Best VPNs for gaming 2023

Best VPNs for gaming 2023

A VPN can help streamline gaming by lowering ping and preventing slow connection speeds deliberately caused by your internet service provider (ISP). Also, it greatly enhances your online security and privacy when playing or accessing gaming websites, plus many other advantages.

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Besides having fast connections, ping or latency should be minimal in a VPN server to avoid annoying lags while you’re gaming. The term simply refers to how efficiently your device can send data online and get a response. Some robust VPNs are good at keeping latency low, thereby giving you the best gaming experience.

I tested several services while researching the best VPN for gaming. Most could do the job but were inconsistent, so I only shortlisted the reliable VPNs. Read on to find out which ones are worth your time.

Best VPNs for gaming: Our top picks

ExpressVPN logo

1. Best VPN for gaming overall

The most reliable VPN for gaming overall

ExpressVPN beats the competition with excellent connections and top-of-the-line features for lag-free gaming.

  • Lightway protocol with fast upload and download speeds
  • Low ping servers in 105 countries
  • Strong compatibility with gaming devices
  • Slightly expensive plans
  • Temporarily disconnects the internet during server switch

ExpressVPN is tailored for fast gaming speeds, thanks to the Lightway proprietary protocol. It uses light code, reducing slowdowns that often happen due to data encryption and tunneling between servers. This means data upload and download speeds are much faster, so you won’t experience lags in fast-paced games like Counter-Strike or Call of Duty.

The vast server coverage in 105 countries eases the pressure of finding reliable gaming servers (or shopping for cheaper games). During gaming, it’s always recommended to use a server near you or your gaming servers (for distant connections) to keep the ping rate low. I didn’t encounter any problems while gaming on the US servers despite my location in a foreign country.

ExpressVPN is convenient for gaming on PCs, mobile devices, or even gaming consoles. Since devices like Xbox, PlayStation, and Nintendo Switch don’t support VPNs, you can easily install ExpressVPN on a router and connect the services. Also, it offers a MediaStreamer feature that you can use to configure the DNS of any gaming device, although this option won’t encrypt your data.

The VPN’s pricing is relatively high compared to rivals, but this is because of the high-end features it offers. You can subscribe to the service starting from $8.32/month.

NordVPN logo

2. Best premium VPN for gaming

A secure gaming VPN

NordVPN is ideal if your primary goal is to keep threats at bay while gaming with strangers online.

  • Robust safety features
  • Meshnet tool for LAN gaming
  • Threat Protection
  • Fewer server countries
  • Fewer simultaneous connections

NordVPN adds a strong layer of security around your online gaming activities. Like ExpressVPN, it uses the safest encryption standards (AES 256-bit), IP masking tools, and a fast proprietary protocol called NordLynx. The secure features prevent DDoS (distributed denial of service) attacks that other players may launch to slow you down and gain a competitive advantage.

Another unique feature for gaming is the Meshnet tool, which allows you to set up a LAN (local area network) and play with friends. A shared local network ensures all people on the network get comparatively faster speeds than if they played online.

What is a VPN and what do they do?

VPNs are a middleman between your computer or phone and the wider internet.

If you’re fond of downloading new games on your device or experimenting with new gaming sites, it’s recommended to activate NordVPN’s Threat Protection feature. It warns you before opening malicious websites and can even block malware or hidden trackers embedded in downloaded programs or apps.

Any records of your gaming activities can’t be acquired by third parties because NordVPN runs a trustworthy no-logs policy. Also, all the 5,500+ servers in 60 countries are RAM-only, meaning any data that ends up on the servers is automatically deleted during regular reboots. There are multiple subscriptions to choose from, starting from $3.79/month.

Surfshark VPN logo

3. Best value VPN for gaming

A VPN for cloud gaming

The server fleet and distribution enables you to enjoy cloud gaming on Xbox or JioGamesCloud without potential slowdowns.

  • Servers in 100 countries
  • Low latency for cloud gaming
  • Works on restricted Wi-Fi networks
  • Some features missing on iOS/Mac
  • Expensive short-term plans

Surfshark is ideal for cloud gaming because of the vast server network spanning 100 countries and 140+ locations (inclusive of 25+ US cities). You can easily find servers close to US-based cloud gaming servers for platforms like Xbox cloud gaming. This helps to minimize ping if you’re far away from the country and want to play PUBG or Fortnite.

Surfshark’s also fast in speed, especially if you connect to the WireGuard tunneling protocol. The connections didn’t quite match ExpressVPN, but it streamed high-quality cloud games without lagging. There aren’t any limits to the devices you can simultaneously connect, meaning one account is enough for you and your gaming friends.

You can conveniently play online games even on networks that block gaming servers, for example on school Wi-Fi. That’s because Surfshark offers features like NoBorders and Camouflage mode to easily bypass firewalls that block specific domains or VPN traffic. The shorter plans are a bit expensive, but extended subscriptions are affordable, starting from $1.99/month.


4. Best VPN for gaming and streaming

A VPN of many opportunities

CyberGhost has tailor-made servers for fun-filled online activities, including gaming and streaming.

  • Dedicated gaming and streaming servers
  • User-friendly apps
  • 45-day money-back guarantee
  • Occasional server overcrowding
  • Not reliable for China

If you’re into both gaming and streaming, CyberGhost lets you enjoy the best of both worlds. It offers optimized servers for gaming on Windows PC and some for streaming platforms like Netflix, Hulu, ESPN, FOX, and more. These servers are marked on the app, making it very easy to locate them.

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CyberGhost runs over 9,800 servers in 100 countries, so it’s straightforward to find a server that’s close to your gaming servers. You can sort the servers based on distance, ping, and load, which makes it easier to find servers for gaming. The Best Location feature also automatically selects the most optimal server in the location of your choice.

With the high compatibility, you can easily use CyberGhost for gaming on a PC, smartphone, or TV. Installing the VPN on a router ensures you can easily connect gaming consoles, but there is also a smart DNS feature to configure devices that don’t support VPNs. The subscriptions are affordable, starting from $2.11/month, and longer plans have a 45-day money-back guarantee.

Private Internet Access
Private Internet Access

5. Best customizable VPN for gaming

A highly flexible VPN

If you have unique priorities, you can easily change PIA app settings for optimal performance.

  • Flexible encryption
  • Data packet size compression feature
  • Over 30,000 servers in 91 countries
  • Fewer protocols to choose from
  • Based in the US (5 Eyes Alliance)

PIA’s multiple custom settings let you adapt your gaming experience depending on what you prioritize the most. You can seamlessly switch between 128-bit and 256-bit encryption, the former being faster while the latter provides advanced protection. However, both are secure and can prevent gaming-related issues, including ISP throttling and DDoS attacks.

If you’re experiencing lag problems while gaming, you can turn on the “Use Small Packets” setting to compress the size of data sent via the VPN connection. Plus, the enormous count of over 30,000 servers in 91 countries ensures you can find a gaming server anywhere without hassle.

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PIA offers a split tunneling feature that lets you route some of your traffic through the VPN while excluding others. It implies that you can use it only for gaming while other apps and websites connect to your regular internet connection. The VPN also allows you unlimited connections with plans starting from just $2.11/month.


6. Best free VPN for gaming

A trustworthy VPN option for free gaming

Opening a free Proton VPN account sets you up for secure and smooth gaming with no monthly bandwidth limits.

  • Unlimited bandwidth and speeds
  • 80+ free servers in 3 countries
  • Secure and privacy-friendly
  • Only one free user per account
  • Poor customer service

Proton VPN has one of the best free services for gaming online. It doesn’t cap bandwidth usage at all, meaning you can play or stream cloud games lag-free without worrying about hitting monthly data transfer limits.

Speeds aren’t restricted either, although you might experience unstable connections on some of the free servers because of multiple users. As a free user, you also have access to dozens of servers in three countries, namely, the US, the Netherlands, and Japan.

Although free, Proton VPN still integrates high-end security features including AES 256-bit encryption and a transparent no-logs policy. You won’t be bothered by ads, as is the case with most free services. A limitation of this free service is that you can only use one device per account. The premium account starts from $4.99/month and offers much more, including a speed boost feature.


7. Best user-friendly VPN for gaming

Easy VPN connections without breaking a sweat

Windscribe takes away the pain of frequently tweaking VPN apps by offering ready settings that you can use on the go.

  • Simple apps
  • Compatibility with Chrome/Firefox/Edge browsers
  • Secure Hotspot feature
  • Limited subscription plans
  • Unreliable customer support

Windscribe’s apps are easy to set up for gaming even if you’re using a VPN for the first time. You’ll encounter almost the same intuitive design on the Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS apps. It also offers straightforward browser extensions that you can install on Chrome, Firefox, and Microsoft Edge.

Speed is also a key strength of Windscribe. Whether you’re using the paid or free version, connections are reliable for gaming. It’s also easy to sort the list based on ping. The free version offers you servers in 11 countries, but bandwidth is restricted to 10GB/month. The premium app, however, has unlimited bandwidth and gaming servers across 63 countries and 110 cities.

Windscribe makes it super-easy to connect Xbox or PlayStation gaming consoles, thanks to a feature called Secure Hotspot (available only on Windows). It allows you to create a secured hotspot and connect all your gaming devices, especially those that don’t support VPN connections.


8. Best gaming VPN for multiple users

A VPN that covers all your devices

Having an IPVanish subscription gives you the benefit of unlimited simultaneous connections for gaming.

  • Unmetered (unlimited) connections
  • Easy to choose a gaming server
  • Customizable encryption
  • Limited features on iOS/Mac
  • Restrictive money-back policy

IPVanish lets you connect as many gaming devices as you want with a single license. Its subscriptions are pocket-friendly too, starting from $2.49/month. It offers native apps for all major devices, including Linux PCs, and routers. You can even install it on NVIDIA Shield for cloud gaming on GeForce Now.

With IPVanish’s ample distribution of 2,200+ across 75+ countries, you’re able to find servers closer to your gaming provider. Also, the server list displays latency data to help you handpick gaming servers (plus, you can use the “best server location” feature to get server recommendations anywhere).

Despite running multiple simultaneous connections, IPVanish still delivers speedy connections for lag-free online gaming. Like PIA, its settings and features are highly customizable, helping you avoid DDoS attacks and ISP throttling during intensive online gaming.

How I chose the best VPNs for gaming

When choosing the best VPN for gaming, speed and latency are highly important. However, that isn’t all, because other built-in features also impact performance. That’s why I considered a range of features in my tests as follows;

  • Fast speeds and minimal lag: The shortlisted VPNs already have a reputation for speeds, but I had to also check for ping rate. I chose them for their low latency, which ensures you can play without experiencing lagging.
  • Reliable protocols: Although the best VPN services often provide fast proprietary protocols, the WireGuard protocol is also highly recommended in any gaming VPN.
  • Large server distribution: It’s advisable to use servers near your gaming host servers. Therefore, I went for VPNs with a large server presence worldwide so that you have multiple options in any location.
  • Strong encryption and IP masking capabilities: The selected services can reliably hide your identifiable data, ensuring you don’t become a victim of ISP throttling or DDoS attacks that can heavily impact your gaming speeds.
  • Compatibility: I chose VPNs that can be installed on various gaming devices, including PCs and phones. Although gaming consoles don’t support VPNs, you can directly share connections from your VPN-installed router or laptop with Xbox or PlayStation consoles.
  • Pricing: These gaming VPNs offer affordable and flexible subscription plans, so you can easily find one that suits your budget.

Bottom Line: What is the best VPN for gaming?

The best VPN service for gaming delivers seamless online connections while keeping ping at a minimum. However, other factors, like distance and server overloads can also affect a VPN’s efficiency.

My best pick, ExpressVPN, is exceptionally fast and secure for online gaming, courtesy of a built-in protocol called Lightway. Its impressive global server network also delivers stable connections for online gaming anywhere.

ExpressVPN logo

Editor’s Choice

The most reliable VPN for gaming overall

ExpressVPN beats the competition with excellent connections and top-of-the-line features for lag-free gaming.

NordVPN is very safety-centered while remaining reliable for smooth gaming. Like ExpressVPN, it offers a fast in-house protocol but has a server footprint in slightly fewer countries.

Surfshark is a good choice for cloud gaming, thanks to the reliable network that makes it easy to find low-ping servers in your gaming host’s location.

Is a VPN good for gaming?

A VPN may give you an extra advantage when it comes to gaming. It can reduce latency (which negatively impacts your gaming experience) by offering you servers near your gaming hosts.

Secondly, it masks your IP address and identifiable details the ISPs may use to throttle your connection speeds (after seeing that you’re using a lot of bandwidth). Other players also can’t launch DDoS attacks to slow down your speeds because your IP isn’t visible.

Plus, a VPN lets you find geographically restricted games that aren’t available in your region (or are expensive in your location). It even offers protection from cyber threats and attacks while gaming online.

Which is the best country to connect VPN for gaming?

A server location nearby gives you the best connections for gaming. But if the gaming hosts far away from you, you should connect to servers near their location. That way, your data travels through a direct route, minimizing speed and ping losses that happen if a connection bounces on multiple servers. Some VPNs offer an auto-connect feature that instantly chooses a fast server based on your location.

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