When thinking about optimizing your rig, a gaming VPN probably isn't the first thing that come to mind, but you might just find out that the best VPN is the perfect way to stabilize unreliable connections and protect your sensitive information at the same time.
It's no secret that even the top VPNs have an effect on your connection speed – although by less and less these days – so how can a gaming VPN improve your connection?
Well, if you notice your speeds fluctuating a lot, you might be subject to network throttling. This is when your ISP cuts your speeds in response to your activity – commonly experienced when streaming, torrenting and gaming. A VPN can make this a thing of the past by anonymizing your traffic, meaning your ISP can't tell what you're doing, and subsequently can't decide to throttle you.
What makes the best gaming VPN?
If you’re planning on using your VPN primarily for gaming, speed will likely be a priority – but privacy doesn’t have to take a back seat.
The best gaming VPN today is ExpressVPN, thanks to excellent connections over most of its servers, low ping times, plus powerful privacy features and simple apps for all sorts of devices. That's a winning combination.
If you want to access geo-blocked games or play on different regional servers, making sure you pick a VPN with a wide network is essential. Again, ExpressVPN excels here with over 3,000 servers in 94 countries, and with an excellent app for routers, you can evade throttling on your PS4, Xbox, Switch, or any other device you connect to the web.
While we might want to, not all of us can game 24/7, so having the power to unblock regional Netflix libraries and geo-restricted sites like BBC iPlayer is really useful. Having a great range of entertainment in our downtime is great, and this also comes in handy on work trips or on holiday, too.
Below we'll explore more about why ExpressVPN is the best gaming VPN on the market, and we’ll also look at its closest competitors to see which is the best fit for you.
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. Delivering stellar speeds on every server, 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.View Deal
2. NordVPN – the biggest name is super secure
You're probably no stranger to NordVPN – you favorite streamer might even plug the service at the start of their videos. However, Nord genuinely is a great VPN service, and at just $3.71 a month it's certainly worth considering.View Deal
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 just $2.49 a month you'll get fully featured VPN cover and unlimited connections so you can install the app on every one of your devices. View Deal
The five best gaming VPNs today
We're not surprised that ExpressVPN performs better than any other service when it comes to being a gaming VPN – it tops nearly all 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 you've got regular speeds of around 100-200MB, it's unlikely you'll notice any change at all. In our testing it topped out at 250MB on a 600MB line, which is more than fast enough to 360 no-scope n00bs (or whatever kids say these days).
ExpressVPN also provides a 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.
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 five 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 other four 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.
Get 49% off plus 3 free months of the best gaming VPN
Blistering speeds plus excellent privacy equals the best gaming VPN on the market. And, Tom's Guide readers can claim three months FREE, working out at 15 months for the price of 12. Not happy with the service? Just request a guaranteed refund within 30-days for your money back, no questions asked.
As the most famous VPN around, you'd expect NordVPN to work great as a gaming VPN – and you'd be right.
Nord provides great speeds on any connection, and you've got a network of over 5,000 servers in 59 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.
In our testing there was a little fluctuation in speeds – while NordVPN topped out marginally higher than ExpressVPN, it also bottomed out lower. However, even the lowest speed of 125MB will be more than enough for the majority of gamers worldwide.
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.
Although not quite a polished and reliable as ExpressVPN, it's still a close match and Nord's definitely worth considering.
While its speeds aren't quite as blazing as Express's or Nord's, if you've got an internet connection that tops out at 100MB then you won't be able to tell the difference – and when it's connected, you can trust it not to drop.
Its slightly smaller network of 1,700 servers is still plenty to be getting on with, but the biggest draw is the combination of unlimited connections plus a roughly $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.
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.
Head over to Surfshark's website to sign up
Hailing from the US, IPVanish delivers especially good connections in the States, regularly pushing 200MB. That's plenty swift for any game, and should keep you lag-free.
Available to be installed on routers, IPVanish has recently unveiled its fresh unlimited connections policy, which means you can cover every single device in your household. And, on top of that, its wide device support means that's actually possible.
IPVanish also displays a whole load of information about its servers, and while in many cases this is overkill, if you're looking for the best gaming VPN server this is actually super useful. If you're more concerned about ping rather than download speed, you can make your decision based on that.
Finally, although it can't access iPlayer, IPVanish works great as a Netflix VPN, and you'll also be able to explore tons of other content after you've hung up your keyboard or controller for the night.
While the whole experience isn't quite as polished as the very best, if you're after a reliable, quick, detailed gaming VPN, IPVanish is a worthy option.
Head over to IPVanish's website to sign up
Hotspot Shield is well known for its free VPN, but its full version works very well as a gaming VPN. With no data limits and speeds twice that of pretty much any other provider, it's a tempting proposition.
Hotspot Shield reaches those incredible speeds because it uses its own proprietary Catapult Hydra protocol. However, that means that you won't be able to use the more commonly supported OpenVPN protocol, and subsequently you're tied to Hotspot Shield's own clients – you can't use the VPN without them.
However, if you can cope with all that, there isn't another VPN on the market that can deliver the same speeds as Hotspot Shield, so if you have an ultra-fast internet connection to match, this is the fastest gaming VPN around.
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 fast 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.