Online games are no fun if your privacy and security is at risk. I’ve put together a list of the best VPNs for gaming that won’t slow you down while playing the likes of Dota 2, Overwatch, Fortnite, and Apex Legends.
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) enables you to play anonymously and securely without taking a substantial hit on your connection speeds. It’ll also grant you access to geo-locked games and streaming services, enable you to bypass IP bans, and allow you to use same-country servers with gamers in different regions.
I’ll get into substantially more detail later in this article. If you’re short on time, here is my list of the best VPNs for gaming:
- NordVPN: Top VPN for gaming. Huge network of servers in countries around the world. Extremely fast and very secure. Comes with a risk-free 30-day money-back guarantee.
- Surfshark: Best budget VPN for gaming. Affordable, yet fast and able to unblock game streaming services.
- ExpressVPN: Well-established provider with excellent security features and servers in a wide range of countries.
- CyberGhost: Fast connection speeds, zero logs, and impressive security credentials.
- PrivateVPN: Reliably fast, despite a relatively small server network. Big on privacy, with solid security.
- IPVanish: Very fast, with a wide range of stable servers. Strong security features and doesn’t keep logs.
- Private Internet Access: Lots of fast servers for frustration-free gaming. Plenty of scope to customize settings.
- Atlas VPN: Provides unlimited connections as well as good security and privacy.
There’s a more extensive section on the methodology I used for choosing VPNs later in this article. Essentially, though, the best VPNs for gaming fulfill the following criteria:
- Fast, unthrottled connections for uninterrupted gaming
- Servers in countries worldwide
- Strong security features with high-end encryption
- Protects privacy by not keeping any personally identifying logs
You’ll find these reflected in my list of best VPNs for gaming, set out below.
Best VPNs for gaming
Having carefully considered the best providers for the job, here are my best VPNs for gaming.
NordVPN is an ideal gaming VPN. It has a generously distributed network of several thousand servers, and its proprietary protocol – NordLynx – ensures fast connections.
It’s easy to choose optimal gaming servers as you can see where they are located relative to your location, and also how much load they’re currently experiencing.
Data is secured using 256-bit AES channel encryption, SHA384 authentication, and 3072-bit DHE-RSA key exchange, which ensures perfect forward secrecy. NordVPN doesn’t log any information that could be used to identify you and, in any event, it uses RAM-only diskless servers to ensure that no data is ever stored permanently.
NordVPN allows up to six devices to connect simultaneously, and apps are available for Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android devices. While NordLynx is the default protocol, you’re able to choose from OpenVPN and IKEv2 on iOS and macOS devices. The apps are easy-to-use and do not leak any DNS, WebRTC, or IP traffic while connected.
Should you want additional protection for a games console or other devices on your home network, NordVPN also provides detailed instructions for installing its products on a router.
- Very fast
- Huge server network
- Information for gauging latency provided
- High-end security
- Able to save preferred servers
- Automatic server selection not always optimal
BEST FOR GAMING:NordVPN is my first choice. It offers exceptionally high speeds, secure connections and a widely distributed server network. NordVPN comes with a risk-free 30-day money-back guarantee.
Surfshark is a great value provider with plenty of servers in all major regions. Connections are generally fast and it’s easy to find the optimal servers in your area. It uses the lightweight Wireguard protocol, though you can still use OpenVPN and IKEv2 if you’d prefer.
Security features include 256-bit AES encryption, in conjunction with a SHA512 authentication and 2048-bit DHE-RSA key exchange for perfect forward secrecy. Surfshark offers further protection via MultiHop servers, a no-borders mode, private DNS servers, and leak protection.
A split tunneling feature lets you choose which apps use the VPN and which do not – so you can protect your gaming channel while leaving other connections open.
Surfshark allows you to connect an unlimited number of devices simultaneously, which makes it a good option for those in larger households. Apps are available for macOS, iOS, Linux, Android, and Windows. These all have a built-in kill switch that cuts the flow of internet traffic if the VPN connection fails.
If you want to protect a games console or other device connected to your home network, Surfshark provides setup guides for installing its products on your router.
- Good value
- Large server network
- Fast connections easy to find
- Kill switch in all apps
- Strong security and privacy features
- Server speeds can vary widely
BEST BUDGET OPTION: of servers in its global network, making it easy to find something with low latency to connect to. You can try it for free with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
ExpressVPN has a solid reputation in the VPN world, and its various attributes make it a good choice for gamers too. It has a well-established, fast server network, capable of providing lag-free gaming in a number of regions. Its smart location feature ranks VPN locations by download speed, latency, and distance – the perfect tool for gamers. There’s also a built-in speed tester on its desktop app to check ping times.
Security credentials include 256-bit AES channel strong encryption, SHA512 hash authentication, and 4096-bit DHE-RSA keys for perfect forward secrecy. Connections are leak-proof, with no DNS, IPv6 or WebRTC information escaping onto unprotected networks.
Like some other high-end providers, ExpressVPN’s server software only runs on the server’s RAM. This means networks cannot retain any user-sensitive information.
User-friendly apps are available for Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, and Linux. ExpressVPN also sells routers pre-configured with its software so you can protect games consoles that don’t otherwise support VPN apps.
- Fast servers on large network
- Desktop app comes with built-in speed tester
- Robust security and privacy
- Can subscribe using Bitcoin
- Relatively expensive
- Streaming servers aren’t labeled
HIGHLY VERSATILE: for a gaming VPN. It’s fast, and difficult to beat on privacy and security features. It even comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
CyberGhost has one of the largest server networks of any VPN. It boasts superb speeds for gaming and provides reassuringly high levels of privacy and security. I particularly like that there are dedicated gaming servers available, and that CyberGhost lets me choose servers based on how I want to use the VPN.
The provider uses the speedy Wireguard protocol by default, though you can also choose the OpenVPN and IKEv2 protocols. It has its own private DNS servers, and kill switches are available on both the desktop and mobile apps.
CyberGhost doesn’t log user activity or record IP addresses. Data is secured with
256-bit encryption and perfect forward secrecy. All CyberGhost servers are DDoS-protected, and its apps provide leak protection and a kill switch to ensure that internet traffic doesn’t leave the encrypted network.
Subscribers can connect up to seven devices at once, with apps available for Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, Android, and Amazon Fire TV. Some – like those available on Windows and Android – offer split tunneling.
- Massive server network
- Good value
- Limited customization of apps
EASY-TO-USE APPS: for gamers who are new to VPNs. It’s straightforward, good value, and fast. It also comes with a generous 45-day money-back guarantee.
PrivateVPN has relatively few servers compared with similarly placed competitors, but still manages to provide good connection speeds for gaming. The servers it does have are in a decent spread of regions, so you should be able to find one near you.
Having been started by a group of internet-privacy activists, it’s no surprise that PrivateVPN has a strict no-logs policy and a suite of security features that includes adjustable AES encryption, kill-switches, DNS leak protection, port forwarding, and data obfuscation. This makes it ideal for protecting yourself when connecting to other gamers P2P.
Subscribers can connect up to 10 devices simultaneously, which is more generous than most VPNs. PrivateVPN offers lightweight apps for Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android. If you want to protect game consoles that don’t support VPN apps – like PlayStation or Xbox – you can install PrivateVPN on routers that support OpenVPN connections.
- Strong on security and privacy
- Speedy, with unlimited bandwidth
- Customisable settings
- Small server network
- Live chat not 24/7
GREAT FOR PRIVACY: while gaming. Fast speeds and stable connections. PrivateVPN comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
IPVanish is one of the fastest VPNs available, primarily thanks to its adoption of the Wireguard protocol. It has an impressive server network and most gamers should be able to find one near their location. Available servers can be chosen via map, from the location menu, or ranked by country, city, ping time, and server load.
The company keeps no logs of customer activity and uses 256-bit encryption, SHA512 for authentication, and a DHE-RSA 2048 key exchange that supports perfect forward secrecy.
All IPVanish apps feature an optional kill switch that stops internet traffic if the VPN connection drops out. DNS leak protection is built in, as well as IPv6 leak protection.
IPVanish allows unlimited device connections with each account. Apps are available for Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, ChromeOS, and Fire TV. Linux is supported, but doesn’t have a dedicated app. Split tunneling is available in the Android and Fire TV apps only.
If you want to protect a games console that doesn’t support VPN apps, you can install IPVanish on routers running DD-WRT, Tomato, ASUSWRT, and ASUSWRT-Merlin firmware.
- Excellent gaming speeds
- Easy-to-search servers
- Can’t subscribe with Bitcoin
- No linux app
- Based in US
UNLIMITED CONNECTIONS: plenty of fast server options, and makes it easy to find the most suitable one. You can try it risk-free with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Private Internet Access (PIA) is a great choice for gamers who want guaranteed privacy and the ability to customize a VPN to their needs. It has a network of several thousand servers that you can order by latency, and then favorite the best of them to save time later.
Torrenting is permitted and a port forwarding feature allows you to connect with more peers in a torrent swarm by bypassing NAT firewalls. Split tunneling means you can keep an individual connection secure while using other apps without a VPN.
Private Internet Access offers variable encryption, with 128-bit AES-GCM encryption as the default. Using less encryption means a faster connection, though you can change it to 256-bit if you wish.
The company keeps no logs of what you do while connected, nor does it record any metadata such as IP addresses and timestamps. For additional privacy, you can pay for the service using store gift cards or cryptocurrency.
Lightweight apps are available for Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, Linux, and Amazon Fire TV. Features vary between apps, but include an ad-blocker, snooze function, and dedicated browser for additional privacy.
- Decent speeds
- Highly customizable app
- Impressive privacy
- Many countries with no servers
- App design could be modernized
- Doesn’t work with some major streaming services
PUTS PRIVACY FIRST: Private Internet Access has a good number of fast servers and the ability to favorite those with the least latency. It comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Atlas VPN has decent speeds, provided that you can find a nearby server to connect to. If you’re based in the US, this isn’t normally a problem. Nevertheless, it’s worth pointing out that the Atlas VPN server network numbers in the hundreds, rather than the thousands offered by its parent company, NordVPN – so you won’t necessarily find a close connection.
Users can choose to connect using either the Wireguard or IKEv2 protocols, though you’ll normally get better speeds with the former. Internet traffic is protected with AES-256-bit or ChaCha20 channel encryption, SHA-384 or Poly1305 authentication, and perfect forward secrecy. Atlas VPN uses its own private DNS servers.
Easy-to-use apps are available for Windows, iOS, Android, macOS, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Linux Ubuntu. These didn’t suffer from any IP, DNS, or WebRTC leaks during testing. Features include a tracker blocker with live stats, a data breach monitor, a kill switch, and an automatic startup option.
You won’t be able to protect game consoles as there are currently no apps or support for router installation. On the plus side, Atlas VPN allows you to connect an unlimited number of devices on a single account, so you can protect any device that works with a VPN.
- Decent speeds
- Unlimited simultaneous connections
- Relatively small server network
- Customer service needs improvement
INTUITIVE APPS: Atlas VPN is easy for beginners to get to grips with and provides fast, secure connections. Atlas VPN comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Can I use free VPNs for gaming?
You can try, but you’ll probably give up on it very quickly. The most popular free VPNs have too many users for the number of servers on their networks. To deal with the congestion, free VPNs have to either limit bandwidth or let users compete for whatever’s available. In practice, serious gaming using a free VPN is next to impossible.
Even if it were feasible, the security and privacy standards of free VPNs can be fairly lax. Most free VPNs have some kind of logging policy, and trackers are common among the top VPNs in Google Play and the App Store. FreeVPNs almost always display adverts, and some will sell your data to third parties.
Evaluating the best VPNs for gaming: my testing methodology
Sifting through all the VPN options is time-consuming and often confusing – particularly with so many claiming to be the ‘fastest’ or the ‘most secure.’ To narrow the field, I’ve focussed on which aspects of VPNs have the biggest impact on gaming – and set minimum standards for each. Those that fall short are rejected. My requirements are outlined below:
- Connection speed: Gaming is all about fast connection speeds, which is why I prioritize VPNs that can do their job without negatively impacting the gaming experience. I carry out a battery of speed tests to ensure my chosen VPNs provide market-leading speeds in a variety of different situations.
- Server network: I expect a good VPN to have a large network of servers spread across the globe. Connecting to nearby servers helps reduce latency and improves your connection. All of my chosen VPNs for gaming have servers in more than 55 countries.
- Security: Online gaming can leave you open to all kinds of threats. These range from Denial of Service (DoS) attacks through to malware and identity theft. I only select VPNs that can keep your identity and location secret. This requires the effectively uncrackable encryption of internet traffic, kill switches, leak protection, perfect forward secrecy, and data obfuscation, for example.
- Data limits: Gaming requires a lot of data transfer, so it’s important to choose a VPN with unlimited bandwidth. My chosen VPNs won’t impose monthly data allowances or throttle your connection.
- Privacy: VPNs should not keep any data that could personally identify you. The most private of all allow payment in cryptocurrency, run RAM-only servers, and offer additional anti-tracking features – like MultiHop servers.
- Unblocking ability: Some games and game-related events are restricted to certain countries. The best VPNs for gaming allow you to bypass these restrictions by connecting to a server in the region of interest. Importantly, these VPNs will be able to give you access without detection.
My research doesn’t end here – this is just a part of my overall VPN testing methodology. Using data rather than the information provided by VPN companies means I can make objective decisions about which VPNs I should recommend to you.
How to keep kids safe when gaming online
As a general rule, online gaming requires the same privacy and security precautions as browsing the internet. To ensure your kids have a positive gaming experience, I recommend taking the following measures:
- Use a VPN: This will hide kids’ IP addresses and make them more difficult for third parties to track. Some VPNs have additional malware detection services.
- Check settings on devices: Enable any pre-installed parental controls when you first purchase a game console. These will let you restrict access to mature content and give you control over whether your child can download apps or make purchases.
- Ensure hardware and software is kept up to date: Download security updates as soon as they’re available.
- Don’t use personal identifiable information online: Advise kids to never use real photos as avatars and to never use real names as gaming handles. Ideally, they shouldn’t enter any personal information as part of a public profile. They can use fake details for any required fields.
- Don’t believe what people say online: Point out that if it’s possible for them to enter false personal information, then assume that others do it too. They should be aware that other players may not be who they say there are, and avoid getting into DM conversations. They should never arrange to meet unknown gamers in real-life.
And finally – talk to your kids about gaming. This doesn’t need to be done in a hectoring way. In fact, the best way to keep lines of communication open is by playing their games with them. This way, you can talk about any potential privacy and security threats as they come up.
If they won’t let you play, make an effort to be interested in what they’re doing. This makes it more likely that they’ll come to you if anything is bothering or upsetting them.
Best VPNs for gaming FAQs
Will a VPN slow down my gaming connection?
Using a VPN means that your data needs to be encrypted, and then travel via an intermediary server. This inevitably makes your connection slower, but the question is: by how much?
The reduction in speed while using one of the best VPNs for gaming is barely perceptible compared with the massive lag encountered while using poorly performing competitors. If you want to check what effects a VPN has, I’d recommend experimenting with one of the 30-day money-back trials offered by my chosen VPNs.
Whichever VPN you decide on, it’s important to be able to connect to a server either near your current location or near the game’s server. This keeps the distance data has to travel to a minimum and ensures optimal speeds.
In some cases, a VPN can actually speed your connection up. For example, when your ISP is throttling bandwidth for visitors to a particular server or site, or when there’s congestion between the game server and your device.
Is online gaming risky?
If you use a VPN, you can protect yourself from the worst of the problems. The best VPNs for gaming will encrypt your internet traffic and hide any personally identifiable information. That said, a VPN can’t do everything – a little common sense helps too.
Here are some of the potential hazards you might encounter while gaming online:
- Malware and viruses: Often found in free or cheap versions of games. Can also be installed when accessing cheat codes or making purchases via third-party sellers. Some VPNs - such as NordVPN - have features that block trackers and identify malware-ridden files.
- Identity theft: Criminals can use information gleaned from your IP address, profile or simply from using the chat function in a game. A VPN will hide your computer’s location, but you need to also do your bit by not sharing personal details online.
- DDoS attacks: Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks occur when hackers attempt to cause servers to crash by overloading them. An attack while connected to a VPN means that the VPN’s servers bear the brunt of it, rather than your device.
- Phishing emails: Messages with links may appear during chat while gaming online. These are sometimes created by hackers to trick gamers into downloading malicious files onto their computers. Again, a VPN like NordVPN can offer protection against this.
- Best VPNs for gaming
- 1. NordVPN
- 2. Surfshark
- 3. ExpressVPN
- 4. CyberGhost
- 5. PrivateVPN
- 6. IPVanish
- 7. Private Internet Access
- 8. AtlasVPN
- Can I use free VPNs for gaming?
- Evaluating the best VPNs for gaming: my testing methodology
- How to keep kids safe when gaming online
- Best VPNs for gaming FAQs
- Will a VPN slow down my gaming connection?
- Is online gaming risky?