beat the Netflix VPN ban, ExpressVPN is for you. During our testing, it was able to access Netflix’s exclusive titles around the world, and the snappy response time of its servers ensured that we could stream in high-definition or better. As we said in our ExpressVPN review, it’s “in a league of its own when it comes to streaming.”
It’s in a league of its own when it comes to pricing, too. ExpressVPN doesn’t have the outrageous rates of Hide.me (read our Hide.me review), but it’s more expensive than most VPNs. Though the three simultaneous connection limit feels, well, limiting, the truth of is that you can install ExpressVPN on your router, effectively bypassing the connection limit.
It’s expensive, but it’s worth it. ExpressVPN ticks all the boxes we want from a VPN. It’s fast, user-friendly and secure, making it a great choice for gaming or just about anything else. You can try it risk-free, too, with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
- Lots of features
- Wide server network
- Specialty servers
- Inconsistent speed results
NordVPN is an excellent choice. If it wasn’t for inconsistent performance during our speed testing, it would be the victor over ExpressVPN. The highs were high, but the lows were low, too. NordVPN operates fast and loose, so it makes a bit more TLC to get running smoothly. If you’re willing to do that, though, it’s one of the best options available.
During our testing, it returned the fastest results of any VPN. It only did so at certain locations, though. In some cases, it was incapable of achieving even 10 percent of our unprotected speed. That said, if you’re willing to search for a server, you’ll get good results.
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. Read our NordVPN vs ExpressVPN article for more comparisons between the two services.
Its security is just as good, if not better, than ExpressVPN’s, as well. Though it also uses AES 256-bit with OpenVPN, it includes double-hop servers, too. Those specialty servers allow you to add a second layer of encryption to your connection because you’re hopping from one VPN server to another. As if one tunnel wasn’t hard enough to crack, two is almost impossible.
Other Reasons We Like NordVPN
NordVPN’s double-hop servers are just one of four types of specialty servers it offers. Each flavor offers a chance to tune your connection for faster speeds or better security. The double-hop servers, as well as the Tor servers, earned NordVPN a spot in our best VPN services for China guide.
NordVPN also includes CyberSec. It’s a malware and ad blocker that performs well, but it’s no replacement for the best antivirus software. Even so, it’s a nice tool to have for blocking annoying ads or avoiding threats like botnets lurking online (read our what is a botnet guide to learn about those).
NordVPN also has a kill switch, which is a feature that any decent VPN should have, but it puts a twist on it. You can set the kill switch to be active on certain apps, so you can, for example, block your torrent client if the VPN connection drops without stopping your browsing session.
Despite the inconsistency in speed, NordVPN is one of the best options for its robust feature set, secure infrastructure and massive server network. You can learn about its strengths in our NordVPN review or try it with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
- Dedicated streaming servers
- Fast when using IKEv2
- Mediocre performance with OpenVPN
We’ve always been fans of CyberGhost, but issues in usability kept us from making a full recommendation in the past. Those concerns have mostly been remedied by the recent overhaul of the user interface, all while keeping the solid service it had intact.
During our testing, we noted an average latency of only 37 ms in the U.S. where our testing took place. Abroad, CyberGhost wasn’t as consistent as ExpressVPN, but it still managed decent ping results. For example, the worst performing location, Japan, had an average latency of 154 ms.
Installing it on your router shouldn’t be an issue, either. CyberGhost has a list of guides for installing it on almost any platform, from your router to network-attached storage. Its connection limit is high, too, offering more than NordVPN and ExpressVPN, which is why it ranked in our best VPN for multiple devices guide.
Though it can be fast, CyberGhost doesn’t perform as well as ExpressVPN when OpenVPN is used. By default, CyberGhost uses IKEv2, which is as secure as OpenVPN, but also more easily blocked. It’s not as good a choice for nabbing region-locked titles because of that, but just being easier to block doesn’t mean it will be.
Other Reasons We Like CyberGhost
CyberGhost has weak points, but it soars where it succeeds. It comes with an impressive feature set that will allow you to tune your connection, access niche streaming platforms and protect yourself while torrenting.
There are two sets of specialty servers, one for streaming and another for torrenting. The torrenting servers aren’t that impressive, but the streaming servers are. CyberGhost has about 50 data centers optimized for different streaming platforms, with everything from Netflix to Crunchyroll available.
Other features include an ad blocker, kill switch and “smart rules.” Smart rules allow you to automate certain aspects of your connection. For example, you could set CyberGhost to automatically connect when you connect to a certain WiFi network or automatically launch your browser after making a connection.
It doesn’t feel as well-rounded as ExpressVPN because it puts heavier emphasis on the features and interface than speed and security. Even so, it puts up impressive results and it’s cheap. You can learn more in our CyberGhost review or try it with a generous 45-day money-back guarantee.
- Accepts cash as payment
- Lacks features
Mullvad doesn’t often make our “best VPN” guides, despite being an excellent service. Though it doesn’t do anything especially well, it offers impressive security and speed for the price.
We measured an average latency of 36 ms during testing, which should be perfect for gaming. Abroad, the latency was worse than CyberGhost’s, but Mullvad surprised us with its resilience between rounds. Unlike HideMyAss, which had inconsistent ping results (read our HideMyAss review), Mullvad gave us the same latency round after round.
For gaming, that’s especially important. Providers with inconsistent latency will have spotty performance online. Mullvad’s resilience makes it ideal because it puts the burden of latency on the server you’re connecting to and your internet connection.
Other Reasons We Like Mullvad
As for the rest of the service, Mullvad is unimpressive. It’s not bad, but it doesn’t offer much to differentiate itself like NordVPN, ExpressVPN and CyberGhost do. The most unusual thing about Mullvad is that it accepts cash as payment. You can send any amount in any currency to it with your account number, and it will credit you however much time the money is worth.
That is a rare quality for a VPN and software services in general. Though it doesn’t make sense for most people, it demonstrates Mullvad’s dedication to anonymity. It has a clear stance on privacy, maintaining a no-logs policy and only using two cookies on its website.
For those concerned with privacy, it’s a great choice. It’s cheap, too. Mullvad only charges around $5 per month, which is less than half the monthly rate for all our other picks. It comes with unlimited bandwidth and up to five simultaneous connections, as well.
The value is solid, even if Mullvad’s server network isn’t impressive and it lacks features. You can learn about the specifics in our Mullvad review or try it with a three-hour pass.
- Highly configurable
- Included encrypted email account
- Usability issues
TorGuard is a highly customizable service that, despite its dedication to tinkerers, is a great choice for gamers. We measured an average latency of 38 ms in the U.S., as well as decent scores abroad, so you shouldn’t have trouble gaming with it.
While that was the average in our latest round of speed tests, we had even better results during our TorGuard review. Connecting to a server in Chicago, which was much closer to our testing location, saw a negligible drop in speed. With a base ping of 11 ms, TorGuard only added 7 ms, which few VPNs can attest to.
As expected, latency increases as distance does. That said, the TorGuard’s download rate was solid. Even in other parts of the world, it maintained most of our unprotected speed. That doesn’t change the gaming aspect, but it’s still important for streaming and browsing.
The interface isn’t as inviting as, say, ExpressVPN’s, but it’s passable. TorGuard has router setup tools, too, so it’s easy to get started there. If you’re uncomfortable digging around in your router’s graphical user interface, you can also purchase a pre-flashed router.
Other Reasons We Like TorGuard
While it’s an excellent choice for gaming, TorGuard impressed us with its customizability and features. Even when signing up, you can tweak the service to your liking. By default, it comes with five simultaneous connections, but you can purchase up to 200 more for $1 each. Similarly, you can purchase dedicated IP addresses for sports, streaming or general use.
In the application, you not only get your choice of protocol and encryption level, but also of the specific cipher you use. Though we doubt most people will use anything other than the default AES 256-bit, the option is there if you want it.
As for features, TorGuard is unmatched. Included with your VPN subscription is a 10MB encrypted webmail account that abides by the top email security measures. You also get the option to set custom scripts and configure the kill switch to only work on certain applications.
It’s not the right VPN for everyone, but those who enjoy digging around in their software will love TorGuard. In addition to being quick, it’s highly configurable, which is a balance that few VPNs strike. You can see if you like it with TorGuard’s seven-day trial.
Honorable Mention: ProtonVPN
ProtonVPN fell just short of being included in this guide, posting around 40 ms when testing in the same country. It did much worse abroad, though, clocking in at 127 ms in Amsterdam and 322 ms in Japan. That said, ProtonVPN has a free plan that earned a spot in our best free VPN guide.
Unlike free VPNs that restrict the amount of data you can transfer, such as Windscribe (read our Windscribe review), ProtonVPN restricts speed. That shouldn’t have a huge impact on gaming, though. Even with a connection of 10 megabits per second upload and download, the latency shouldn’t change because the round trip of a message to a server and back remains the same.
There are issues with the free plan outside of that, though. You can only use the VPN on a single device and only connect to one of three servers. That said, it has a couple of options for paid plans. For example, Basic is less than $50 per year and comes with the full speed of ProtonVPN’s network and all of the servers in it.
There’s no risk in trying ProtonVPN to see how you like it. If you’d rather see the specifics of it, read our ProtonVPN review.
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 doesn’t have the lowest latency out of our picks, but it does have the best balance of features, security and speed. If you’re only concerned with gaming, we recommend CyberGhost for its ease of use and low latency times.
What VPN are you using for gaming? Let us know in the comments below and take a look at our other VPN articles. As always, thanks for reading.