Best VPN for gaming in 2023

best VPN for gaming
I've tested a host of different paid-for services to find out which works best for gamers.

When it comes to gaming, the best VPN should offer a stable and responsive connection while ensuring your privacy remains under your control. It should seamlessly work with your favorite online services wherever you travel and be reliable enough not to interrupt gaming sessions.

While numerous VPN options are available, only a few cater to PC gamers' need for security and speed. These recommended VPNs below prioritize your online privacy without hindering your gaming experience. Surfshark is the best gaming VPN, offering affordability, ease of use, and support for unlimited devices. For budget-conscious users, IPVanish provides the best value VPN.

Throughout the year, I conduct extensive tests on various VPN services, considering their overall performance for online gaming and general use. I aim to find VPNs that deliver an excellent gaming experience without straining your budget or CPU. I meticulously evaluate factors like cost, performance, and features to determine the top VPNs so you can have peace of mind about your privacy.

While achieving the best VPN experience may come at a cost, the VPNs listed here offer reasonable prices for their monthly or yearly subscriptions. Beware of free VPNs, as they often track and sell your data to third parties, defeating the purpose of using a VPN. Always read the fine print to ensure your privacy remains intact.

1. Surfshark - the best VPN for gaming

1. Surfshark - the best VPN for gaming
Surfshark is the best VPN for its performance, ease of use, affordability, and versatility. After all, it's one of the only VPNs I've tested to allow unlimited devices attached to a single account.

2. NordVPN - the best VPN for consistent upload speeds

2. NordVPN - the best VPN for consistent upload speeds
As a close second, NordVPN is worth your time and money if upload speed is the most important thing to you while connected to a VPN connection. It offers close to un-VPN'd download speeds and the highest upload speeds I've tested.

3. IPVanish - the best value VPN for gaming

3. IPVanish - the best value VPN for gaming
If value for money is the most important things when you're shopping for a VPN, then IPVanish is a great shout. It isn't as fully featured as some of the more expensive options, but you get free encrypted storage baked into the package, too.

4. ExpressVPN - the best VPN for the global community

4. ExpressVPN - the best VPN for the global community
It may be coming in at number four, but ExpressVPN is still a great service. It may not have offered the most competitive download and upload performance when I last tested it, but it's one of the most wide-reaching with servers in 94 countries worldwide,

I would say just to be wary of free VPNs unless you're absolutely sure how your data is being processed and where it will end up. They can be a handy alternative for just getting a quick look at how something looks from a different region but will generally also have the biggest impact on just how fast your connection is.

The Surfshark logo on a grey background

(Image credit: Surfshark)

1. Surfshark

The best VPN for gaming


Servers: 1,700+
Countries: 63
Max devices: Unlimited

Reasons to buy

Unlimited devices
Impressive speed
Top ping performance

Reasons to avoid

Slower upload than NordVPN

Surfshark is my boy. For me, it's the best VPN for gaming that we've tested, offering a great combination of lower ping than my non-VPN connection and a relatively minor hit on overall download speeds. It's ever so slightly taxing on the uploads than NordVPN, which comes out top on that score, but not by enough to put me off. You'll probably want to prioritize that upload speed for streamers, making NordVPN the go-to option. But then, as a streamer, you'd probably rather have the total bandwidth available to you at all times…

The app is straightforward. There are neat features such as an optional kill switch (disabling your internet connection if the VPN drops for any reason) and an allowlist to allow banking apps through the VPN block. The company offers a strict no-logs policy and seems to be reliable on that front. 

Surfshark is also the only service tested that offers access to unlimited devices from a single account. That's pretty impressive, considering the relatively low cost compared to some of its peers.

The only issue I've encountered is that it doesn't seem like a comfortable fit for torrenting. I struggled to get anything to function, so if that's a deal-breaker for you, you'll probably want to look at Nord instead. 

NordVPN logo on a grey background

(Image credit: NordVPN)

2. NordVPN

The best VPN for consistent upload speeds


Servers: 5,700+
Countries: 59
Max devices: 6

Reasons to buy

Top download and upload speeds
Decent ping performance
Netflix access

Reasons to avoid

App requires lots of updating

It's close between Surfshark and NordVPN, but the toothy one just about wins out thanks to its unlimited devices, lower price, and lower ping. NordVPN is the high-performance option of download and upload speeds are the be-all and end-all for your PC experience. It delivers one of the highest relative download speeds in my testing compared to an untouched connection and the highest upload speed.

That seems to be where many VPN services fall in just how much they tank your upload connection. My upload speed is already 10x slower than my downloads, so I can ill afford to lose any more. But NordVPN still delivers around 85% of that connection, while Private Internet Access dropped down to 35%.

It's also your best option if you find torrenting your go-to method of accessing content online. Surfshark seems to block everything, in my experience, making Nord the next best thing.

The service also delivers an impressive ping performance, getting close to my unfettered ping score and consistently beating my game ping scores too. NordVPN uses the latest WireGuard VPN protocol, which it's called NordLynx. It's reportedly the fastest around and does seem to help it run consistently well. 

IPVanish logo on a grey background

(Image credit: IPVanish)

3. IPVanish

The best-value VPN for gaming


Servers: 1,400+
Countries: 51
Max devices: 10

Reasons to buy

Good value
Decent performance

Reasons to avoid

Not as fully-featured as others

IPVanish is one of the most affordable VPN services we've tested, but that doesn't mean you're missing out. It might not have the full feature set of Surfshark or NordVPN, but you do get 250GB of SugarSync encrypted storage and backup for free with a new subscription, which could give you a little extra peace of mind over your more sensitive documents.

It performs well too. The impact on my upload and download speed is impressively minimal, and it also manages, for the most part, to drop down the in-game ping when gaming online. There was a little spike in CS: GO, but nothing worrying, and still with fewer packet drops than with my standard connection.

If you're after a quality VPN service to run on your gaming machine, and potentially on nine other devices simultaneously, but don't want to spend big, then IPVanish is a great alternative to the top two on our list.

ExpressVPN logo

(Image credit: ExpressVPN)

4. ExpressVPN

The best VPN for the global community


Servers: 3,000+
Countries: 94
Max devices: 5

Reasons to buy

Servers available across the globe
Great Chrome plugin

Reasons to avoid

Slower upload speeds

Our list's second most expensive service is also the broadest reach globally. With servers in a staggering 94 countries, if you're looking to play with friends abroad, or find yourself traveling a lot, then ExpressVPN could be your best bet for a solid, secure, and relatively speedy connection.

ExpressVPN isn't bad in my testing for in-game ping performance, regularly giving me a lower millisecond count than my standard connection in Battlefield 5. Still, it sometimes struggled in CS: GO. However, it was the weakest when it came to downloading speeds—not that 94% of my regular connection is bad—but the upload hit was second only to the dreadful performance of Private Internet Access.

Of the top four, it also has the fewest number of simultaneous devices allowed, though, at five devices, you can still share the load across PC, laptop, phone, and significant other. But ExpressVPN is still a quality, reliable service that may not have the top-level performance I've measured from some others, but it is still a decent option for PC gamers.

Other VPNs tested

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The best VPN FAQ

Is a VPN good for gaming?

The historical consensus has been that you shouldn't use a VPN while gaming online because it might impact your connection and slow you down. Yes, you might be able to bypass the bane of geo-blocking, but many people complain about horrifying lag and subsequent in-game failures.

That is still the case if you're using a bandwidth-limited free service, such as Hola or the basic TunnelBear package, but if you pick wisely, you could find the best VPN for gaming, in some cases, can improve your online performance.

It may sound like we're pulling your chain. But it's true; a good VPN service can keep you safe and secure behind the scenes and improve your ping results in-game. Now, it's not a case of some fancy wizardry that will suddenly turn a slow internet connection into a lightning-quick one. But the best VPNs for gaming will often boast superior routing compared to your current internet service provider (ISP). That means you could get less packet loss via a VPN, and you might even see a lower ping, making your connection more responsive in-game.

I run a generally reliable, 100Mbit+ fiber connection at home, yet I still experience packet loss when I've got boots on the ground in Battlefield 5. My ping isn't bad, but it could always be better, right? Running a VPN does, however, take a bit of a chunk out of your overall download and upload speeds, but maybe not as much as you might think. Picking the best VPN for gaming will minimize that impact.

Why should I bother with a VPN?

There are other reasons you might want to run a VPN on your PC; the number one draw is online security. If you don't want a network tracking your every move, using a virtual private network is the best way to avoid that. The best VPNs run a 'no log' policy, which means they'll store no data about you or your activity, helping you stay secure in the face of any data breach. Again, it will also help you get around geo-blocking. Say you want to unlock a new game early or wish to subscribe to a service only available in another country, no problem.

How are VPNs tested?

Testing VPNs is a fun game and doesn't always end up with you bricking your internet connection each time you uninstall one to install another. Honestly. Not every time, anyway… We've sourced accounts for each of the services and tested them all on the same 100Mbit connection at the same time of day to ensure a fair reflection of the performance of each of them.

There are free VPNs and some VPN services with free tiers, but you won't find them suitable for connecting while gaming online. They almost always introduce latency to your experience and severely hamper the overall performance of your network connection.

We haven't included any free options, such as Hola or TunnelBear, in this list. They're also not necessarily a practical choice if you're trying to get around geo-blocked services such as video streaming, as you may still find them restricted.

As for testing, first, I took a measurement of my standard, unfettered internet connection, using that as a baseline against which to test each of the different services. Then I installed each VPN and tried it before uninstalling it to add a new VPN fresh. 

Dave James
Managing Editor, Hardware

Dave has been gaming since the days of Zaxxon and Lady Bug on the Colecovision, and code books for the Commodore Vic 20 (Death Race 2000!). He built his first gaming PC at the tender age of 16, and finally finished bug-fixing the Cyrix-based system around a year later. When he dropped it out of the window. He first started writing for Official PlayStation Magazine and Xbox World many decades ago, then moved onto PC Format full-time, then PC Gamer, TechRadar, and T3 among others. Now he's back, writing about the nightmarish graphics card market, CPUs with more cores than sense, gaming laptops hotter than the sun, and SSDs more capacious than a Cybertruck.