As an avid gamer, I’ve had my fair share of high ping and latency playing online games like CS: GO and Dota 2 with free VPNs. Most free VPNs don’t provide consistently fast speeds and may have sketchy policies allowing them to sell your data to third parties.
I tested 30+ free VPNs and picked the best ones for gaming. They deliver fast speeds and low ping and keep you safe from DDoS attacks while gaming. However, free VPNs often have limitations, be it a small network or overcrowded servers with high ping.
ExpressVPN isn’t free, but it’s my #1 choice for gamers. It offers blazing-fast speeds and top-shelf security for a seamless gaming experience. You can buy ExpressVPN in confidence as it’s backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee.
- ExpressVPN — ExpressVPN is the best VPN for gaming. Its Lightway protocol provides blazing-fast speeds for lag-free gaming even on distant servers
- CyberGhost — Has dedicated low-ping servers for gaming, but its speeds on distant servers can be a bit slow
- Proton VPN — Unlimited bandwidth and top-notch security features for secure non-stop gaming, but it only covers 1 device on the free plan
- Hotspot Shield — Uses the Hydra Catapult protocol to provide fast speeds for gamers but has a daily data cap of 500MB per day
- Hide.me — Premium security features like Stealth Guard prevent DDoS attacks while gaming, but its speeds may attenuate across distances
- Windscribe — Allows you to play on unlimited devices but has a monthly data cap of 10GB
- 3,000+ servers in more than 94+ countries to connect to nearby online gaming servers
- Ultra-fast speeds and low latency for lag-free online gaming
- 256-bit encryption and 100% leak prevention to prevent DDoS attacks
- Works on 8 devices at a time
- 30-day money-back guarantee
ExpressVPN’s proprietary Lightway protocol provides blazing-fast speeds for lag-free gaming. It’s faster than other protocols and uses fewer resources because it contains only 2000 lines of code, making auditing and fixing issues easier. It’s also highly secure to protect you against DDoS attacks since it uses the wolfSSL cryptography library, which has been rigorously audited by third parties to satisfy FIPS 140-2 standards.
Throughout my tests, ExpressVPN gave me speeds of over 98Mbps with a ping of just 18ms. That’s only a 2% drop from my baseline speeds, enough for me to play online games like CS Go, League of Legends, and Dota 2 without any lag. On a distant server in Australia, my ping increased to 26ms, which is still excellent for online gaming.
I connected to ExpressVPN’s US server and played CS: GO without speed or quality issues
IP masking is one of ExpressVPN’s strong suits and eliminates the risk of DDoS attacks while gaming. It also allows for unthrottled gaming for users with limited bandwidth by their ISPs. Moreover, ExpressVPN packs all the top-shelf security features for peace-of-mind gaming, some of which include:
- Military-grade encryption — All your data is encrypted with an unhackable 256-bit cipher to mask your IP and deflect any possible DDoS attacks while gaming online
- Leak protection — ExpressVPN didn’t leak my data in my tests. You can use it to play online games in high-censorship countries
- Split tunneling — Lets you use the VPN with some apps. You can enjoy online gaming on a VPN server and check local news on your browser without a VPN
- Port forwarding — Host your game server and play with your friends. The outgoing connection to the server is encrypted so that you can game anonymously
The “Quick Connect” button on ExpressVPN’s desktop and mobile apps makes it easy to join the fastest server for gaming. You can secure and simultaneously play games on up to 8 devices with ExpressVPN. It works on all major operating systems, but you can also use the MediaStreamer feature to share your VPN connection with incompatible devices like a PS4. However, this is only a proxy, and your IP address will be visible. If you want to play securely on a gaming console, I suggest setting up ExpressVPN on your router.
One drawback of ExpressVPN is its high price tag, which makes budget-conscious users uncomfortable. However, I think it’s worth the investment because of the tight security, advanced server infrastructure, and fast speeds it offers. You can play online games with ExpressVPN without fearing DDoS attacks or experiencing lag that would cost you your victory.
You can trim your cost by subscribing to ExpressVPN’s 1-year + 3 months plan and getting a substantial discount of 49%. You can buy ExpressVPN in confidence as it provides a 30-day money-back guarantee — you can get a refund if you’re not impressed by its performance. I submitted my refund request via the 24/7 live chat and got my money back in 4 days.
2023 Update! ExpressVPN has dropped prices for a limited time to a crazy $6.67 per month for the 1-year plan (you can save up to 49%) + 3 months free! This is a limited offer so be sure to grab it now before it’s gone. See more information on this offer here.
- An extensive network of 9,600+ servers across 91 countries for easy access to global gaming servers
- Gaming-optimized servers reduce latency and provide fast speeds for lag-free gaming
- Military-grade encryption and leak prevention to protect you against DDoS attacks while gaming
- Play online games on up to 7 devices simultaneously
- Try risk-free for 45 days
CyberGhost has specialized servers for gaming that provide exceptionally fast speeds and low latency. You can organize them by ping and connecting to the fastest one. Servers in New York and the UK gave me a ping of 36ms and 83ms, respectively.
I got high speeds and low latency with CyberGhost’s dedicated gaming servers
My test results showed that CyberGhost’s gaming servers were 13% faster than regular servers. A standard server in New York gave me a ping of 41ms, approximately 15% higher than a gaming server in the same location. However, I didn’t get any lag while playing online games on regular servers either. Make sure the server you choose doesn’t have a ping of more than 120ms.
To have an optimal gaming experience, you should connect to a server close to your game’s server. CyberGhost has 9,600 servers, so you’ll have no problem finding a suitable server. You can also connect to CyberGhost’s special and privately-owned “NoSpy” servers that provide better security and zero downtimes for seamless gaming. I was able to hop into a game of Call of Duty: Warzone with no issues on every server.
Seamless online gaming requires excellent security. CyberGhost offers a bunch of features to ensure a secure gaming experience:
- Malware blocker — Blocks malicious files shared by other users in-game to protect your device from getting infected
- Multiple protocols — Choose between OpenVPN, WireGuard, or IKEv2 to tweak your speed-security ratio while gaming
- High-grade encryption — Keeps your IP address hidden while you are gaming to prevent DDoS attacks
CyberGhost’s apps are easy to use even for beginner users. You can use CyberGhost on up to 7 devices on all mainstream operating systems. I set up a gaming rig of 4 Windows PCs and 3 laptops for my friends and me to play CS: GO. Throughout our 2-hour gaming session on the same CyberGhost, I didn’t get a single instance of lag on any device.
The only problem with CyberGhost is its relatively slower speeds on distant servers. It reduced my connection speeds by up to 14% on a long-range server in Australia. However, that shouldn’t be a problem if you have decent base speeds. You can also use a dedicated gaming server to get faster speeds and lower ping.
Like ExpressVPN, CyberGhost isn’t technically free, but you can get it at a very affordable price of $2.19 per month with its 2-year + 2 months plan. You can try CyberGhost risk-free for 45 days with its money-back guarantee. I contacted live chat support to submit my refund request and got my money back in 5 business days.
2023 Update! You can subscribe to CyberGhost for as low as $2.19 per month + get extra 2 months free with the 2-year plan (save up to 83%)! This is a limited offer so grab it now before it’s gone. See more information on this offer here.
- 100+ servers in 3 countries on the free plan, including the US, Netherlands, and Japan
- No data caps on the free plan for unthrottled and unlimited gaming
- No-logs policy keeps your privacy intact while gaming
- Works on 1 device with the free plan
- Compatible with Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, and Android
Proton VPN is one of the few free VPNs that doesn’t cap your data. Most other free VPNs have ridiculously low caps of 200 to 500MB daily, which is barely enough to run a few speed tests. No data caps means you can enjoy unlimited gaming with Proton VPN’s free plan.
My speeds dropped by 8% on a nearby US server and 19% on a distant server in Japan. The latter gave me a ping of 143ms and a noticeable lag while playing CS:GO and League of Legends. That was because Proton VPN’s free servers can be overcrowded at different times of the day.
Fortunately, the app clearly shows the server load for each connection, so you can make sure you’re using the server with the lowest load. However, this won’t help if the location is far away from you. You can expect lag while gaming unless you’re using a nearby free server.
You can boost performance by choosing a low-traffic server to get faster speeds for smoother gaming
The free plan isn’t loaded with security features, but Proton VPN uses military-grade 256-bit encryption to keep you safe from DDoS attacks. Its no-logs policy and censorship-bypassing abilities make it a good choice for gamers who want to play in restrictive countries. You’ll have to upgrade to the premium plan to get the following full suite of security features.
- Kill switch (all plans) — Disables the internet in case you have an unstable connection
- 6 connection protocols (all plans) — All users let the app choose the best protocol, or choose from: WireGuard, WireGuard (TCP), OpenVPN (UDP), OpenVPN (TCP), IKEv2, and Stealth
- Netshield (paid subscription only) — Ad, tracker, and malware blocker for safe online gaming
- Tor support (paid subscription only) — Integrated servers in 7 locations for extra-secure gaming
- DNS leak protection (paid subscription only) — Proton VPN passed my DNS, IP, and WebRTC leak tests
Unfortunately, Proton VPN’s free plan only lets you secure 1 device. To get around this limitation, I recommend setting it up on your home router to protect all devices using WiFi.
If the free plan doesn’t suffice for your online gaming needs, you can upgrade to the 2-year plan and get a discount of 57%. However, at this price point, you should go for the top 2 VPNs on my list. Nonetheless, there’s no harm if you try Proton VPN’s premium features risk-free with its 30-day money-back guarantee.
- 1 virtual server in the US with the free plan
- Proprietary Catapult Hydra protocol provides fast speeds for lag-free online gaming
- 256-bit encryption and solid leak protection prevent DDoS attacks while gaming
- Allows 1 device on its free plan
- Works on all major platforms, including Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android
Hotspot Shield’s proprietary Hydra Catapult protocol is designed for gamers. It delivers fast speeds for high-bandwidth activities like gaming, torrenting, and 4K streaming. It isn’t as good as ExpressVPN’s Lightway protocol, but it is slightly faster than CyberGhost’s dedicated gaming servers. The only problem is that the free plan restricts your bandwidth to 2Mbps, though my speed tests showed that you can get speeds faster than this.
Hotspot Shield caps its bandwidth to 2Mbps to compel you to upgrade
Since Hotspot Shield only has 1 virtual server in the US, you may get slow speeds if you don’t live in North America or Europe. I didn’t have that problem because I’m located in the US. Throughout my tests, I got speeds of 45Mbps to 70Mbps, depending on the server’s overcrowdedness. Despite drops of over 30%, I didn’t get any lag while playing CS: GO.
Thankfully, Hotspot Shield’s free plan limitations don’t impact its security for gamers. Your online gaming experience will be secured by:
- Military-grade encryption — Makes you virtually immune to DDoS attacks while gaming
- Multiple protocols — You can select IPSec to boost your speeds if its US server is far from your location. It’ll help reduce lag during your online gaming session
As with other free VPNs, you can only use Hotspot Shield on 1 device at a time. But unlike Proton VPN, you can’t set it up on your router to protect other devices connected to the WiFi — this feature is reserved for premium users only. You can use Hotspot Shield on Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, Android, and smart TVs.
Hotspot Shield is below Proton VPN on my list because it has a data cap of 15GB per month or 500MB per day. That’s not good for hardcore gamers whose normal gaming sessions last for hours. Still, it’s more than 200MB per month that I’ve seen some free VPNs offer.
At best, I’d recommend Hotspot Shield for casual and light gaming. To get access to more servers and faster speeds for gaming, you’ll have to upgrade to the premium plan. Its 3-year plan gets you the best price of $2.99, but you can get CyberGhost for cheaper. You can test Hotspot Shield without risk with its 7-day free trial and 45-day money-back guarantee.
- 8 server locations on the free plan for easy access to global gaming servers easily
- Unlimited data for uninterrupted gaming
- 256-bit encryption, leak prevention, and a no-logs policy for secure and anonymous gaming
- Secures 1 device on the free plan
- Compatible with Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, Android, and more
Hide.me’s Stealth Guard lets you block certain apps to avoid accidental leaks while gaming. It’s a rare find on a free VPN. I suggest using this feature if you’re gaming on an open network. That way, you can never start playing online without turning the VPN on first.
Stealth Guard ensures that you don’t start gaming without turning the VPN on first
I ran multiple leak tests connected to Hide.me’s servers and found no data leaks throughout my gaming and browsing session. My IP address stayed hidden, keeping me safe from any possible DDoS attacks while playing online. Hide.me also provides top-of-the-line security features rarely found on free VPNs, including:
- Perfect Forward Secrecy — Generates a new encryption key every time you connect to a server. The key is deleted when the session ends, making it virtually unhackable and immune to DDoS attacks
- 5 VPN protocols — Choose from IKEv2, OpenVPN, SoftEther, WireGuard, and SSTP to tweak your speed-security ratio while gaming
While Hide.me has a better server count than other free VPNs on this list, its speeds aren’t that impressive. I got speeds of 68Mbps and 45Mbps on nearby and distant servers, respectively. Even though they were enough for me to game online, you may experience significant lag if you have slow internet. I suggest you use the “Auto Connect” button to find the best server with the lowest ping.
Unlike other free VPNs, Hide.me doesn’t cap your data. Once you’ve used up 10GB of data in a month, your connection to your chosen server will be restricted. Instead, you’ll be directed to a random free server, which might not be the closest one to your location. Consequently, this change could impact your online gaming experience, affecting both your connection speeds and ping.
Despite its free plan’s limitations, Hide.me is a decent choice for gamers looking for premium security. To access its full server network, you can try Hide.me’s 2-year + 3 months plan risk-free with its money-back guarantee. But even with the 74% discount, it’ll cost the same as CyberGhost, which is much better value for money due to its dedicated gaming servers.
- Servers in 10+ countries on the free plan to join global gaming lobbies
- 256-bit encryption, Perfect Forward Secrecy, and leak protection for secure gaming
- Fast speeds and low ping for lag-free online gaming
- Play online games on unlimited devices
- Compatible with Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, Android, and more
Windscribe supports unlimited simultaneous device connections, making it ideal for playing multiplayer games on your home router. I set up and used Windscribe on all my devices easily — 2 Windows PCs, a laptop, Macbook, iPhone, an iPad, an Android phone, and an Android tablet.
I got average speeds of 38Mbps with Windscribe, a massive 62% drop from my baseline levels. I wasn’t satisfied, but I could still play Minecraft and Call of Duty without lag. But that’s just because I have a fast internet connection, and your experience might be completely different. Surprisingly, the maximum ping I got with Windscribe was 60ms, which is quite good for online gaming.
The free plan lets you connect to servers in 10+ countries, including the US, UK, Canada, Germany, France, and more. You’ll find most of your games’ servers in these countries, so you needn’t worry about getting high ping. You can even play in restrictive countries like China using Windscribe’s “Stealth VPN” mode and stay protected with:
- No-logs policy — Windscribe doesn’t store your data, making you completely invisible to your ISP and the government while playing online
- Military-grade encryption — Protects you from DDoS attacks by making your internet traffic indecipherable
Windscribe’s free plan has one limitation: a monthly data cap of 10GB. For dedicated gamers, this limit may be exceeded within just a few hours of gameplay. However, it should be ample for casual gamers who engage in gaming sessions once a week.
If 10GB a month is a deal-breaker, you should upgrade to the premium plans to get unlimited bandwidth and access to the full server network. You can try Windscribe’s paid plans risk-free with its 3-day money-back guarantee. Just start a chat or submit a ticket. I received my money back in 7 business days.
Free VPNs aren’t suitable for gamers because they often have overcrowded servers that provide slow speeds and high ping. They may also have a data limit to how much bandwidth you can use per day or month. More importantly, free VPNs don’t pack top-shelf security features that can guard you against DDoS attacks while gaming. Below are some VPNs you should avoid as a gamer:
TunnelBear is safe to use and gives decent speeds, but its free plan has a data cap of 500MB per month — that’s barely enough even to browse the web.
Betternet VPN uses military-grade 256-bit encryption but lacks a kill switch, and it failed my leak tests consistently. Betternet VPN will expose your IP address while gaming, making you vulnerable to DDoS attacks. Its tracking libraries log your location, device information, and the sites you visit.
TouchVPN offers split tunneling but lacks a kill switch, except on its Android app. Plus, it only uses the now-obsolete PPTP protocol with weak security and exposes you to DDoS attacks. It leaked data during my tests, which can expose you to hackers, ISPs, and the government.
Keeping in mind the risks of free VPNs, I strictly looked for the following features when picking the best free VPNs for gamers:
- Security — I selected VPNs that offer top-tier encryption, leak prevention, a kill switch, and a verified no-logs policy to ensure a secure gaming experience.
- Server network — Free VPNs have a limited network, but I tried choosing ones that offer servers in multiple countries for easy access to global gaming lobbies
- Speeds — I tested each VPN’s speeds and pings on nearby and distant servers and played online games like CS: GO while using them
- Protocol flexibility — All VPNs on my list let you choose multiple protocols to boost your speeds or improve security while gaming
- Money-back guarantee — I tested each contender’s refund policy to see the ease of getting a refund and how much time it takes to get the refund
What’s the best free VPN for gaming on PC and Android?
Proton VPN is the best truly-free VPN that works on Windows, Android, and most other platforms. Unlike most other free VPNs, it has over 100 servers and doesn’t cap your bandwidth. It also provides fast speeds for lag-free gaming.
While some free VPNs are suitable for gamers, most aren’t safe to use or provide a lag-free gaming experience. They have overcrowded servers, slow speeds, and high ping, making them unsuitable for gamers. Worse yet, some of them sell your data to third parties or can even infect your device with dangerous malware.
Can a free gaming VPN lower my ping?
Only sometimes. A VPN normally increases your ping as it routes your data through an additional stop. Using a reliable free VPN from the ones I listed can minimize your ping. However, if your ISP’s server is congested and you’re already getting a high ping, using a good VPN can lower it below baseline levels.
Generally, a paid VPN has a lower chance of overcrowded servers. If you have the budget, you should get a premium VPN. Here’s a list of the top 10 premium VPNs that provide fast speeds for lag-less online gaming.
How does a VPN make online gaming better?
Will a free VPN work with Warzone or PUBG?
What is the best VPN protocol for gaming?
It’s challenging to find a free VPN for gaming, especially when all of them claim to provide the best speeds and security. Most free VPNs have overcrowded servers with slow speeds and high ping and are inadequate for lag-free gaming. They may also have intrusive privacy policies, allowing them to sell your data to third parties.
After testing dozens of free VPNs, I found Proton VPN a good choice for gamers. It also provides unlimited data but limits you to servers in 3 countries. Using a top VPN like ExpressVPN is the only way to get past the limitations of a free VPN. You can buy ExpressVPN in confidence as it offers a 30-day money-back guarantee — if you’re unimpressed, you can get a refund.
Other Top VPNs for Gaming in 2023