There are a number of reasons why gamers might want to seek out the best VPN services. From protecting your privacy to speeding up your connection, or even circumnavigating geo-restrictions and blocks, a top gaming VPN can open up a bounty of new opportunities for online gamers.
In this article, we not only discuss the merits of using a VPN when gaming, but also whether you can hunt down any free VPN services that do the job. As well as listing a number of free options, we’ll also cover what additional benefits you might be able to get from paying just a little more.
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What does a VPN do?
A virtual private network—or VPN—essentially reroutes your device's internet connection through one of its many remote servers. Depending on your chosen provider, these servers can be located all over the globe.
These connections are encrypted, which essentially means that your connection is private and secure from prying eyes or malicious actors. What’s more, your true IP address (and therefore location) can be concealed. This brings with it some additional advantages which we discuss further below.
Why use a VPN for gaming?
The benefit of improving your security cannot be overestimated in an age when cybercrime is on the rise. Having a secure VPN reduces the chances of you becoming a victim of hacking or identity theft, and that can only be good.
But what’s likely to really get a gamer’s adrenaline flowing are the advantages that come with being able to hide your location. By preventing your internet service provider from monitoring your online activity, you reduce the chance of them throttling your connection speeds in view of high amounts of gaming. And being able to spoof your location will allow you to get around geo-blocks, allowing you to access games, game areas, or game updates that are unavailable in your location.
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Why free services aren’t ideal
If you’re reading this article then it’s likely that you’re wise to the benefits of a VPN, but don’t really want to spend too much (or anything at all) on using one. The good news is that there are some VPNs available for nothing. The bad news, unsurprisingly, is that these free options are not as effective as those that you pay for.
Not only are no-fee VPNs less likely to provide the levels of security and privacy that the leading paid-for services do but they are also likely to come with restrictions on server choices, data, and, most importantly, connection speed.
Note that most gaming devices other than PCs will not include VPN support, and so users will need to install any VPN onto their router. Some free services aren't able to support this option.
The best free gaming VPNs
All that said, there are some reliable no-cost options. Our top choice for most free use-cases is ProtonVPN. Although users are restricted to just three servers worldwide, it does offer an unrivalled unlimited data plan. Plus, new sign-ups get seven days of premium free (opens in new tab), with no credit card details exchanged. But, realistically, after that week Proton’s free plan’s limited speeds will hold you back when gaming, and only premium subscribers can get them.
Canadian service Windscribe offers 10GB of data per month and is router-compatible. Free users will get access to ten of its server locations, including the US, UK, and Canada. Upgrading to the Pro plan gives you access to a further 50 countries, including the rather intriguing Fake Antarctica. Windscribe also comes with an ad and malware blocker. Again, though, speeds aren’t quite up to scratch, and 10GB of data drains awfully quickly.
Hotspot Shield is another option that offers a basic free plan (opens in new tab), which allows one device connection, military-grade encryption, and no browsing logs. However, its speed is restricted to 2Mbps, the data limit is 500MB per day, and it only provides a single virtual location. In contrast, its $2.99-a-month Plus plan (opens in new tab) comes with over 115 locations, up to 1 Gbps connection speed, and unlimited data – an excellent option for gaming.
By now you should have a good idea why using a VPN is of benefit to those regularly engaged in online gaming. But if you need further convincing, check out our guide on why you need a VPN for gaming.
The list of free services above should give you a good starting point and it’s never a bad idea to try a few before you settle on one. And while those services recommended in our best gaming VPN list do require subscriptions, the likes of ExpressVPN and NordVPN also come with free trials or money-back guarantees.
What do we recommend?
As a VPN to use when gaming, no service comes close to ExpressVPN, free or paid. With over 3,000 servers in nearly 100 countries, all the security features necessary, blazing connection speeds, and reliable access to multiple streaming services, ExpressVPN is an excellent choice for those after security with no compromises.
While some users may prefer certain features of other top VPNs, it’s the best overall option for most users – and now Tom’s Guide readers can claim three months absolutely free (opens in new tab).