Best VPNs for online gaming

Want a good online gaming VPN to play Dota 2, League of Legends, Starcraft 2, World of Warcraft, Counter Strike, Fortnite, Minecraft, Overwatch, PUBG or any other online game?

We’ll cover several gaming VPNs for PC, console, Android, and iOS. If you don’t want to read the whole article, here’s a summary of recommended VPNs for gaming:

Best VPNs for gaming:

  1. NordVPN: Best gaming VPN. Extremely fast, servers in 60+ countries, and strong security.
  2. IPVanish: Fast servers in more than 60 countries. Tier 1 network.
  3. Surfshark: Solid choice for gaming. Reliable servers, great multi-platform support, and a wide range of privacy features.
  4. ExpressVPN: Operates servers in 94 countries. Fast connections and works with a wide range of devices.
  5. CyberGhost: Great value VPN. Solid provider with plenty of useful features for gaming online.
  6. VyprVPN: Tier 1 Network provider with servers in 60+ countries.

See more details about all of these VPNs further down.

Why use a VPN for online gaming?

Online gamers want the fastest connection to a game server they can get, so it might seem counter-intuitive at first to use a VPN. Short for Virtual Private Network, a VPN service encrypts a device’s internet connection and routes it through an intermediary server in a location of the user’s choosing.

The encryption and re-routing process usually tends to slow down connections and increase lag. Dig a bit deeper, however, and gamers can find several ways to utilize VPNs.

Why you should use a VPN for gaming:

  • Access geo-locked games inaccessible from your country of residence. Is your favorite game limited to South Korea or Japan? No problem! Just connect to a VPN server in those countries and brush up on your language skills.
  • Bypass IP bans. Did you get unjustly IP banned from a game that you love? A VPN will change your IP address so you can get back in the action.
  • Access to Steam and other marketplaces when traveling abroad. Steam and other online game stores may not accept payment if your IP address does not match up with the country in your profile. A VPN can help you get around this.
  • Protection from DDoS attacks. If you’re a competitive gamer and the other team is using dirty tactics to target your IP address with a denial-of-service attack, many VPNs have built-in protections against that.
  • Protection from hackers and snoops. Leaving your connection open to a game for long periods of time can be a security risk. The encryption and IP masking a VPN offers will help keep you safe.
  • Play games not yet released in your country. If you live in Europe and want to get your hands on a game only available in the US, a VPN can help you get earlier access. Just make sure you’re not breaking any terms of service.
  • Access to other regions’ game servers. If you have a friend in another country you want to play with but the game’s servers are split up by region, a VPN can let you play together.
  • Unblock Discord. Discord is blocked in some countries and certain environments. All of the VPNs we recommend support split tunneling, which allows users to choose which apps use the VPN and which don’t. You can unblock Discord with a VPN while at the same time using a direct connection for games.
  • Access to game streaming services. Game streaming services like Google Stadia and XCloud are only available in certain countries. You can unblock them with a VPN.

Some online gaming VPNs claim they can even lower ping time and lag. We recommend you take that claim with a big grain of salt. In some cases, a VPN will give you access to a game server that’s performing better or even find a faster route between you and the game server, but in the vast majority of cases, the encryption process and re-routing through an extra server will increase ping time.

See also: Fastest VPNs

Best VPNs for online gaming

All of the VPNs we recommend meet certain criteria for gaming online. They also meet our speed, privacy, and security standards:

  • Number and location of servers. A lot of servers to choose from around the world will give you access to more games and less latency.
  • NAT firewalls and anti-DDoS protection. These will help protect you from hackers and denial-of-service attacks.
  • Speed and reliability. Good old bandwidth and a stable connection will go a long way in keeping you in the game and playing competitively.
  • Dedicated gaming servers. Some VPNs have servers optimized specifically for gamers.
  • Tier 1 Network. A Tier 1 network means the VPN provider connects its servers to the fastest possible network available. It does not settle for a downstream ISP that buys its bandwidth from a bigger company and then resells it. Essentially, a VPN that uses only Tier 1 networks is directly hooked into the backbone of the internet.
  • Split tunneling. A feature that allows you to choose which apps use the VPN and which use a direct connection. For example, if Discord is blocked in your country, you can set Discord to use the VPN and use a direct connection for games.

1. NordVPN

NordVPN Nov 2020

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux

Website:  www.NordVPN.com

Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS

NordVPN boasts more than 5,000 server locations in 60 countries on every continent except Antarctica. A handful of those come with built-in anti-DDoS protection for super stable connections. Next to each server listed in the app is the server load and the number of miles between yourself and the server, which should give you some indication of ping time. NordVPN supports split tunneling on Chrome and Firefox browser extensions and on mobile apps.

Unfortunately, specific cities are not listed, so it’s impossible to know, for example, if you’re connecting to a server on the East or West Coast of the United States. Finding a fast one might be a process of trial and error, but you can “favorite” a server to find it quickly later on.

Apps are available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android. If you want to connect a game console, NordVPN’s website includes dozens of tutorials on setting up the VPN on several types of wifi router.

Pros:

  • Fast, low-latency servers
  • Operates a network of more than 5,000 servers in 63 countries
  • Server loads and distances are indicated for ping time estimation
  • You can save favorite servers when you find a reliable one
  • Offers router installation tutorials for PS and Xbox users
  • Customer service available via 24/7 live chat

Cons:

  • Can choose server locations but not able to choose specific servers

Our score:

4.5 out of 5

BEST VPN FOR GAMERS:NordVPN is our #1 choice. With a vast range of servers dotted around the globe, including dedicated gaming servers, Nord VPN sets the standard for gamers. Also hard to beat on Privacy and security features. Allows up to 6 devices to be used simultaneously from one account. Includes a 30-day money back guarantee so you can try them risk-free.

Read our full review of NordVPN.

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2. IPVanish

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux

Website:  www.IPVanish.com

Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS

IPVanish runs over 1,200 servers in over 60 countries and exclusively uses Tier 1 networks. It’s one of the very few providers that actually owns its servers rather than renting them. That means if your priority is to play on a VPN without lag, IPVanish is an excellent choice. The app allows you to see the current load and ping time of each server and even filter by ping time, protocol, and country. The service includes a NAT firewall.

I read some earlier articles saying IPVanish has gaming-optimized servers. That might have been true at one time, but I can’t find any reference to that in the current version of the desktop app. The Android app supports split tunneling.

Apps are available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android. IPVanish can also be configured on wifi routers, which will cover your game console.

Pros:

  • Owns and operates all the servers on their network, providing good speeds
  • Can filter, rank, and chose servers according to their protocol type, ping time, and by country
  • Apps automatically connect to low latency servers
  • Impressive speeds and reliable connections
  • Customer support is not outsourced, a good privacy consideration

Cons:

  • Look elsewhere if you need to use apps in China

Our score:

4 out of 5

BEST VALUE VPN:IPVanish has a large network of servers which makes it solid for gaming. An uncongested network that achieves that good speeds. Strong security and privacy features. Could do with having live customer support. 30-day money-back guarantee.

Read our full review of IPVanish.

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3. Surfshark

SurfShark VPN

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux

Website:  www.Surfshark.com

Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS

Surfshark operates 1,700 servers in 63 countries, which means you’re effectively guaranteed a low-latency connection wherever you are in the world. It also allows you to automatically connect to the fastest available server, and to see each server’s current load at-a-glance. With decent speeds, no connection limit, and plenty of security features (including 256-bit encryption and a no-logs policy), this VPN is well worth your time.

A split tunneling feature called Whitelister is built into the Windows and Android apps.

Surfshark comes with apps for MacOS, iOS, Linux, Android, and Windows. Looking to use a VPN on your games console? Surfshark’s website even offers step-by-step guides to installing its software on your home router.

Pros:

  • High enough speeds for lag-free gaming
  • Large network of low-latency servers
  • Strong on security and privacy
  • Accepts Bitcoin

Cons:

  • Some servers are much faster than others

Our score:

4 out of 5

SECURE EVERY DEVICE:Surfshark lets you connect as many devices as you like, which means you can game, browse, or stream safe in the knowledge that no one is watching. This security-conscious VPN keeps no logs and comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Read our full review of Surfshark here.

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4. ExpressVPN

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux

Website:  www.ExpressVPN.com

Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS

ExpressVPN operates over 3,000 servers in 94 countries around the world. Its desktop app comes with a built-in speed tester so you can quickly deduce which servers have the lowest ping time in milliseconds. The VPN consistently scores well in our speed tests, offering more than enough bandwidth to keep up with opponents online. Split tunneling is available on Windows, Mac, Android, and ExpressVPN’s router firmware.

If you’re a console gamer using a PlayStation or Xbox that doesn’t support VPN apps, ExpressVPN sells pre-configured routers and makes free router firmware for certain models that will let you route all the traffic connected to them through the VPN. This is far more user-friendly than trying to flash an open-source firmware like DD-WRT or Tomato onto your router and manually configuring a VPN, which is also a pain whenever you need to switch servers.

ExpressVPN apps are available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android, Linux, and certain wifi routers.

Pros:

  • Built-in speed tester for lowest ping time determination
  • Superfast, low-latency servers are great for gaming
  • PS and Xbox users can install software on certain routers or get pre-configured ones
  • Live customer support around the clock

Cons:

  • Not the cheapest provider here
  • Can only simultaneously connect 3 devices

Our score:

4.5 out of 5

TICKS ALL THE BOXES:ExpressVPN holds its own. A fast and reliable choice for gaming. Great privacy features and keeps no logs. Pricier than others on this list. 30-day money-back guarantee.

Read our full review of ExpressVPN.

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5. CyberGhost

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux

Website:  www.Cyberghost.com

Money-back guarantee: 45 DAYS

CyberGhost is an easy-to-use VPN that comes packed with all sorts of features that can help you tailor the service to your gaming needs. All of the servers available on CyberGhost tier are DDoS-protected, and a NAT firewall comes built-in. Our speed tests show CyberGhost is among the fastest VPNs out there. It’s reliable, too, offering stable connections to 5,000+ servers in 89 countries. You can toggle on or off useful settings like extra speed and data compression. A NAT firewall is built into the service. 256-bit encryption and a no-logs policy ensure your data is secure.

Apps are available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android. Split tunneling, or split-exclude in CyberGhost parlance, is available on Windows and Android.

Pros:

  • Hundreds of low-latency speedy servers, some of the fastest in our tests
  • DDoS-protected, and a NAT firewall comes built-in on the apps
  • Apps are easy to install and use, and are highly configurable for your gaming

Cons:

  • Power users would prefer more control over advanced features

Our score:

4 out of 5

BEGINNERS CHOICE:CyberGhost is great for beginners, is good value and is easy to use. Vast server representation is great for gaming. Stores no logs and streams HD video reliably. 45-day money-back guarantee.

Read our full CyberGhost review.

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6. VyprVPN

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux

Website:  www.VyprVPN.com

Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS

Like IPVanish, VyprVPN utilizes Tier 1 network providers and owns all of its own server infrastructure around the world, which means very little lag and a lot of bandwidth for gamers. It operates data centers in over 60 countries. The desktop app shows the ping time for each so you can find the one with the least amount of lag. A NAT firewall is built in to stop hackers and botnet attacks. German eSports professional team Roughnex famously uses VyprVPN to prevent DDoS attacks during tournaments.

VyprVPN’s parent company, Golden Frog, is now alpha testing a new service it describes as an “optimized gaming network” which promises to lower ping time, reduce lag, and reroute traffic to avoid network congestion. We’ll add more details as they become available.

Apps are available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android. The “connection-per-app” feature supports split tunneling on Android. VyprVPN also makes an app for routers that have compatible firmware.

Pros:

  • Uses Tier1 ISPs for low lag and high bandwidth connections, ideal for gaming
  • Well-known for their strong DDoS protection
  • Speeds are fast and stable

Cons:

  • Could have more options for advanced configuration
  • No cryptocurrency payment options
  • Two-tier pricing structure can be confusing

Our score:

4 out of 5

USER FRIENDLY:VyprVPN has fast servers which is great for gaming. Solid privacy and security features. Could do with having more servers and lacks 24/7 support. 30-day money-back guarantee.

Read our full VyprVPN review.

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Gaming VPN FAQs

Does a VPN reduce ping time and lag?

In most cases, no. A VPN sends your data through an intermediary server, which is typically slower than a direct connection. On top of that, all the data must be encrypted and decrypted between your device and the VPN server, further increasing lag and ping time. A few exceptions do exist, such as when the VPN allows the player to bypass congested bottlenecks between their device and the game server. But this largely depends on the player's environment, the game's servers, and their locations.

Can I play games from other regions?

Yes, a VPN changes your IP address, which is how most games will determine your location. If you want to play a game that's only available in Japan, for example, just connect to a VPN server in Japan. Likewise, many online games segregate players by region, forcing them onto region-specific servers. A VPN can get you onto servers from any region where it operates servers. Bear in mind that you might also require a local payment method and a local game account.

Can I use a free VPN for gaming?

Not really. Free VPNs tend to be much slower and less reliable than paid VPNs. On top of that, they offer fewer server locations, limiting your region-unblocking options. Free VPNs are also less secure and often harvest your personal data to make money from targeted advertising.

How does a VPN protect me when gaming?

If someone launches a DDoS or other attack against your IP address while gaming, that attack will hit the VPN servers instead of your device. This will shield you from attack and hide your real IP address. A VPN will also prevent any third parties on your local network from snooping on your connection.

Is it legal to use a VPN for gaming?

Generally, yes. Some games might prohibit the use of VPNs and other proxies in their terms of service. However, even in cases where that is true, it would be difficult for game administrators to detect whether or not you're using a VPN.

Can I use a VPN to access Steam/Xbox Live/PlayStation Network while abroad?

If you're in a country where your preferred game network is blocked, then a VPN can unblock it. In China, for example, many game networks like Xbox Live and PlayStation Network are censored. Just make sure to use a VPN that works in China. A VPN can also help in purchasing situations when you're traveling abroad. A game might not be available on Steam in certain regions, or you might require a local form of payment, for example. A VPN can help you access your local version of Steam so you can purchase games normally.

What should my VPN settings be for gaming?

Typically the default settings on your VPN app should work just fine. All you need to do is select a server location where you can access the games you want to play. Servers that are geographically closest tend to offer the best ping times. Most VPN protocols offer roughly the same speed. If your VPN allows it, use a lower-strength encryption and disable extra privacy features like modulating IP addresses and traffic obfuscation.

Can I unblock games at school or work?

Yes, a VPN should allow you to unblock games that are normally filtered by firewalls at offices and schools. Your internet connection is completely private while connected to a VPN, so no third parties can see the websites your visit or the games you play.

VPNs for hosting games online

Now you know which VPNs to choose from if all you want to do is play a game online. But if you want to host one? That requires a couple more criteria to consider:

  • Port forwarding. Games often only operate on certain ports. Game servers and older LAN games will require a VPN equipped with port forwarding. This allows other gamers to find and connect to your public IP address through the forwarded port. Note that it’s not necessary or even recommended to port forward your router and the VPN at the same time. Only the VPN requires port forwarding, or else risk opening yourself up to attack.
  • Static IP addresses, also sometimes referred to as dedicated IPs, though the two differ slightly. A static IP address will allow you to run a reliable game server that won’t change IPs all the time. They can also allow friends to connect to your host computer via LAN apps like Hamachi and Evolve without constantly updating your IP address.

With those criteria in mind, here are a few VPNs for hosting online games:

  • LiquidVPN: Servers with dedicated IPs can be found using the “topology” dropdown in the LiquidVPN app and choosing “dedicated.” You can open ports in the firewall and have them forwarded to your IP address right from the control panel. For an extra fee, LiquidVPN offers private static IP addresses to users. These IPs are exclusive to the user and not shared with others. Read our full review of LiquidVPN.
  • AirVPN: Each Air VPN server has one static exit-IP address with which clients connected to that server are “visible” on the internet. No specific setup is necessary. Users may forward up to 20 ports simultaneously from the client area dashboard on AirVPN’s website. Private dedicated IPs are available and can be requested by contacting AirVPN.
  • TorGuard: You can add dedicated server IPs to a list in the TorGuard app in the settings menu, under the Servers tab. It will then appear at the top of the server selection list on the main client. To set up port forwarding, you’ll need to request it on the TorGuard website. Processing is usually instant. Go go My Services > View Details >> Management Actions >> Port Management.
  • NordVPN: Offers a handful of static IP servers at no extra cost. Port forwarding is not yet supported, but the company says it plans to implement it in a forthcoming update.

VPNs that gamers should avoid

BolehVPN

We like BolehVPN on the whole, but not for gaming. We’re only singling it out here because we’ve seen multiple other sites claiming that BolehVPN offers gaming optimized servers and game hosting services. In fact, it never offered gaming-optimized servers and has since quit selling game hosting services. With only 14 countries to choose from, it’s just not great for gaming.

Free VPNs

Free VPNs usually have a limited number of servers, cap data transfers, require queueing to connect, and throttle bandwidth. They also tend to have worse security and privacy policies compared to paid VPN services, so they are unsuitable for gaming.

Using PPTP for a faster connection

Normally we never recommend PPTP over other protocols like OpenVPN, SSTP, or L2TP. If those are too slow, however, you may consider using the PPTP protocol when gaming. PPTP tends to be faster than the other options and is still widely supported both by VPN providers and operating systems.

Be warned, however, that you shouldn’t depend on a PPTP VPN connection to keep you secure. The protocol has known security vulnerabilities. Don’t use it for any privacy-critical tasks.

SOCKS5 proxy for gaming

If all you want to do is access a game that’s geo-blocked in your area, consider using a SOCKS5 proxy. Because SOCKS5 proxies don’t encrypt traffic by default, they tend to be faster than VPNs (not the overloaded free ones, mind you).

Bear in mind, however, that SOCKS5 proxies don’t come with any of the security bonuses of VPNs. The provider can mine your traffic for personal data and inject malware or advertisements. You won’t get a NAT firewall or DDoS protection.

NordVPN subscriptions come with free SOCKS5 proxies and plenty of locations to choose from. The company maintains a strict no-logs policy, so you don’t have to worry about them abusing your data.

See also: If you are looking for speed, check out our list of the fastest VPN services.

How to keep kids safe when gaming online

Privacy and security are just as important when you game as when you browse the internet. Kids who game online can put themselves at risk of a range of threats including cyber harassment, malware infection, SWATTING, invasion of privacy, and generally conversing with strangers that you’d rather them not communicate with.

Here are a few precautions you can implement to keep your kids safe online while gaming:

  • Use a VPN. This will mask your home’s real IP address and replace it with that of the VPN server, making it much more difficult for any third party to track your location or identify your device
  • Keep your devices and software up to date. Don’t sit on security updates for your computers, smartphones, and game consoles. Likewise, update apps and games as soon as updates are available
  • Avoid pirating games and only download games from reputable sites and vendors
  • Use the parental controls and filtering built into your game console or Steam to steer kids away from mature content
  • Wipe personal details and other data from unused devices
  • Disable the voice chat on games that use public matchmaking to team up with strangers
  • Don’t use a webcam when streaming on Twitch
  • Don’t use a real photo as an avatar
  • Don’t use your real name in your gamer handle or profile. In fact, don’t fill out any non-essential information in your profile.
  • Configure your account settings so that your child cannot spend money on games or microtransactions without your permission

While all that can help protect your child online, the best protection is awareness. Talk to your child about the risks of divulging personal information to strangers. Here are a few guidelines for kids:

  • Never reveal your real age, name, school, or location
  • Never arrange to meet someone you met in the game in real life
  • If you are bullied or made to feel uncomfortable, tell an adult. Kids should not be punished for confiding in their parents
  • Don’t believe what strangers tell you online
  • Don’t be a troll