A VPN for gaming? Surely that’s a daft idea, you might well think to yourself, given that using even one of the best VPNs – 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. Fortnite blocked? Using a Virtual Private Network is the obvious solution.
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.
- Check out the best VPN
Top 5 VPNs for gaming in 2019
Best all-round VPN for gaming
Number of servers: 3000+ | Server locations: 160 | IP addresses: N/A | Maximum devices supported: 3
With 148 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, plus you get a bonus three months. 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:
- [$6.67 a month] 15-months (with 3 free months) - $99.95
- [$9.99 a month] 6-months - $59.95
- [$12.95 a month] 1-month
2. Hotspot Shield
Best balance of performance and price
Number of servers: 2,500+ | Server locations: 25 | IP addresses: N/A | Maximum devices supported: 5
Hotspot Shield gave us some amazing performance, one of the best we've seen. You'll hardly feel any slow down even on long distance servers. That's mainly due to the Catapult Hydra protocol that the provider uses. In addition, the service is quite simple to use, with one On/Off button in the center.
Sadly, Hotspot Shield doesn't have that many server locations, but the awesome performance makes up for that. The service also offers native apps for Android and iOS, both being very similar in performance and simplicity.
Excluding the monthly plan, Hotspot Shield offers great value with their annual pricing and you also get a 45-day money back guarantee. The 2-year plan is the best choice since it gives you the best savings. The packages available are:
Fastest overall VPN
Number of servers: 700+ | Server locations: 70+ | IP addresses: 200,000+ | Maximum devices supported: 5
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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 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
Great mix of power and performance
Number of servers: 1200+ | Server locations: 60+ | IP addresses: 40000+ | Maximum devices supported: 10
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:
5. Buffered VPN
Best for ping
Number of servers: N/A | Server locations: 37 | IP addresses: N/A | Maximum devices supported: 5
With servers in 37 locations, 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 have both Android and iOS as an option. Furthermore, setup instructions are given for manually configuring smartphones and tablets for the more tech-savvy.
Buffered VPN is among the pricier providers, although the 2-year plan is cost-effective. Unfortunately, the old refund policy isn't valid anymore, and now you just get the standard 30-day money back guarantee. The packages available are:
- We’ve rounded up the best free VPN
How to choose the best gaming VPN
There are a couple of things you need to pay attention to if you want to muster the best gaming experience from a VPN. 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.