Gaming VPNs are hugely popular, and we're seeing tons of VPN providers deliver fast, effective products that are tailored to gamers' needs. Whether you find your connection slows down while gaming, you've been DDoS-ed by a thirsty opponent or you just want to stay safer online, a VPN for gaming is the answer.
By routing all your internet traffic through its own super-secure servers, a VPN effectively anonymizes what you're doing online. By connecting to a server in another country, you can also virtually change location – a well-known trick for accessing early releases or banned games.
I've tested and reviewed dozens of VPN providers hands-on and rounded up the best VPNs in the business. Each of my picks is quick enough to keep up with online competitions, has the tools you need to steer clear of dodgy hackers, and real value for money (those triple-A titles don't come cheap these days, do they?). Keep scrolling, and check out my in-depth expert review.
The best gaming VPNs at a glance
1. ExpressVPN – the best VPN for gaming
For gamers looking to max out connections and avoid lag and ISP throttling, ExpressVPN is the top VPN for the job. Its speeds are great, but its reliability is unparalleled, and once it's switched on you'll forget it's even there. Plus, now you can claim three free months on a 12-month plan.
2. NordVPN – the biggest name is super secure
You're probably no stranger to NordVPN – your favorite streamer might even plug the service at the start of their videos. Thankfully Nord genuinely is a great gaming VPN that now delivers excellent speeds, and with a 30-day money-back guarantee it's certainly worth considering.
3. Surfshark – the best-value VPN on the market
If Express and Nord are just a little too pricey, then you'll want to check out Surfshark. For less than $2.50 a month, you'll get fully featured VPN cover and unlimited connections so you can install the app on every one of your devices – as well as three months free!
The five best gaming VPNs today
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The best gaming VPN overall
We're not surprised that ExpressVPN performs better than any other service when it comes to being a gaming VPN – it tops loads of our other guides, and again it's knocked it out the park.
Most importantly, Express delivers excellent speeds so you won't see yourself lagging – and if your ISP delivers regular speeds of around 100-200MB, it's unlikely you'll notice any change at all. In our testing it topped out at a very respectable 560Mbps on a 1Gbps line, which is more than fast enough to 360 no-scope n00bs (how do you do, fellow kids).
In our ExpressVPN review, we were impressed by the dedicated router VPN app, which means you'll be able to avoid throttling and stay secure even on consoles, which don't natively support VPNs – there's no special treatment for the PC gamer here. Plus, while it doesn't offer encryption, Express's MediaStreamer Smart DNS tool will allow you to switch locations on your PlayStation or Xbox to watch geo-blocked content.
Outside of gaming you'll also be able to unblock pretty much any regional Netflix library, as well as access restricted sites like BBC iPlayer in the States. Plus, if you ever have any issues with the service, the 24/7 live chat will be able to sort you out in minutes.
If we had to find a negative, it'd be that Express only offers 8 simultaneous connections per plan. However, if you install one of those on your router, any device connected to that will be covered – then you can install the others on phones and laptops you take away from home.
Overall, there's not a service that can challenge ExpressVPN today. If you're looking for a gaming VPN that can help you avoid throttling, keep you safe from hackers and trackers, and unblock streaming media too, ExpressVPN should be at the top of your list.
The fastest gaming VPN
As the most famous VPN around, you'd expect NordVPN to work great as a gaming VPN – and you'd be right.
Our NordVPN review found the Panama-based provider delivered some of the fastest speeds we've tested, and you'll have a network of over 5,500 servers in 60 countries to pick from. That means no matter where you are, you're pretty much guaranteed a connection that will work great on your regular internet line.
Previously, NordVPN suffered from slightly unreliable speeds, but in our last testing it proved to be much more reliable, and it's one of the very fastest VPNs on the market, topping out at a blistering 950 Mbps.
I'm always impressed by just how many security tools NordVPN manages to pack into its plans. You'll get battle-tested encryption and Nord's very own NordLynx protocol – which is based on WireGuard. This combination of speed and security means you can avoid bandwidth throttling, seeing as your ISP won't be able to keep tabs on what you're doing, and ultimately decide you're using too much bandwidth, when you're connected to a Nord server.
Nord's apps are very stable, meaning you won't be going back and forth to check on it, and you can also set it up on a router to cover your consoles. Plus, streaming support is strong so you'll be able to watch pretty much whatever you want, wherever you are. However, unlike ExpressVPN, Nord doesn't offer a dedicated router app, so setup can be tricky.
Although not quite as easy to use or reliable as ExpressVPN, it's still a close match and Nord's definitely worth considering.
The best cheap gaming VPN
Surfshark has been seriously speedy for a while now, and in my last round of testing, it matched the fastest provider NordVPN at 950Mbps. You certainly won't be seeing any slowdown here.
Its network of 3,200 servers is ample, but the biggest draw is the combination of unlimited connections plus a sub-$2.50 price tag. Both are almost unheard of in the VPN industry, and that combination is absolutely unbeatable. Surfshark is simply the best way to get a gaming VPN on the cheap.
Bargain prices don't equal half-hearted security, however – Surfshark is a no-logs, privacy-oriented provider that isn't interested in watching over your shoulder as you go about your browsing. Industry-standard AES-256 encryption keeps your sensitive data safe from prying eyes, and, because Surfshark hides and replaces your original IP address, hackers have a much harder time targeting you with disruptive DDoS attacks.
No, the apps don't have quite as much configuration as others, and yes, the support system is marginally slower, but if you're happy to stick with the recommended settings, evade throttling, access tons of Netflix libraries and more, then this is the best-value way to do it.
Good speeds and plenty of servers
In our CyberGhost VPN review, the Romanian provider performed admirably and is a safe bet when it comes to anything that requires a swift connection – not least as a gaming VPN.
CyberGhost isn't just great for gaming, though. There are a number of useful features in-app like server load (great for gamers), Smart Rules, which starts the VPN when a particular app is launched, and a good kill switch. However, we do miss the inclusion of desktop notifications to tell you when you've connected and disconnected.
CyberGhost has a massive network of over 10,000 servers in 100 countries – which is seriously impressive. You'll be spoiled for choice when it comes to spoofing your location, and should have no problem bagging all of the best region-locked deals.
There are a couple of usability issues we came across, though. First of all, although CyberGhost permits 7 devices to be used on any single plan, you have to register these devices. You need to unregister one to add any above 7, whereas with other services you can just log out on a device.
It's also worth noting that CyberGhost's support site isn't quite up to par with the very best services, but on the whole, CyberGhost is a powerful gaming VPN – and for the price, it's a real bargain.
Swiss security keeps you safe
Proton VPN delivers more than just a gaming VPN – it's a seriously private service that's great for streaming, too.
First up, connection speeds are a must, and Proton VPN really excels here. With speeds of up to 670Mbps on WireGuard and a truly impressive 440Mbps when using OpenVPN, whatever you're doing, Proton VPN will be able to keep up. It's not quite as fast as Nord or CyberGhost, but you won't notice in practice.
If you've run into issues with bandwidth throttling in the past, and want to avoid being slowed down by your ISP, Proton VPN can help you out. In addition to top-notch encryption that'll keep your data and devices safe, the provider is an audited no-logs service – which is good news for anyone looking to do some torrenting, too.
Outside of gaming, Proton VPN is still remarkably capable. The only rival that unblocks more Netflix libraries is ExpressVPN, and it could also access just about every other streaming site we tested.
In comparison, though, it's also a little more expensive than all but Express – and while it's definitely worth the outlay, this may be a sticking point for some users. Otherwise though, it's one of the very best gaming VPN services on the market. and we highly recommend it.
How to choose the best gaming VPN
If you’re planning on using your chosen service as a gaming VPN, speed will be a priority – but privacy shouldn't take a back seat. The best gaming VPN today is ExpressVPN, thanks to its excellent speeds, low ping times, plus powerful privacy features and simple apps for all sorts of devices. That's a winning combination.
However, some other providers might prove to be a better fit for you. In terms of price, ExpressVPN is somewhat pricey, Surfshark is an absolute bargain, and NordVPN sits as a middle ground between the two.
If you want to access geo-blocked games or play on different regional servers, making sure your VPN has a wide network is essential. Here, providers like ExpressVPN and Surfshark excel here with servers in around 100 different countries.
How we test
You'll be placing a lot of trust in your VPN, which is exactly why the Tom's Guide team is so thorough when it comes to testing their every facet, feature, and claim.
We don't just reiterate the shiny claims you can find yourself on the provider's webpage, either. Instead, our team rolls up their sleeves and gets hands-on with the best VPNs in the business.
When it came to rounding up the best VPNs for gaming, however, there were a few key factors I kept in mind throughout my testing:
Speed: to keep latency to a minimum, stabilize performance, and reduce ping, a fast VPN is a must. We're constantly measuring the speed of our top providers to ensure they can keep up with fierce online competitions or help you download that hotfix patch in the blink of an eye.
Server locations: gaming is a global pastime, and you'll need a VPN with expansive server coverage to unblock restricted content, access region-specific releases, and connect to the servers closest to the gaming servers to clamp down on ping. I double (and triple) checked to make sure all of my top-rated VPNs have plenty of strategically placed servers around the world.
Features: some VPNs are more generous than others when it comes to their roster of features, but I made sure that my top picks include handy extras like port-forwarding, split tunneling, and super-speedy protocols (like WireGuard.)
Ease of use: I chose VPNs with easy-to-use apps for just about every gadget and gizmo in the house. So, whether you're gaming on PC, console, or mobile device, you'll be covered. An intuitive UI is a must, too, and ensures you'll be able to tweak settings and swap servers without any hassle.
Price: I'm all about value for money, so I prioritized VPNs with money-back guarantees that'll allow you to test the service before committing to a long-term subscription. Each VPN on my list does an awesome job of balancing performance and privacy with budget-friendly prices.
VPN speed testing – my results
Nobody wants to invite more lag and slowdown into their life, and you shouldn't have to sacrifice speed to shore up your security. Performance is a massive influencing factor in my rankings, and I make sure to check all of the top VPN services regularly (using different servers and protocols) to see just how quick they really are.
I put VPNs to the test on a 1 Gbps line and record speeds with a variety of tools, like the Ookla SpeedTest website and CLI, nPerf, Netflix's Fast, and others. I'll then take the average (median) of each VPN's results to generate a clearer picture of their performance. To keep things as accurate as possible, I'll run these tests again in the morning and evening. Below, you'll find the most recent results as per my latest round of testing.
|Header Cell - Column 0||WireGuard or proprietary||OpenVPN|
|1. NordVPN||over 950 Mbps (maxed out my line)||140 Mbps|
|2. Surfshark||over 950 Mbps (maxed out my line)||130 Mbps|
|3. IPVanish||over 950 Mbps (maxed out my line)||225 Mbps|
|4. Windscribe||over 950 Mbps (maxed out my line)||330 Mbps|
|5. Hide.me||over 950 Mbps (maxed out my line)||260 Mbps|
|6. Norton VPN||over 950 Mbps (maxed out my line)||240 Mbps|
|7. Mullvad||900 Mbps||530 Mbps|
|8. PrivadoVPN||880 Mbps||130 Mbps|
|9. Atlas VPN||860 Mbps||N/A|
|10. ExpressVPN||750 Mbps||230 Mbps|
|11. FastestVPN||730 Mbps||170 Mbps|
|12. PureVPN||650 Mbps||140 Mbps|
|13. CyberGhost||630 Mbps||360 Mbps|
|14. Private VPN||610 Mbps||110 Mbps|
|15. Hotspot Shield||570 Mbps||N/A|
|16. TunnelBear||500 Mbps||310 Mbps|
|17. Proton VPN||460 Mbps||350 Mbps|
|18. Private Internet Access||360 Mbps||310 Mbps|
|19. Mozilla VPN||360 Mbps||N/A|
|20. Google One||345 Mbps||N/A|
|21. VyprVPN||325 Mbps||105 Mbps|
|22. Astrill VPN||390 Mbps (inconsistent testing results)||N/A|
Best gaming VPN FAQ
Why do I need a gaming VPN?
There are a couple of reasons why you might want a gaming VPN.
Firstly, if you find your internet connection fluctuating, that could quite possibly be because your ISP is throttling your connection due to your activity. A VPN helps you avoid this by anonymizing your activity, meaning your ISP can't single you out as someone to throttle.
Secondly, privacy. Anyone is vulnerable, but gamers especially experience DDoS attacks and run a higher risk of being hacked. A VPN can protect anyone – not just gamers – from a whole load of the inherent risks on the web, plus it'll stop Google tracking you, too.
Is it legal to use a VPN for gaming?
Simple answer: yes.
However, what you use your gaming VPN for might not be – remember that while it may make illicit activities possible or easier, it does not make them legal.
If you're using your VPN to spoof your location and buy games at a lower price, that's probably against the developer or distributor's Ts&Cs, and if you're caught you may have your account suspended or worse.
But, if you're just using it to make sure your ISP isn't throttling you, you don't have anything to worry about.
Will a VPN increase my ping?
This is a tricky one. Compared to your standard connection at peak speeds, a VPN is likely to slightly increase your ping – but, if you're very near one of your VPN's servers it could possibly decrease it if you're lucky.
Really, though, what you're using a gaming VPN for is to stabilize and make your connection more reliable. So, on your regular connection you might peak at a 10ms ping, but when you're being throttled that might increase to a difficult-to-manage 300ms.
By using the best gaming VPN, you can make sure your ping will stay at a usable speed – perhaps 20ms or better if you're used to 10ms – but you can be sure that it will stay that way for as long as you play.
To learn more about this, see how to use a VPN to speed up your internet.
What should a gaming VPN have?
The most important feature of any gaming VPN is excellent connection speeds. You'll want to be able to get as close as possible to your regular connection speeds as possible, so having a speedy VPN is a good start.
Then, you should also ensure that your gaming VPN has excellent privacy credentials. While it might not be top of your priority list, seeing as so many services deliver excellent speeds as well as great security, there's really no reason to sacrifice either.
Finally, do your research and make sure that your chosen service is reliable – it's not good if your VPN will be constantly cutting out, and if it has a kill switch activated you'll see your whole connection die in this situation.