‘We rigorously test VPNs on a weekly basis to ensure they match our strict gaming criteria of speed, stability, performance, and security so you don’t have to.’

On the surface, it may seem counterintuitive to use a VPN for any type of gaming. After all, you’re sending encrypted data to another location which will surely slow down your speeds, increase ping and lag times compared to your standard internet connection?  

Not so fast.  

While the wrong VPN can leave you in a haze of loading screens, awful graphics, and an all-around bad time, the right VPN can oftentimes help you overcome ISP throttling, avoid inconsistent speeds and allow you to access rich rewards and servers unavailable in your own country.  

We’ll take a deep dive into everything you need to know from setup and installation to optimum VPNs, frequently asked questions, and much more.  

Let’s get started. 

What are the Advantages?

There are a few solid reasons why you would want a VPN for gaming. Make no mistake, depending on where you are in the world, a VPN won’t be a perfect fit for everyone. But for many of you, access to rich rewards, optimum servers, and a dearth of other real-world advantages, a VPN will be a game-changer. 

Access to region-specific games and rewards

Almost every streaming service offers region-specific titles and DLC that are unavailable anywhere else and with games, it’s no different. From severs and rewards to entire games, it can be frustrating seeing others enjoy different aspects of gaming just because they’re in a different country or continent.   

With a VPN, simply change your location to the one where all the action is and you’re good to go.  

Not limited to servers or games, a VPN can also help you access region-specific rewards. One of the most popular examples of this is PUBG where certain gun skins and rewards are limited to a specific country but a VPN can also be used for almost any global game with multiple servers such as Pokemon Go and Legends of Runeterra. 

Tired of waiting for a lobby to fill up? Simply switch the server using a VPN to a busier one. Want a quieter game? Switch to a quieter one.  

Not limited to gaming, a VPN can help you circumnavigate the same geo-blocked content in order to access different Netflix libraries and even certain anime sites that restrict their content as well. We recently covered the crypto gaming site Roobet in one of our recent posts.  

It’s important to note that some developers aren’t overly excited by changing locations and reaping rewards that shouldn’t be available to you so it’s always best to use a backup account.  

ISP Throttling

Internet throttling is when your ISP intentionally limits your internet bandwidth or speed. Providers do this for a number of reasons including network congestion, data caps, and paid prioritisation, which usually results in a terrible connection for all involved.  

If you’re ever experienced a sudden drop in speeds whilst watching a YouTube video or browsing Twitter, ISP throttling will likely have been the culprit.  

When gaming, this can result in the stuff of nightmares.  

Luckily, the right VPN can overcome ISP throttling by anonymizing your internet activity which in turn means you can’t be singled out as someone to throttle leaving you free to play as long as you like.  

Gaming services

Cloud gaming services such as Google Stadia and Xcloud have increased in popularity since their launches a short time ago but with limited availability, not everyone has the opportunity to use them. 

Google Stadia for example, only has around 20+ locations where it’s possible to use their service. With a VPN, you can change your location to one of the below countries and enjoy everything it has to offer.  

  • United States
  • Canada 
  • United Kingdom 
  • France 
  • Italy 
  • Germany 
  • Austria 
  • Spain 
  • Sweden 
  • Switzerland 
  • Denmark 
  • Norway
  • Finland 
  • Belgium 
  • Ireland 
  • Netherlands 
  • Poland 
  • Portugal 
  • Czechia 
  • Slovakia 
  • Romania 
  • Hungary 

DDoS Protection

DDoS or Distributed Denial of Service attack is a malicious attempt to disrupt the normal traffic of a targeted server, service, or network by overwhelming the target or its surrounding infrastructure with a flood of Internet traffic. Doesn’t sound good right? They’re actually more commonplace than you might think with recent examples such as Titanfall and Apex Legends suffering from DDoS attacks.    

They aren’t bulletproof but the correct VPN can definitely help take the brunt of the attack and allow you to change server and continue gaming in relative peace 

IP Bans

Games and developers ban people for a number of different reasons including violating their terms of service etc and for those without a VPN it can be impossible to reverse. 

For global games like Fortnite, Epic Games (the developers behind Fortnite) uses your IP address as a unique signifier to identify that it’s your device online. If they deem you to have violated their terms of service, you can have your IP address banned from connecting to any Fortnite servers in the future. With a VPN, you can just simply change to a different server and connect normally.  

Play while travelling

It’s almost impossible to even imagine gaming abroad at this moment in time when travel restrictions still affect a large majority of the world. But when these restrictions are lifted and we’re all back to some normality, you may come across issues where game marketplaces such as Steam reject payments if you’re IP address doesn’t match your chosen location.  

A VPN can again help you circumnavigate this issue by changing your IP address to the country in question. It’s definitely a niche benefit but good to know in any case.

Discord

Discords’ popularity hasn’t reached every country on earth with a few notable countries such as the UAE, Egypt, and Oman imposing partial or, in the case of UAE, full blocks to their service. 

For those residing in countries with limited access to Discord then a VPN can help you access and enjoy the service at will.  We cover the topic of internet censorship in a FAQ further below but It must be said that the countries we mentioned at the start of the post with strict  

Disadvantages

There is only one disadvantage to using a VPN while gaming and is entirely dependent on personal circumstances – speed. If you have a terrible internet connection to start with, using a VPN isn’t likely to solve your problems (even though we have seen examples of increased speed) as the additional distance to servers and newly encrypted data usually decreases speeds slightly.  

This is especially prevalent if you choose a poor VPN provider or don’t test which provider is best for you. 

Opt for a subpar VPN and you’ll likely see your speeds suffer as a result whereas a VPN with gaming and streaming credentials like the ones featured below will help alleviate the additional encryption and manage your speeds accordingly.  

Basic installation

Now you’re armed with the knowledge on how a VPN can help or assist whichever facet of gaming you wish to enjoy; the next step is installation. There are a few different ways to set up a VPN so that you get all the benefits on whichever device you’re going to use. 

We’ll cover the three main ways in a series of quick and easy steps but we’ll also be publishing an in-depth article soon which looks at each step more thoroughly as most consoles are not directly compatible with VPN software.  

Installing a VPN on your router

Installing a VPN on your router has its benefits and drawbacks and is definitely not for everyone but it’s the most secure option available as it covers every device connected to the network. 

However, if you don’t have a VPN specific router already then, you’re already looking to spend money you’d rather not as you’ll need to either buy a specialised router that can handle VPN traffic or a router from a VPN provider direct. If you’re just testing to see if a VPN is the solution to your problems, then neither of these will be attractive options.

Alternatively, if you know a VPN is for you and you’re happy with the speeds you’re getting then these can be game-changing.  

To see the exact steps on how to connect, check out our Roku VPN guide which details everything you need to know.  

PC (Windows)

Before we go any further, you’ll need an Ethernet cable for both the Windows and macOS setup and you’ll need to ensure both have Ethernet ports, console compatibility, and a WIFI adapter.  

We’ve added some helpful links for Xbox One and PS4 setups as well.  

  1. Download and install your chosen VPN service on your PC.
  2. Plug your Ethernet cable in at the back of your PC and console. 
  3. Open the Control Panel > Network and Sharing Center. Select ‘Change Adapter Settings on the window. 
  4. Right-click your VPN’s icon and select Properties. 
  5. Open the sharing tab and be sure to select ‘Allow other network users to connect through this computer’s internet connection.’
  6. Select Home Networking Connection and afterward, click the ‘home internet connection’ option from the drop-down menu. 
  7. On your console, find the network settings, choose a LAN cable option, and connect it to your PC’s network. 
  8. You may need to select an option like “Do Not Use a Proxy Server.” 
  9. The last few steps may vary with different consoles but you should now be online and connected to the web via VPN.

macOS

  1. Download and install your preferred VPN.
  2. Plug the Ethernet cable into the back of your Mac and your console. 
  3. Go to System Preferences > Sharing. From the left-hand side menu, click Internet Sharing. 
  4. From the drop-down menu that says ‘Share Your Connection From,’ select WiFi. 
  5. Tick Ethernet from the ‘to computers using’ list. 
  6. Check to the left of Internet Sharing to activate the WiFi sharing between your Mac and your console. Watch out for the green icon that indicates a successful connection. 
  7. Open the VPN software you downloaded onto your Mac and connect to a server from the VPN’s list of available servers. 
  8. On your console, find the network settings, choose a LAN cable option, and connect it to your Mac’s network. 
  9. You may need to select an option like “Do Not Use a Proxy Server.” 
  10. The steps vary slightly with each console, but if all goes well, you will be connected to the web via VPN in no time. 

Things to consider

Not all VPNs are built the same with some outperforming others at every step of the way. When it comes to a gaming VPN, there are still a few fundamental things that have to be there: 

  • Security – 256-AES encryption levels at a minimum to ensure the highest possible privacy and security available in order to keep you and your family safe. 
  • Speeds – Although speeds can differ greatly depending on where you are in the world, our selections have all shown excellent speeds for gaming, streaming, and everyday use.  
  • Apps – functional, easy-to-use apps are essential as well as compatibility with consoles.  
  • Kill switch – Absolutely essential for cutting your connection to the internet altogether when your VPN connection fails and all of the below providers offer manual or automatic versions. Although most VPNs worth their salt now come with built-in kill switches, there is still a number out there that don’t.  

Free vs Paid

For a free but secure VPN experience, you only have a handful of options, the best of which are ProtonVPN, Hotspot Shield, and Tunnelbear. Both Hotspot Shield and Tunnelbear come with data limitations where you’re restricted to either a daily or monthly data allowance, neither more than 15GB (per month!), so you’re left with ProtonVPN as the only viable choice. Unless of course, you want to load up whichever home screen and then run out of data until the following day.  

In its own right, ProtonVPN is an excellent VPN, providing incredible security, privacy features, and unlimited data on its free plan but as a gaming VPN, it falls short. With only a handful of servers to choose from (Japan, The Netherlands, and the US), you’re restricted by location and the servers are often near load capacity meaning speeds and ping times will suffer 99% of the time.  

This is no slight on ProtonVPN, far from it, but its free version simply isn’t built for gaming and shouldn’t be used as such.  

Check out our ProtonVPN review

FAQs

Will a VPN increase ping?

This is difficult question to answer and one which we touched on earlier as ping depends on a variety of factors including internet speeds, location to server, time of day, number of people in the household and a number of other factors. For some people a VPN can actually decrease ping depending on the proximity to the VPN server but for the majority of us, using a VPN will increase ping slightly but will have a negligible effect on the overall gaming experience.  

While ping may increase slightly, for users who have their internet throttled by their ISPs then a marginal drop is much preferred to speeds that fluctuate on a daily basis.  

We always recommend VPNS with at least 30-day money-back guarantees for scenarios like this. Simply buy a VPN and if you’re not happy with the speeds or ping you’re experiencing then you have the option to get your money back, no questions asked.  

Is using a VPN legal?

Yes. For the majority of countries in the world, there are no legal ramifications for simply using a VPN. Certain countries, however, such as China, UAE, Egypt, and Vietnam have very strict internet censorship laws and regulations meaning that using a VPN within any of the above countries can come with risks, even if there is not a known legal ban.  

It is important to note that while using a VPN is fine, what you use your gaming VPN for might not be – remember that although it may make illicit activities or transactions possible, it does not make them legal. 

For example, if you’re using your VPN to change your location and purchase games at a reduced price, it’s almost definitely against the developer or distributor’s terms and conditions, and if you’re caught you may have your account suspended or worse. 

On the other hand, if you’re just using it to make sure your ISP isn’t throttling you, you don’t have anything to worry about. 

What about everyone else?

We decided to check some major forums just to get additional insight into what people from around the world use as their VPN of choice and the results were in line with what we recommend. 

Several Steam users champion Private Internet Access as their VPN of choice: 

Members of the Reddit community recommend ExpressVPN which is in line with our top pick:

And a bonus shoutout to one user who was more than happy with his NordVPN experience for gaming: 

Which is the best VPN for gaming?

We’ve included a number of VPNs ranging from fantastic budget options to premium behemoths. Each of the options below will be suitable for any household so whatever your situation, you’ll have an option to go with. 

As we mentioned earlier, all of the providers below include a minimum 30-day money-back guarantee so don’t feel pressured into sticking with one if you’re not happy with the speeds.  

expressvpn
  • Compatibility with Xbox One, PS3, 4 and 5  
  • Connect up to 5 devices on one account  
  • Custom protocol ‘Lightway’ for seamless gaming 
  • Smart DNS Proxy service (MediaStreamer 
  • OpenVPN, L2TP/IPSEC, IKEV2 support 
  • Best-in-class browser extension support 
  • Accepts Bitcoin payments  
  • 24/7 live chat customer service 
  • Confirmed no-log policy 
  • 30-day money-back guarantee 

ExpressVPNs gaming credentials are second to none and now even more so with their recent introduction of the pioneering new protocol Lightway which not only promises but delivers incredible speeds perfect for gaming and streaming.  

During our regular testing, we found ExpressVPNs speeds to be the best in class and other publications agree with us.  

We mention the caveat to speed testing each time we recommend a VPN. Any speed tests are a very personal thing and depend on a number of factors including distance to server, server location, and server performance among other things. Just because we experienced fantastic speeds doesn’t mean you will too. What it does mean is that ExpressVPN has consistently shown high-performance numbers in a number of countries. Always utilise the 30-day money-back guarantee if you’re not happy with the speeds you’re getting.  

With a number of advanced features that pair excellently with gaming, notably their MediaStreamer service which allows you to use your VPN connection on any gaming console that connects to WIFI.  

Not limited to gaming, ExpressVPN excels at unblocking geo-restricted from around the world and makes quick work of streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, HBO, Disney +, and pretty much anything else you can think of.  

Simply connect to ExpressVPN and watch content from anywhere from the comfort of your Xbox or Playstation 

With a host of other killer features like a best-in-class browser extension, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better all-around VPN for gaming. 

  • Offers over 5,385 servers and 59 countries 
  • Fantastic speeds for gaming 
  • NordLynx
  • Built-in kill switch  
  • Accepts Bitcoin payments 
  • 24/7 live chat customer service 
  • Connect up to 6 devices 
  • Confirmed no-log policy 
  • 30-day money-back guarantee 

Like two heavyweights battling for the title, it can come as no surprise that NordVPN also offers a custom protocol of its own in the form of NordLynx

We’ll be doing a side-by-side comparison of both protocols in the near future as both are fantastic for gaming. Although we prefer Lightway for its stability, it’s a very close call and NordLynx does a fantastic job in its own right, possessing fantastic speeds that translate to gaming extremely well 

Even without NordLynx, NordVPNs speeds are one of the best in the business and allow for a lag-free gaming experience that only ExpressVPN can match. 

DDoS protection is also high on their radar with advanced measures in place to help alleviate the dangers of DDoS attacks. 

NordVPN also has more servers available than ExpressVPN with a greater spread so if you live in an area that is often lacking in VPN servers, check their website to see if they have a server near you. 

surfshark devices
  • Compatibility with Xbox One, PS3, 4 and 5  
  • Connect up to 5 devices on one account  
  • Custom protocol ‘Lightway’ for seamless gaming 
  • Smart DNS Proxy service (MediaStreamer 
  • OpenVPN, L2TP/IPSEC, IKEV2 support 
  • Best-in-class browser extension support 
  • Accepts Bitcoin payments  
  • 24/7 live chat customer service 
  • Confirmed no-log policy 
  • 30-day money-back guarantee 

Like NordVPN and ExpressVPNSufshark has shown great and consistent speeds ideal for gaming but at a much more affordable price. 

However, with their lower price comes fewer servers with only 3,200 available in around 63 countries. 

We say only as its less than NordVPN but Surfshark still manages to have an excellent spread of locations around the globe. Again, you can check via their website where the servers are in relation to your location to avoid any server black spots. 

You don’t get DDoS-specific protection but Surfshark’s advanced encryption still manages to perform admirably in the face of such attacks.  

If you’re on a budget and game in one of 63 countries available, you can’t do better for this price. 

pia-logo
  • Connect up to 10 devices on one account   
  • 25,000 + servers in 77 countries  
  • Great speeds for streaming and gaming  
  • Unblocks streaming content worldwide (Netflix, Amazon Prime, iPlayer)  
  • Built-in kill switch   
  • Accepts Bitcoin payments   
  • 24/7 live chat customer service and knowledge centre   
  • Confirmed no-log policy  
  • 30-day money-back guarantee  

As we saw from the Steam forums, Private Internet Access is popular with gamers, and for good reason. Boasting a monstrous server and country list with over 35,000 in 77 locations available means a server will rarely be far to find. 

While the speeds PIA offers aren’t quite up to Surfhsark you do get 10 simultaneous device connections which are the most on this list and perfect for larger households. 

Outside of gaming, PIA performs excellently with geo-blocked content as well so you’ll be able to stream your favourite shows on whichever console you use.