Contributor, Benzinga
November 16, 2022

While virtual private networks (VPNs) may not be a necessity for playing online games (depending on your location and prevailing situation), if you're a serious or an active online gamer, you'll find gaming VPNs handy. 

The best gaming VPN protects you from DoS attacks from your enemy during gaming sessions and network throttling by your ISP. It can bypass NAT firewalls and regional restrictions on online video games. On games like Call of Duty: Warzone and PUBG, you can find easier gaming lobbies and avoid skill-based matchmaking (SBMM) by leveraging the best gaming VPNs. 

You may also find a better pricing deal for a new game title release by switching your location using the best VPN for games. To help you make informed choices, Benzinga reviews some of the best VPNs for gaming.

Quick Look at the Best VPNs for Gaming:

  • Best Overall: ExpressVPN
  • Best for Speed and Privacy: NordVPN
  • Best for Pricing and Unlimited Devices: Surfshark
  • Best for Customization and PC Gaming: Private Internet Access (PIA)
  • Best for Optimized Server Selection and Storage: IPVanish

Best VPNs for Gaming

The best gaming VPNs are relatively low-cost with robust features that guarantee smooth online connectivity and privacy. All VPNs in this Benzinga list offer affordable pricing options with a 30-day money-back guarantee. Here's a look at some of the best VPNs for games.

Best Overall: ExpressVPN

  • securely through ExpressVPN's website
    securely through ExpressVPN's website
    Best For:
    Smart TVs, Playstation, Xbox
    Rating:

ExpressVPN is Benzinga's overall best gaming VPN across all devices. The platform has almost everything going for it — an excellent user interface to ease navigation, more than enough server networks and fantastic connection speed. Mobile (iOS and Android) and PC (Windows and macOS) gamers will enjoy its ruggedly encrypted native application. ExpressVPN also has Smart DNS (MediaStreamer DNS) for console gamers on PlayStation, Xbox and Nintendo Switch to compensate for the lack of encryption. MediaStreamer spoofs your geolocation and helps you access geo-blocked games on your console.

The service has a dedicated router app to prevent throttling. It supports P2P traffic and will work perfectly for all game types. A 3ms average ping rate means significantly low latency, thanks to its Lightway protocol and network of 3,000+ servers scattered across 160 locations in 94 countries. Large networks mean users can easily connect to the VPN server near the game they're playing, reducing latency. You can also play geo-blocked games since the VPN frame rate per second stays strong over a long distance. By switching your virtual location, you can block Twitch Ads.

ExpressVPN is an excellent choice, especially for people living in highly-censored nations like China or if you need to access games in countries like North Korea. It is effective in evading censorship. Should you run into issues, there's 24/7 live support available. However, one account can only connect to five devices, which is low compared to other VPNs in the Benzinga list. ExpressVPN is also a tad pricier than other services at $12.95 monthly. However, you can save over 35% and 22%, respectively, by going for the annual ($99.84) or 6-month ($59.94) subscription.

Best for Speed and Privacy: NordVPN

As the most popular VPN worldwide NordVPN, you'd ordinarily expect NordVPN to make the cut for the best gaming VPN, and you'd be right. NordVPN combines blazing-fast speed with robust online security and works efficiently on all platforms. Mobile gamers will favor NordVPN thanks to its user-friendly native iOS and mobile apps. However, where NordVPN stands out most is its speed and robust security. The platform leverages Wireguard Protocol to deliver a top connection speed of over 6,730 Mbps, much higher than ExpressVPN's 2,220+ Mbps. 

So if excellent upload and download speed is your priority, NordVPN is a great choice. It delivers a consistently low ping rate of 4ms and only 2% speed loss for international connections so that you can access global content as fast as local ones. Its over 5,500 VPN networks across 59 countries reduce latency to the barest minimum. An extensive network of servers is critical for gaming. However, optimizing your connections might be challenging as there's no port forwarding option. Like ExpressVPN, NordVPN offers Smart DNS for console gamers in place of encryption which, unlike fully encrypted VPN, reroutes your traffic to unblock geo-restricted games. 

You can also install NordVPN on your router to fully encrypt your console traffic. Mobile and PC gamers can enjoy the native apps because of features like kill switch and obfuscation. Besides the Wireguard protocol (or NordLynx protocol), which delivers rugged security, IKEv2, OpenVPN protocols and AES-256 encryption are alternative security options for the app. So you're well protected against DDoS in Rainbow Six Siege. NordVPN maintains a strict no-log policy; you can connect six devices with one account, which is better than ExpressVPN. The platform offers various subscription packages at great pricing, meaning you'll find something that suits your budget. 

Best for Pricing and Unlimited Devices: Surfshark

  • securely through Surfshark's website
    securely through Surfshark's website
    Best For:
    Securing Sensitive Information
    Rating:

Surfshark is an excellent value gaming VPN with a relatively low average ping of 5ms. This level may be perfect if you're a casual gamer. However, if you're a professional, it might make sense to go for ExpressVPN or NordVPN. While Surfshark's excellent Smart DNS makes it a great choice for console gamers, its primary appeal comes from its bargain price and unlimited device connections. It was the first VPN to remove the cap on multiple device connectivity from a single account. 

It allows you to get the best speed and to unlock country-restricted gaming in Japan, the U.S. or South Korea. Other great features include support for P2P traffic, a kill switch, private DNS and leak protection and a Bypasser, which acts as a filter allowing some mobile apps (like banking apps) and essential websites to pass through. You can also unlock U.S. Netflix and HBO Max directly from the console by spoofing with the Smart DNS. Surfshark native mobile and PC applications offer better ease of usage and security thanks to the multi-encryption options, including AES-256 encryption, OpenVPN protocols and WireGuard.

The monthly subscription charge is $12.95. However, the best deal remains the 24-month plan ($59.76, equivalent to $2.05 per month), which helps you save up to 84%. You can also save 69% by opting for the 12-month plan at $3.99 per month.

Best for Customization and PC Gaming: Private Internet Access (PIA)

Private Internet Access (PIA) offers a reliable VPN service with advanced network settings, a user-friendly app interface and high-speed test results. One of its distinguishing features is its thousands of VPN server networks scattered in over 80 countries, which helps its clients bypass geo-restrictions. And as such, this service can be handy if you're looking to access games in other parts of the world that either got released early or are unavailable in your location. PIA offers a dedicated IP address at a small extra charge. This unique address makes you less susceptible to IP block-listing and CAPTCHAs.

Other features include verifiable open source code, kill switch, advanced split tunneling, email breach scanner and more. It also offers port forwarding settings on its Windows software. With port forwarding, you can manually optimize your connection to reduce lag. PIA also supports P2P traffic on all its servers, making it an excellent choice for online gamers without a central server. The mobile app is protected via industry-leading WireGuard VPN protocol with AES encryption. While the mobile apps are well designed, users may find them complex compared to PIA's competitors. And the available Smart DNS tool doesn't perform optimally.

PIA VPN offers one of the best pricing deals. The annual bulk subscription grants you access to more servers than any other provider on this list. It's also reasonably fast, although slightly slower than the top picks.

Best for Optimized Server Selection and Storage: IPVanish

IPVanish doesn't front robust features like most of its peers on the Benzinga list. However, with over 2,000+ servers scattered in 75+ locations, it delivers decent performance for average gamers. Like Surfshark, it offers zero-cap device connection and provides excellent upload and download speeds. However, its core appeal is the way it sorts servers. Say you want servers below 10ms; IPVanish will sort through its network of servers and deliver the ones below a 10ms ping rate. 

This optimized sorting helps you select servers with low latency. To further sweeten its deal, new subscribers can enjoy free 250GB of SugarSync encrypted storage and backups, which can help them save sensitive documents. IPVanish employs a strict no-log and online anonymity policy and uses Wireguard protocols for protection. The apps, however, are a bit dated. Pricing starts at $10.99 per month, but you can save 52% and 63%, respectively, by going for the quarterly or annual pricing.

Why Do You Need a VPN for Gaming?

The internet is awash with reasons you might need a gaming VPN. However, most of the claims remain unproven or invalid. For instance, a gaming VPN cannot help you avoid DDoS attacks, boost your internet connection, reduce your ping or eliminate lag. Some proven ways gaming VPN can help you follow.

Find Easier Lobby and Avoid SBMM

Suppose you're a fan of popular games like Fortnite, Call of Duty and Apex Legends. In that case, you might have become used to hearing the term SBMM by now, as it often gets discussed in forums or gaming communities. It is a complex algorithm that determines your opponent in session. 

When you search for a match in an online video game, matchmaking algorithms use your in-game performance to determine your skill level and then match you with a similarly skilled opponent. By connecting your VPN to a server abroad or in a region having a smaller player base, the algorithm will prioritize filling the server over matchmaking. This helps you play in an easier lobby where you'll perform optimally. The more extensive the server network, the better the VPN avoids SBMM. 

Avoid DoS Attack

If you play competitive online games and e-Sports, gaming VPNs can help you avoid attacks on your IP address. In a denial of service (DoS) attack, the enemy sends vast internet traffic to your IP address to disrupt connections and take you offline. 

When you use a VPN, you get assigned its IP address, and your real IP address is masked, effectively protecting you from DoS. A distributed denial of services (DDoS) is a more powerful, faster, severe attack on your network from multiple sources. Commercial gaming VPNs are not effective in preventing DDoS. If your priority is warding off DoS attacks, go for PIA VPN. 

Bypass IP Restrictions 

If you cheat or commit other wrongdoings, your IP address can get a blanket ban, preventing you from accessing the game. VPNs can help bypass such a ban since they mask your IP address.

 However, you must understand that VPNs won't work for account-related or email address bans. Benzinga doesn't recommend bypassing bans as you might be violating terms and conditions and thus prone to permanent suspension. 

Prevent ISP Throttling 

Sometimes when you engage in high bandwidth activities like online gaming, your internet service providers (ISPs) slow down your speed. This action is referred to as ISP throttling. A gaming VPN hides your activity and location from your ISP so it doesn’t throttle your network

Avoid Local Firewalls 

Your school or workplace may put a firewall in place to deny you access to games online. VPNs can hide your online activities from local firewalls by encrypting your traffic and redirecting it to a secured remote server. Surfshark's obfuscation technology and Shadowstock protocols are tailored for such purposes.  

Considerations With VPNs

Some factors you might need to consider when choosing a VPN appear below.

Excellent Speed

Speed is a quality that separates excellent gaming VPNs from mediocre ones. You should avoid gaming VPNs with a sluggish connection speed if you hope to enjoy your gaming experience.

Security 

Besides lightning-fast speed, a safe connection with minimal risk is one of the cornerstones of a great VPN. Look out for VPNs offering anonymity and strict no-log policies with protective mechanisms like kill-switch and IP hiding.

Wide-Ranging Accessibility 

A VPN with limited accessibility is a no-brainer since it means you may not be able to access regional or country-restricted games or other content. So pay attention to the availability of a VPN by country before making a choice.

Robust Connections 

Your privacy is important and must be adequately protected. Look for VPNs that provide dependable data encryption. Where high-level anonymity is needed, consider services that send your traffic through multiple servers instead of one.

Excellent Ease of Usage

Avoid any VPN you can't get working in under a minute. The best gaming VPNs are highly intuitive and don't need you to be a tech expert to access them.  

Frequently Asked Questions

Q

Is a VPN good for gaming?

A

Yes. While not a necessity, a good VPN can come in handy depending on your location or situation.

Q

How are VPNs tested?

A

Gaming VPNs are tested using diverse parameters: upload and download speed, ping rates, number of servers, P2P traffic and port forwarding support and logging policy.