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The best VPNs for gaming: What you need to know

Is it a good idea to use a VPN for gaming? The answer depends on many factors.

Published onMay 5, 2021

VPN stock photo 5
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

Using a Virtual Private Network (VPN), for gaming seems counter-productive. After all, anything that usually negatively impacts ping and connection speeds isn’t great for in-game performance. That said, there are some advantages to using one for gaming, and some might even help enhance your in-game experience. Here are some of the best VPN services for gaming you can get.

Should you use a VPN for gaming?

Using a VPN generally increases ping as well. However, there are a few cases where the ping time is actually reduced, even if this is admittedly quite rare. Luckily, lots of VPNs offer connection speeds and ping times that will still let you game comfortably. Anything below a ping of 20ms is great, but you could potentially be okay with a ping time of around 50ms, depending on the game. However, anything around or above 100ms won’t work.

But why use a VPN for gaming at all? The most obvious positive is the ability to circumvent location restrictions. Using a VPN lets you access servers that may otherwise be blocked for you, regardless of where you are. Some VPNs also offer protection against DDoS attacks, which has increasingly become a way to ruin the gaming experience of an online opponent. The non-gaming privacy and security features remain a huge plus as well.

Using a VPN for gaming isn’t an ideal option. However, if you have to, there are plenty of good options out there that could potentially even make your gaming experience much better.

See also: Why use a VPN? The advantages and benefits you should know about

The best VPN services for gaming

Something to keep in mind here is that the recommendations below are based on my experience with connection speeds and ping and your results may vary. However, all the options below offer no-questions-asked money-back guarantees, so you will have the opportunity to try them out for a limited time.

1. IPVanish

ipvanish logo
  • Jurisdiction: US
  • Logs: No logs
  • Total simultaneous connections: 10
  • Servers: More than 1,400 in 75 countries
  • Money-back guarantee: 30 days
  • Price: $6.49 — $10

IPVanish is one of the best VPNs for gaming that you can get. It’s one of the few services that lets you sort and filter through the server list based on ping. With any other VPN, it might take a lot of trial and error to find the servers and locations that work best for you.

Connecting to a server that offers the lowest ping times will certainly make for a really good gaming experience. IPVanish also has a good number of servers available across the globe, so you shouldn’t see too much of an impact on connection speeds either.

Easy-to-use apps are available for all major platforms and devices, including Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS. While IPVanish doesn’t support gaming consoles specifically, you can make use of the service by installing it directly on a VPN router.

Many privacy buffs would be wary of the fact that IPVanish is based in the US. However, its strict zero-logging policy should help with any concerns. The service also falls in the middle of the pack as far as the pricing is concerned. However, you can take advantage of a limited time offer that will get you up to 73% off across all subscription levels!

Our verdict: IPVanish review

2. NordVPN

nord feature - vpn with free trial in India
Ankit Banerjee / Android Authority
  • Jurisdiction: Panama
  • Logs: No logs
  • Total simultaneous connections: 6
  • Servers: Around 5,500 in 59 countries
  • Money-back guarantee: 30 days
  • Price: $3.71 — $11.95

NordVPN is an excellent choice not only for privacy and security but for gaming as well. First and foremost, this VPN is all about security. It’s also one of the faster VPNs I’ve tested and I didn’t run into any issues with connection speeds or ping time.

NordVPN comes with the most servers when compared to other options on this list, and you can sort them based on server load to ensure that your connection stays stable. Like IPVanish, you will also be able to install NordVPN directly on a supported Wi-Fi router.

You’ll find specialty servers for P2P and anti-DDoS, and it’s the latter that will be incredibly useful for gamers. The gaming industry has become the most affected by DDoS attacks in recent years. While NordVPN doesn’t guarantee complete protection, such servers should help alleviate some concerns.

NordVPN is also quite affordable, with multiple long-term plans with increasing discounts. If you’re ready to commit long-term, you can enjoy a monthly rate of just $3.71 per month with a two-year subscription.

3. ExpressVPN

express vpn connected icon
  • Jurisdiction: British Virgin Islands
  • Logs: No logs
  • Total simultaneous connections: 5
  • Servers: 3,000+ in 94 countries
  • Money-back guarantee: 30 days
  • Price: $8.32 — $12.95

ExpressVPN is considered one of the best VPNs overall for good reason. To steal a term from smartphone reviewers, this is my VPN “daily driver,” and the one I’ve been using for a very long time.

It doesn’t have gaming-specific features when it comes to server selection, but ExpressVPN says that it helps prevent DDoS attacks when the service is installed on a Wi-Fi router. ExpressVPN has also introduced its own protocol called Lightway that offers significantly faster connection speeds and lower ping.

Something to keep in mind is that while ExpressVPN provides useful guides to set it up on gaming consoles, that is mostly to make streaming content easier and not for gaming. For gaming benefits, the best option is to use a VPN router. Easy-to-install apps are available for Windows, Android, macOS, and iOS as well.

ExpressVPN has always been a personal favorite because of its fast and stable connection speeds. However, it is far more expensive than other providers, and that’s where its biggest drawback is. The lowest monthly rate is available with the annual plan, but it’s still a hefty $99.95 per year. While I’ve had no problems with speed or latency, make sure that you have a similar experience too before making the commitment.

4. Surfshark VPN

Ankit Banerjee / Android Authority
  • Jurisdiction: British Virgin Islands
  • Logs: No logs
  • Total simultaneous connections: Unlimited
  • Servers: 3200+ in 65 countries
  • Money-back guarantee: 30 days
  • Price: $.249 — $12.95

Surfshark hasn’t been around for that long, but the VPN service provider has been making waves since its launch. In a lot of ways, Surfshark brings together some of the best features of competing VPNs to provide a complete package. To start with, it comes with a strict no-logging policy. Surfshark also utilizes the most secure encryption standards and VPN protocols.

It’s one of the most feature-packed VPN services you can get. This includes an ad-blocker and a Kill Switch that work really well. Multi-hop servers add another layer of security and a Camouflage Mode ensures that your Internet service provider can’t tell that you’re connected to a VPN. You should also not have too much trouble using Surfshark in restricted regions with its NoBorders Mode.

They have also quickly expanded the number of devices and platforms you can use the VPN with. Surfshark has gone from only iOS and Android to now supporting Windows, macOS, Linux, smart TVs, streaming devices, and gaming consoles. Browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox are available, and you can also directly set it up on a VPN router. What makes Surfshark stand out from the crowd though is the fact that it allows unlimited simultaneous connections.

Looking for more options? These are the best cheap VPNs of 2021

5. CyberGhost

cyberghost vpn
Ankit Banerjee / Android Authority
  • Jurisdiction: Romania
  • Logs: No logs
  • Total simultaneous connections: 7
  • Servers: 7,000+ in 90 countries
  • Money-back guarantee: 45 days
  • Price: $2.25 — $12.99

In our review, we described CyberGhost as “just shy of truly elite.” The service isn’t perfect — no VPN is — but it is right up there with the best of them. One of the best things about it is that it takes the guesswork out of server selections, as you can quickly find a server based on what you want to use it for — torrenting, streaming, etc.

There are over 7,000 servers available in 90 countries, so there’s plenty to choose from. CyberGhost also has apps available for all major mobile and PC platforms, as well as gaming consoles. You can also easily install the service on a VPN router.

The service has an automatic kill switch, supports split tunneling, and promises it won’t log your online activities. It also has a 45-day money-back guarantee as well as a seven-day free trial for mobile devices. All these things combined make CyberGhost one of the best VPNs for the Fire Stick you can get.

Can you use a VPN on an Xbox Series X / S or PS5?

ps5 xbox series x series s nintendo switch consoles 2
Oliver Cragg / Android Authority

Some VPN services like ExpressVPN and Surfshark come with installation guides for the Xbox Series X or S, PS5, and Nintendo Switch. However, this mostly works as a smart DNS feature and doesn’t provide the complete benefits of using a VPN. What this feature lets you do is access streaming content on your console from geo-restricted locations. You might also be able to take advantage of special deals for games that are only available in certain regions.

To enjoy console gaming with all the benefits of a VPN service, your best bet is to use a VPN router. All major VPNs let you directly install it on supported Wi-Fi routers. You can also take the guesswork out of it by getting one that comes with the service of your choice pre-installed from FlashRouters.

See more: The best VPN routers for gaming, business, and personal use

Can you use a free VPN for gaming?

I don’t recommend using a free VPN, because there’s a lot that such services can do with your data. The best options though are basically the free versions of paid VPNs, so you aren’t compromising on privacy and security completely.

That said, free VPN providers have certain restrictions that make them practically unusable for gaming. In most cases, this limit is in the form of a data cap, ranging from 500MB a day to 10GB a month. In either case, that certainly isn’t enough to get your game on.

Proton VPN doesn’t have a data limit to deal with so it might seem like a good option for gaming. Unfortunately, you only get access to three servers with the free version. If you’re incredibly lucky, the connection speeds and ping time might be good enough to let you play an online game without issue. However, that is pretty unlikely for most users.

Now you have an idea of the kind of VPN services for gaming are out there, be sure to check out our guide on how to use a VPN and the best VPN apps you can get.

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