Gamers will do almost anything to get an edge. And many gamers are turning to a surprising tool: a gaming VPN.
Traditionally known for encryption and security, VPN services designed for gamers can offer specific advantages that will take your FPS and RPG performance to the next level.
Advantages of using a VPN for gaming:
- Prevent game throttling by your ISP
- Improve ping times by changing your server location
- Block DDOS attacks
- Access region-locked DLC
Not every VPN is suitable for gaming use. A small handfull of VPNs have specifically tailored their performance to the demanding needs of high-performance gamers. Some have even developed their own gaming advantage network known as a GPN which can shave precious milliseconds off your ping.
This guide will go in-depth on the recommended gaming VPNs below…
but here’s a quick list of our top picks:
The ‘Secret’ Benefits of a Gaming VPN
Your PUBG, Team Fortress and LOL competition is probably using a VPN already, and you don’t even know it. Why? Using a VPN can lead to improved ping times, unlock content early, and reduce (or eliminate) DDOS attacks entirely. It’s a must-have weapon in any serious gamer’s arsenal.
You’re a serious gamer aren’t you?
Here’s a breakdown of the potential benefits…
Reduce throttling and lower ping
Throttling is the dirty little sercret that your internet provider doesn’t want you to know about. You see, ISP’s in the USA (and worldwide) like to ‘prioritize’ certain types of traffic (and slow other types). Not surprisingly, high-bandwidth internet uses like video streaming (twitch) and gaming are usually in the ‘low-priority’ category.
Why you should care: If your ISP is throttling gaming packets, then your ping is much higher than it should be. This creates lag and reduces your gaming performance.
How a VPN helps: In order to throttle certain traffic, your ISP has to be able to read, sort, and separate your traffic. A VPN encrypts all your data before it flows through your ISP’s server, making it impossible to throttle just gaming traffic.
A VPN will already help improve ping once you block throttling once and for all, but there’s another way you can shave precious milliseconds…
Most games will automatically connect you to the closest server, but that’s not always the fastest server. Sometimes nearby servers are way too crowded, affecting performance. You can use a VPN to change your location to one slightly further away, but with a much faster server.
Early Access to Games
Many multiplayer games now roll out in stages or regions instead of all at once. This is to help scale the server network and eliminate bugs before the full release.
But you don’t want to wait for the full rollout do you? Player Unknown Battleground took months to go to a wide release, and you might have been on the outside looking in.
The Problem: Games might not release right away in your country/region
The Solution: A VPN allows you to choose your location/region and get a ‘virtual’ IP address that can allow you to game from any region in the world, and get early access to geo-restricted games.
Unblock Region-locked DLC
DLC (Downloadable Content) can really take your gaming experience to a new level. Whether it’s new maps, or exclusive items for personlization, everybody loves DLC swag.
But did you know that DLC isn’t distributed fairly?
- Some countries may have exclusive DLC you can’t access
- Some regions may get free DLC that your region has to pay for
- Prices for the same DLC can vary by region
and this is true across most gaming networks, including PC, Steam, Xboxlive and Playstation/PS4.
Fortunately, switching your region can be as easy as getting a new VPN IP address (and virtual location).
The Problem: Other countries get early access, or free/cheap DLC
The Solution: Use a VPN to change your virtual location and get dat SWAG
Prevent DDOS attacks
But DDOS attacks can also be directed at your IP address individually, gradually slowing your connection until the game is completely unplayable (and your online ranking getting crushed).
But a VPN can minimize your exposure to even laser-targeted DDOS attacks.
- If you use a VPN, the DDOS attack would have to be targeted at the VPN server which is much more resilient (and actively monitored) than your home internet connection.
- You can just switch your server/ip address to instantly sidestep the DDOS attack.
The Problem: DDOS attacks are hurting your win rate or gaming experience
The Solution: Let the VPN company handle the DDOS attack while you switch servers/IP’s.
The Best Gamer-Friendly VPN’s
Most VPNs can offer some of the benefits of a true gaming VPN (like unblocking region-locked content). But in order to unleash the speed advantages and ping reductions you crave, you’ll need something better than average.
These are the best VPNs for gamers that we’ve found. They put speed first, and many even have gamer-specific tech like improved peering for game servers and DDOS protection.
#1 – IPVanish ($6.49 + 20% bonus savings)
How do they do it? The founding parent company of IPVanish (Highwinds Networks) is one of the largest data backbone CDN’s in the world. They quite literally own a piece of the internet infrastructure, so they have a speed advantage other companies simply can’t match.
Then in 2014 they kicked it up a notch by adding Lag Assassin to their network. This is a GDN (Gaming Delivery Network) technology designed specifically to reduce ping times for gamers and route traffic faster and more efficiently to gaming servers.
Review/Speedtest: IPVanish complete review
SAVE 20%: Use Coupon Code SAVE20NOW during checkout (limited time offer).
#2 – ExpressVPN
ExpressVPN is an extremely fast VPN service with one of the largest global footprints in the industry. They have servers on 6 continents and 70+ countries, so you can get DLC from anywhere in the world. ExpressVPN has specifically targeted the gaming niche, with DDOS protected servers and 256-bit encryption security.
ExpressVPN is isn’t just for gaming either. They’re a top choice as a streaming and anti-throttling VPN, and they’re one of the last VPNs that isn’t blocked by Netflix. They even support high-privacy VPN uses such as torrenting, filesharing, and Kodi (install it on your fire stick).
The downside is that ExpressVPN is one of the most expensive mainstream VPNs. Users love their service (but you’re gonna have to pay up). Plans range from $8.32/month (1 year subscription) to $12.95/month.
Trial Offer/Refund: All plans come with a 100% refund guarantee for the first 30 days, so you can try ExpressVPN for a full month.
#3 – VyprVPN
VyprVPN is an excellent gaming VPN and would’ve ranked higher on this list except for one thing. They don’t really like torrent downloads/filesharing on their network (and our research suggests you gamers like to torrent).
That said, they have many of the speed advantages of IPVanish (Vypr is also owns internet infrastructure).
Vypr also has the flat-out best software in the business, and has for years. It’s fast, stable, powerful and intuitive. Vypr is Netflix-compatible, including on mobile devices.
They also take privacy extremely seriously, with private, encrypted DNS servers (keep your ISP from snooping/selling your web history). They’ve also got a proprietary stealth VPN protocol called ‘Chameleon’ to help you slip through vpn-blocking firewalls undetected.
#4 – NordVPN
NordVPN deserves consideration as a solid all-around VPN service that will work well for gamers. They’re speeds aren’t quite up to the same standards of IPVanish, Vypr, and Express, but they make up for that in features. NordVPN is a truly ‘logless’ VPN, specializing in maximum privacy.
Nord also has dedicated anti-DDOS servers, optimized for gaming performance.
Their software is available on all major device types (including mobile) and works with Netflix thanks to SmartPlayTM technology.
All plans come with a 30 day 100% refund guarantee.
Are there any Free Gaming VPNs?
Everybody loves free, and we constantly get asked whether there’s a free VPN option that’s as good as the paid/premium services. The answer is obvious. Of course not.
Servers and bandwidth (not to mention developers and security) cost alot of money, and free VPNs have to cut costs everywhere. And they usually cut bandwidth first, cramming 2, 3, or even 10 times as many users on the same server compared to a top-tier VPN service like IPVanish.
Bottom Line: Free VPNs will rarely (if ever) have fast enough speeds to improve (or even maintain) gaming performance. And that’s before you consider the privacy risk of being the product instead of the customer.
OK but I’m broke, and I still want one…
If you must use a free VPN, we’d be happy to help you find a good option.
Free VPNs to that may offer acceptable gaming performance:
- Hide.me VPN: They give you 2GB of free bandwidth each month. That should be worth a few hours of gaming at least.
- Cyberghost VPN: Cyberghost has both premium and free plans. The free plan is ad-supported, has limited server locations, and has limited speeds. On the plus side, you get unlimited bandwidth monthly (no data cap).
And for the love of god, don’t use HolaVPN or Betternet. Trust us.
Other Questions about gaming with a VPN
Here’s a quick FAQ with answers to common questions:
What platforms work with a gaming VPN?
You can use a VPN with any gaming platform, including PC, Mobile, Xbox one or PS4. The two easiest platforms to use with a VPN are PC (or mac) and Android/iOS. This is because there are native VPN apps built for these platforms.
There are no such VPN apps for Xbox or PS4, so the only way to use a VPN with these platforms is to connect them to the internet through a VPN -enabled router. We recommend ASUS VPN-compatible routers as the best option, and have tutorials showing you exactly how to set everything up.
How do you set up the VPN for gaming?
If you’re using a PC, Mac or Smartphone, then you can simply install and run the VPN application. The app will handle all encryption and server connections behind the scenes, all you have to do is choose a server location. There is no manual configuration required within the game itself.
Can you use a VPN to get unbanned?
Most gaming bans are IP-based, so if you can switch your IP you can get unblocked/unbanned. A VPN is the easiest tool to quickly switch your gaming IP so it should help you get around most blocks. Of course circumventing blocks may be against the TOS of some games, so keep that in mind.
A solid gaming VPN may help improve your gaming but it’s not a magic bullet. You should choose a VPN more with the other benefits in mind, such as:
- Early access to region-restricted games
- Region-locked DLC
- Getting around IP address bans
You’ll also find you love the non-gaming benefits of a VPN, which includes secured connections on unsecured networks, anonymous torrenting, and access to global video streaming services to name a few.
Live long and game hard.