A virtual private network (VPN) allows you to connect to a private server from and to anywhere around the world, hiding your IP address and internet activity from those who might want to track you down – hackers, ISPs, the government, or even your opponents in competitive multiplayer games like Call of Duty and League of Legends.
With a hidden IP, tons of server locations, and excellent unblocking capabilities, a gaming VPN can give you access to games that are restricted in your region, plus save money from international game sales. The best gaming VPNs can also ward off DDoS attacks and bandwidth throttling, thereby lowering your ping and allowing you to download massive games like Starfield and Baldur’s Gate 3 without a drop in connection speeds.
Tom’s Guide experts test, review, and compare the best VPNs on a daily basis, and here we’ve used their expert guidance to round up the top VPNs for gaming – and we’ll also point at games you may not be able to play without a VPN and what you need to look for when picking a VPN provider.
Games you need a VPN to access
The biggest and best games right now, such as Elden Ring, Disco Elysium, and Marvel's Spider-Man 2 are all available in pretty much every country and region of the world. Sadly, that's not the case with a few other titles (that are good games, really) that sell on Steam but are only available to a few countries in Asia.
So, if you're an avid gamer in North and South America, Europe, Australia, or elsewhere, you absolutely need a VPN to access the following games that are both fantastic and popular worldwide yet internationally unavailable:
1. Winning Post 10
A beautiful game with exhilarating race scenes, Winning Post 10 is a Japanese game that furthers a much-revered series by Koei Tecmo Games. The all-new installment is packed with unique features, such as "uma-sonality" – every horse has a different personality, including peculiar likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses, and other character traits.
To get it on Steam, you need to create a new account while your VPN's connected to a server location in Japan. This is because your Steam profile is by default set to the country you created it in.
2. Super Robot Wars V
This tactical RPG presents a great combination of 2D and 3D animations and it's just about the perfect game for you if you prefer relatively easier battles while still being swamped with enemies left, right, and center. It comes packing free bonus scenarios, gripping characters, and a simple yet enjoyable story – Earth is about to be destroyed and you and your army of robots are the only hope of survival.
However, the game's only available in a few Southeast Asian countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, South Korea, and Japan, among others, so you'll have to use a VPN to spoof your location and get your hands on this game.
3. The Invisible Guardian
This Chinese visual novel is an out-and-out masterpiece, combining interactive gameplay with what can only be classified as one of the best game scripts ever. It takes you through the journey of a Chinese intellectual in war-torn China who seeks to infiltrate Japanese-occupied Manchuria
The game boasts tons of flawless elements, including captivating characters and colorful, motivated conversations to have you hooked. If you need any more reason to play The Invisible Guardian by using one of the best China VPNs, how about the fact that it was the best-selling game on Steam in 2019 despite being only available to users in China?
The best VPN for gaming in 2024
Installing a VPN on your gaming device will help you stay protected from opponents trying to throw them out of a game with DDoS attacks or swatting, as well as bandwidth throttling where your ISP intentionally slows down your internet connection.
It’s worth noting that the VPN do more than just secure your gaming experience—they can also enhance it by allowing you to unlock restricted game releases and access easier bot lobbies in multiplayer games, making it easier for you to crank up your rankings and prestige in the gaming community.
On that note, here are the top three VPNs to get right now:
1. ExpressVPN – the best VPN for gaming
ExpressVPN is the best VPN for just about everything, including gaming, courtesy of its easy-to-use apps for various platforms, top-notch encryption, a wide network of servers, and rock-solid security features – plus 24/7 support and excellent streaming capabilities provide the perfect finishing touch.
It comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee that lets you test the service risk-free, and Tom's Guide readers can claim 3 months of extra protection and 1 year of backup software Backblaze free on its 12-month subscription.
2. NordVPN – the biggest name is super secure
NordVPN makes life easier for gamers with blazing-fast connection speeds and class-leading unblocking powers – and it boasts more servers than rivals ExpressVPN and Surfshark. It’s also our go-to choice for all-round protection, offering plenty of extras such as built-in antivirus and ad-blocking.
Everything else, from ease of use to customer support, is top-notch as well, and Nord starts at just $3.39 a month, making it a slightly more affordable option compared to ExpressVPN. Try it on for size risk-free with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
3. Surfshark – the best-value VPN on the market
Surfshark is tailor-made for those who want to share the love of secure and unrestricted gaming with their friends and family – you’re getting unlimited simultaneous connections, best-in-class speeds, and excellent security, and all that for just a fraction of the price of other VPNs.
It's also easy to use, making Surfshark an ideal choice for beginners – plus it unblocks every streaming site you could throw at it. There’s also a 30-day money-back guarantee in case you change your mind.
How to pick a VPN for gaming
One of the most important factors to consider when out shopping for a gaming VPN is its connection speeds – the higher, the better. Blazing-fast connections will minimize latency, reduce, ping, and offer stable performance.
Next, look for a VPN with a vast network of servers across the globe, as that will allow you to access region-restricted games and connect to servers closest to the servers of the game you want to play, as well as benefit from international game sales that may not be available in your geographical location.
Another important consideration is the security offered by the provider – a secure VPN will keep you protected from DDoS attacks, ISP throttling, and other cyber threats. Pick a VPN that offers a clear-cut no-logs policy, robust encryption, and advanced security features like a kill switch and leak protection.
Make sure the VPN you choose is compatible with the platform you wish to game on, which could be Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Xbox, or PlayStation. At the same time, it should offer easy-to-use apps with simple and intuitive interfaces.
If you plan on gaming with your friends/family and wish to share the VPN’s unblocking capabilities and security with various devices, look for a provider that comes with multiple simultaneous connections.
Last but not least, do not fail to prioritize accurate and prompt customer support. Ideally, the provider should offer 24/7 live chat, email, or phone support, as well as a healthy collection of troubleshooting guides.
How we test VPNs
We install the apps on various operating systems i.e. Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, and Linux, and then test their performance in both real-world and stress-testing conditions to see if everything works as advertised. If something breaks, we report that back to the provider. However, you can rest assured that we include all of our findings – good and bad – in our detailed VPN reviews.
Next, we test the connection speeds of every VPN provider multiple times, and that too, from different locations around the world. This helps us zero in on the best high-speed VPNs for gamers and streaming enthusiasts.
Speaking of streaming, we test the provider’s unblocking capabilities by throwing various big-name streaming sites at it, including Netflix, Prime Video, Disney Plus, and BBC iPlayer. Moreover, our in-house team of experts carries out constant real-world testing of the top 30 VPN providers to make sure our analysis is always accurate and relevant.
Using a VPN for gaming FAQs
Why do I need a VPN?
A VPN is an essential part of your online security toolkit, as it hides your IP address and keeps you protected from snoopers and hackers on the internet. Apart from that, it can also enhance your gaming experience by allowing you to access region-restricted games and safeguarding you from DDoS attacks, swatting, and ISP throttling.
Is it legal to use a VPN?
Short answer – yes.
It’s completely legal to use a VPN in North and South America, Western Europe, Oceania, and most of the rest of the world, as long as you’re using it for legal purposes, such as avoiding ISP throttling and enhancing your privacy.
However, some actions like downloading copyrighted content or changing your IP address to purchase a particular game at a lower price may violate the country's or the game provider’s T&Cs, and you may get banned and/or fined for the same.
What features should a VPN have?
Look for a VPN with robust security credentials, including a clear-cut no-logs policy, support for secure protocols, and well-functioning kill switch and leak protection. It should also have tons of servers strategically located around the world so that you can connect from and to anywhere.
Next, depending on your needs, you may also prioritize a VPN provider with class-leading speeds and excellent unblocking capabilities, as they will allow you to access geo-restricted content, including international games, movies, and TV shows.
We test and review VPN services in the context of legal recreational uses. For example: 1. Accessing a service from another country (subject to the terms and conditions of that service). 2. Protecting your online security and strengthening your online privacy when abroad. We do not support or condone the illegal or malicious use of VPN services. Consuming pirated content that is paid-for is neither endorsed nor approved by Future Publishing.
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Olivia is the Commissioning Editor for Tech Software at Tom's Guide. With a background in cybersecurity, Olivia stays up-to-date with all things cyber and creates content across TechRadar Pro, TechRadar and Tom’s Guide. She is particularly interested in threat intelligence, detection and response, data security, fraud prevention and the ever-evolving threat landscape.
- Krishi ChowdharyContributor