Whether it is the billion dollar eSports industry or the insane rise of games such as World of Warcraft, League of Legends, or Counter-Strike, it’s easy to see how popular online gaming has become. Indeed, new games like Overwatch, PlayerUnknown’s BattleGrounds, and Rocket League have only further boosted the online gaming scene.
Quick Links to our 5 best VPNs for Gaming
Of course, the same dangers that plague any online activity (hacking, geographic restrictions, ISP throttling) can also occur when playing your favorite game online. Using a gaming VPN also gives you extra security benefits that a firewall or antivirus can’t offer. Let’s go over why you might be looking for a gaming VPN!
- Unblock online gaming with A VPN
- Protect yourself when gaming online
- Potentially reduce multiplayer lag
- Access games early with a VPN
- Can I get a free gaming VPN?
As you can see, there are many potential uses of a VPN when gaming online. I answer these questions in detail below, along with why you might not want to use a VPN for online gaming at the very bottom of this page. Alright, let’s get started!
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- Servers in almost 100 countries
- User-friendly apps
- Excellent customer service
- 30-day money back guarantee
- Some connection logs kept
ExpressVPN often comes as our top recommendation for VPNs for gaming, as they have carefully assembled a service that is easy to learn and performs remarkably well. There are server locations in almost every major country, as well as impressive apps for Mac, Windows, and Linux, with iOS and Android devices also covered. ExpressVPN even offers unique VPN apps for routers, including Linksys WRT models and a wide range of ASUS RT series routers. Up to 23 different payment options (including Bitcoin), and subject to British Virgin Islands laws (no jurisdiction here for the NSA!) mean they are an excellent choice for privacy as well. Impressive customer service through live chat and e-mail, and an extensive knowledgebase are also great reasons to choose ExpressVPN. Gaming without a VPN is like leaving your front door unlocked while you are at work for the day. Protect yourself using ExpressVPN using the link below.
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- Bitcoin payment
- Double data encryption
- Servers in 61+ countries
- Up to six simultaneous connections
- Slightly expensive
If you are located in the US and privacy is of great importance to you, NordVPN might just be the best pick for you. NordVPN has a reputation for taking encryption very seriously, as evidenced by its “DoubleVPN” encryption system. This system allows NordVPN to encrypt inbound and outbound data with AES-256-CBC encryption not once, but twice! NordVPN is also based in Panama, and it emerged from the recent Panama Papers scandal unscathed – erasing any doubts regarding logging policies. Tor users will also be happy to see NordVPN’s support for Tor over VPN. NordVPN does have slightly higher prices and slower speeds (due to heavy encryption), although a nice touch is that a three-day trial to test out the service before purchasing. Check out the second-best Gaming VPN using the link below.
- Up to five simultaneous connections
- 30-day money back guarantee
- Impressive Speeds
- Only Windows client
Hungary VPN provider Buffered is the best option, for many reason, firstly as they aren't subject to Five Eyes or DRD legislation, so you don't have to worry about your usage logs being seized by any prying government institution like you would with a US VPN. They also offer connection to their service for up to five devices at the same time, meaning you can potentially cover your entire household with just one account! Buffered also boast some of the fastest speeds we have experienced. This is a solid choice if you plan on engaging in any P2P activity or streaming content. Servers in 39 countries (including Mexico, Canada, and Brazil) also mean you have a ton of options to choose from when selecting your location. Not convinced by Buffered's impressive service? Take advantage of the 30-day money back guarantee and give it a spin for yourself.
- No logs
- 5-day money back guarantee
- Free smart Domain Name System (DNS)
- Based in US
StrongVPN was created by another veteran of the internet that expanded into providing VPN services. This VPN has servers in 45 cities, located in 24 countries. The company has a particularly big presence in the US, which is its home country. Some might caution you against using a US-based service if you want to download pirated entertainment, because copyright lawyers there are very adept at leaning on digital service providers for information. However, the company keeps no logs, so there wouldn't be any information for it to give away, even it was taken to court. The support team is particularly skilled and available 24 hours a day.
- Servers in 190+ countries
- User-friendly apps
- Free anonymous email service
- Some concerns with speed
HMA has servers in more countries than any other provider. Right now it hosts servers in more than 190 countries. That’s about every country on the planet with a solid internet infrastructure capable of hosting high-speed connections. I don’t like the fact that you’re only allowed two simultaneous connections per account, though. Although, if you’re a single user with only a couple of devices, and no desire of sharing your VPN account, it shouldn’t matter. Lastly, it is based in Britain, which is not ideal as the UK is a Five Eyes participant.
Do I need a gaming VPN?
Unblock online gaming with a VPN
As is the case with streaming services like Netflix or BBC iPlayer, certain games can be blocked in certain regions or countries. For example, Red Dead Redemption, Heavy Rain, and L.A. Noire are all banned in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, while Pokemon Go and Battlefield 3 are forbidden in Iran.
Bypass restrictions where you live. Simply sign up to a VPN, connect to a server where the game isn’t blocked, and start playing!
Another issue that some gamers experience with online gaming is the blocking of ports used by certain games. A good example of this would be a workplace, school, or hotel closing certain ports that are used to access World of Warcraft (commonly TCP and UDP ports 3724, 1119, 6012). Using a VPN allows you to bypass these firewalls and enjoy gaming wherever you might be!
Protecting your PC while gaming
The rise in popularity of eSports and competitive gaming has likewise increased the number of dirty tactics used by gamers looking to gain an edge. One of these methods that has quickly spread (especially in the MOBA scene) is the use of DDOS attacks by a spiteful opponent usually on the losing side. Read more about DDOS prevention with online gaming in this guide!
Additionally, hackers can also get a hold of personal information connected with your online gaming profile. A few examples of this could be hacking World of Warcraft accounts, scamming your Steam account, or – worst-case scenario – stealing the credit card information you used to sign up for games!
Sounds pretty scary right? Luckily, the encryption offered by a VPN can significantly reduce the chances of your identity being compromised during online play.
Potentially reduce lag for multiplayer
Finally, another reason for gamers to use a VPN is to reduce ping or “lag” in online games. While not a solution that will work in every situation, a VPN could help you stabilize your connection or allow you to connect to different servers that might perform better.
It is worth mentioning that due to the nature of VPNs, you might actually experience a poor connection to a game server when using a VPN. Getting better ping or latency with a VPN only works in specific situations (such as dropped packets and ISP throttling).
If you are looking into using a VPN for gaming, I would recommend trying one out to see the effect on your internet connection before committing to a long-term plan.
Unblock games early with a VPN
One of the great features of using a VPN is connecting to different regions to access content that isn’t available where you are. Taking advantage of time zone differences could allow you to play games hours before they are officially released in your country!
For instance, connecting to a New Zealand VPN server from California could allow you to play a game nearly a full day before it is released! This is great news for streamers and competitive players looking to get a head start on everyone else.
Let me give you a fair warning on unblocking games earlier with a VPN. While all gaming platforms operate differently (Xbox is completely region-free), purchasing a game from Steam using a VPN could violate the Steam terms of service. Proceed with caution!
Can I get a free gaming VPN?
You might’ve arrived on this page looking for a free gaming VPN. While there certainly are some free VPNs out there, there are some drawbacks worth mentioning. For starters, a free VPN will probably come with some sort of bandwidth limit (usually around 1 GB/month) and speed restrictions that can make online gaming nearly impossible.
Additionally, a free gaming VPN could also skimp on the security and privacy features of a VPN service, which could actually put your PC at even greater risk. Check out this recent article on free VPNs and malware for more information.
If you do want to try out a gaming VPN to see if it could help you, I recommend trying one of the reputable VPN providers I’ve listed in this article. All the VPNs I’ve listed come with money-back guarantees, while NordVPN even has a three-day free trial you can take advantage of to see if it’s the right service for you!
VPNs and Gaming: Conclusion
Before I wrap this up, I’ll also add another quick word on something I mentioned earlier regarding VPNs and speed loss for gaming. While in some rare cases a VPN might improve your connection (packet loss, or if your ISP is throttling your internet speed), the speed loss that comes with using a VPN is all but inevitable.
A VPN creates a secure tunnel between your device and the chosen VPN server, encrypting all data that goes through it. Unfortunately, this extra encryption will take longer to send or receive, resulting in slower speeds. That being said, finding a VPN server that is relatively close to your actual location will give you the best chance for a lag-free gaming experience.
I hope this has helped you choose the best VPN for gaming. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below!
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