A VPN for gaming? Surely that’s a daft idea, you might well think to yourself, given that using a VPN – encrypting traffic and routing it through a server – can potentially affect performance, with the danger of a higher ping time and a slower connection in general.
And we’re not going to argue with you in terms of these possible pitfalls, but that said, there are a number of good reasons why you might want to use a VPN for playing games online.
One of the more obvious ones is unrestricted access. A VPN allows you to unblock games that are geo-restricted, access servers locked to other regions and play anything freely from any part of the world.
There’s also the ever-present consideration of security. Using a VPN can increase your protection against DDoS attacks, and it’s not unheard of for these to be used as a weapon against online opponents, particularly when it comes to competitive gaming.
And there’s always a chance that the VPN connection will actually reduce your ping time and improve download/upload speeds, which all affect the responsiveness of your game (although ping is by far the most important consideration). Of course, it’s difficult to state this categorically, and everyone’s mileage will vary, but in some of our VPN testing, we’ve actually found our connection to be faster with the VPN turned on compared to our standard rates.
How to choose the best VPN service for gaming
There are a couple of things you need to pay attention to if you want to muster the best gaming experience from a VPN service. The more servers the firm has available, the better, as this will increase your chances of finding a fast connection.
Speedy performance levels are obviously important, as is having a stable and reliable connection. Finally, be on the lookout for handy bonus features like DDoS protection and dedicated gaming servers.
Now that we’ve made all that clear, below are our five top choices for the best VPN for gaming.
Best all-round VPN for gaming
Number of servers: 700+ | Server locations: 60+ | IP addresses: 40000+ | Maximum devices supported: 5
IPVanish runs its own network and infrastructure, and this shows in terms of performance – in our testing, we found this service up to five times faster than some rivals over short hops, with excellent download speeds all-round.
This provider also offers a good number of servers in over 60 countries, and it’s easy to find a solid server – indeed you can sort by ping time, and usage options which allow you to hunt specifically for servers tailored for gaming.
The drawback here is pricing, as IPVanish is a bit more expensive than your average VPN. There’s no free trial either, but subscriptions do come with a 7-day money-back guarantee. Out of the three available plans, the 1-year plan offers the best value-for-money. The packages available are:
Fastest overall VPN
Number of servers: 700+ | Server locations: 70+ | IP addresses: 200,000+ | Maximum devices supported: 3-5
VyprVPN is also a tier-1 network with its own servers and infrastructure, offering some impressive performance levels as a result. Indeed, in our tests we found our download rates increased by a factor of 2.5 with this VPN.
The service features a worldwide server network with plenty of locations and 200,000+ IP addresses, plus there’s a NAT firewall to block unrequested inbound traffic and a host of easy-to-use apps for almost every device.
One point to bear in mind is that VyprVPN doesn’t do refunds on any grounds, but you can test the service with a free three-day trial (there’s also a 500MB/month free plan, although that’s of limited use here).
There are only two subscription plans to choose from: Basic or Premium, and you can subscribe on either a monthly or annual basis. The Basic plan offers three connections while Premium gives you five and is generally the better option. The packages available are:
- Basic: $9.95 monthly or $3.75 per month billed annually
- Premium: $12.95 monthly or $5.00 per month billed annually
Best VPN for mobile gaming
Number of servers: N/A | Server locations: 145 | IP addresses: N/A | Maximum devices supported: 3
With 145 different locations across 94 countries, ExpressVPN should allow you to find a swift server from anywhere in the world. The service excels in the mobile department by offering intuitive custom apps, in particular for Android and iOS. Naturally, all of that means nothing without solid speeds and this VPN certainly delivers in that regard with very good performance levels overall.
ExpressVPN costs more than most VPNs and there’s no free trial available to get a sneak preview. If you opt to sign up, the 1-year plan is the most affordable choice. However, if you're not satisfied with the service, you can contact customer support within 30 days of your purchase and get a full refund, no questions asked. The packages available are:
Best balance of performance and price
Number of servers: 500+ | Server locations: 180 | IP addresses: 80,000+ | Maximum devices supported: 5
PureVPN did well in our performance testing, actually improving download speeds by a large amount – 80% compared to our non-VPN rates – with latency only being around 5% higher than normal.
PureVPN runs its own network of servers and the firm guarantees a 99.9% uptime. This provider boasts wide server coverage with a presence across 141 countries, and competitive gamers will be happy to know that DDoS protection is also offered. Furthermore, you get a good selection of software clients on desktop and mobile.
There is no free trial unfortunately, and while the annual subscription is pretty competitive, the monthly option works out to be quite expensive (and the middle-ground 6-month plan isn’t very cheap, either). The packages available are:
Best VPN for ping
Number of servers: N/A | Server locations: 37 | IP addresses: N/A | Maximum devices supported: 5
With servers in 37 countries, Buffered VPN offers decent global coverage, but it’s the performance which is of most interest here – specifically the low latency offered. In our tests, this provider actually gave us slightly lower ping times than our normal connection, with fast upload speeds to boot (although download speeds weren’t so hot).
That said, if you’re into mobile gaming, you’ll probably want to look elsewhere as the service doesn’t have any native mobile clients (setup instructions are given for configuring smartphones and tablets, though, for the more tech-savvy).
Buffered VPN is among the pricier providers, even if you opt for a 12-month plan which is the best option. At least there’s a sterling refund policy here, allowing you to get your money back as long as you haven’t gone over any of the following limits: 10 hours, 100 sessions or 10GB of bandwidth. The packages available are: