We know that when you’re gaming, performance is everything. That’s why a lot of gamers rankle at the thought of using a virtual private network while playing, but trust us — the benefits are well worth it.
That is, only if you’re using the right VPN. There are tons of VPNs on the market: Some are optimized for streaming, some are better for torrenting, and still others are just geared toward all-out digital protection, but a select few are tuned in to the needs of gamers in particular.
With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of our top three favorite VPNs for gamers. Whether on console or on PC — these services have got you covered.
One of the most well-rounded VPNs out there, ExpressVPN offers the perfect balance of speed and security for gamers.
Without a doubt, ExpressVPN is one of the best services out there for gamers. This VPN hits all the high notes for us.
When we put ExpressVPN to the test, we found nearly no latency at all when it was running — something we know is extremely important when you’re gaming. Their server network is one of the most responsive we’ve seen, and their connections are extremely reliable — which means it’s rare you’re ever going to experience an interruption.
On top of that, they’ve got one of the most advanced security postures we’ve ever seen in a VPN. Their servers are all RAM-only, meaning that none of your data is ever stored, and they use 256-bit encryption, which is essentially military-grade.
Now we will say they are a bit on the pricey side. If you check out our guide to ExpressVPN’s costs, you’ll see what we’re talking about. That said, they do offer a 30-day, money-back guarantee, so if you’re not pleased with your overall experience, you’re not going to be on the hook for anything.
One thing comes to mind when we think about NordVPN — speed. Performance is extremely important for gamers, and NordVPN offers that in spades.
We’ll get right down to it — this is the fastest VPN we’ve ever tested. In our review of NordVPN, we were blown away by the fact that while using the service, our speeds actually increased. This is pretty unheard of in the VPN world. For gamers, this means no slowdowns at all. So, say goodbye to that dreaded lag.
But speed is only one side of the story with NordVPN. They’ve also got some pretty advanced features coupled with solid core protections. Not only are they virtually impervious to hackers and other bad actors, they offer VPN-into-Tor capability right out of the box. So that means once you’re done fragging your friends, you can browse the internet in nearly complete anonymity.
Finally, NordVPN offers their own proprietary protocol called NordLynx. Some VPN-using gamers have called this the gold standard both for stability and speed, and only Nord’s got it. While they aren’t the cheapest option out there — read our guide to NordVPN prices to get a more clear picture on that front — you certainly will see where the money is going.
Surfshark is kind of a sleeper in the VPN world, but is a personal favorite. It’s great for anyone looking for a well-rounded VPN, and they’re especially helpful for gamers.
Surfshark is a bit of a black horse in the field of VPNs, but hear us out: It’s got some of the best speeds we’ve encountered, some of the most advanced protections in the industry, and it’s one of the most privacy-minded services out there.
In our Surfshark VPN review, one thing that immediately jumped out to us was how easy it is to use, and how simple the user interface is. It’s literally one click, and you’re protected.
We were also extremely impressed with their speeds, and we think you will be too. In our tests, we discovered almost no latency, which means that your gaming experience shouldn’t be slowed down at all.
They also offer some pretty advanced features for a VPN so modestly priced. Check out our guide to Surfshark’s costs and plans for more on that. They’re offering functions like multi-VPN connectivity, geographic-specific protections, and pass-through options so some outbound data is encrypted and some isn’t, depending on your preferences. Again, this redoubles your ability to keep speeds lighting-fast. Overall, Surfshark is a great option for console or PC gamers.
Safety, first and foremost. The unsecured internet can be a scary place, and if you’re gaming, you’re coming into contact with strangers all the time. If you rub someone the wrong way with your IP address exposed, there’s no telling what can happen.
Swatting — in case you’re unaware — is when one miffed gamer calls the police on another and tells them the victim has weapons and is threatening violence. This is taken very seriously by police, who will often respond with a SWAT team. Obviously this becomes a very tense situation very quickly and has led to violence and even death.
How does the perpetrator know where the victim lives? You guessed it: their IP address. You know how to prevent people from knowing your IP address? You guessed it again: by using a VPN.
FYI: Want to see how our two favorite VPNs stacked up against each other head to head? Check out our NordVPN vs. ExpressVPN tale of the tape.
Now we’re not saying that swatting is so commonplace that it requires preventative measures be taken, or that’s all VPNs are good for. There are plenty of other, less flashy activities that they can prevent, like DDoS (distributed denial of service) attacks. While these are far lower stakes than swatting, they will bump you off-line and cause quite a few headaches to work around.
Overall, you just want to be safe online while you’re enjoying your games. VPNs offer that peace of mind and more.
That all depends. There are myriad factors that go into your speeds, from your internet service provider to the hardware you’re using, to the time of day you’re connecting. It is true that VPNs can slow you down — sometimes significantly.
Pro Tip: Want to make sure your speeds remain constant? Look for a VPN with a pass-through that allows you to select which traffic is encrypted and which isn’t.
However, if you’re using one of the VPN’s we’ve suggested — or really, any in our roundup of the top 10 VPNs of 2021 — it’s highly unlikely that you’re going to experience slowdowns significant enough that you’ll notice.
At the end of the day, safety should come before entertainment. Or we think so, anyway. And the fact of the matter is the internet is a pretty dangerous place, and all the more so if you’re regularly interacting with strangers through video games.
You never know who you’re interacting with, or what their ultimate intentions are, so it’s better to play it safe and run a VPN while you’re slaying those dragons.
Simply put, the larger the network, the less latency you’ll have. Choosing a VPN server close to your gaming server will help reduce ping, and the more options you have, the better.
This goes without saying, but if you’re gaming, you want a VPN that’s fast. This depends on quite a few factors — network size being one of them — but almost every VPN on the market has had some sort of independent speed test performed on them. Do a little research, and pick the fastest option with the features you’re looking for.
We know, we know: You don’t want to be interrupted while you’re gaming. But if your VPN is interrupted for whatever reason, you want a VPN that’ll kill your internet connection, lest your real IP address becomes exposed.
Some VPNs offer unlimited connections, others cap it depending on your subscription. If you’re gaming on multiple devices, this will certainly become a factor in which VPN you choose.
Similar to connections, some VPNs throttle your connection based on your data usage. If you’re an avid gamer, you’re going to want to select a VPN that allows unlimited data consumption.
We’re not forgetting about you, mobile gamers. You’re most at risk when you're out and about and connecting to unfamiliar networks. Select a VPN that has a strong mobile client to stay protected no matter where you are.