Online gaming while using a VPN might slow you down a little, but there are lots of reasons to use one. The primary reason is privacy: websites track your IP address, and if you don't want them to do that, a VPN is the only way to stop them. Using a VPN also gives you more peace of mind when connected to unsecured wi-fi, such as at a coffee shop, and can be used to bypass region restrictions.
We've gathered the quickest, most reliable, and securest services under one roof to get you started. This list also contains free alternatives for those who aren’t keen to get a paid membership, but you'll get the best experience and the most security from a subscription service.
Do I need VPN?
Should I use a VPN for gaming?
If you're undecided on Virtual Private Networks, check out our guide on the subject.
Here's how VPNs work. The acronym stands for ‘virtual private network’ and essentially puts a middleman between you and the internet. When connected to a VPN, instead of directly connecting to a website or online service—announcing your home IP to it—you ask the VPN server to connect for you. It then encrypts whatever data you requested and sends it to you. The only server your personal internet connection is interacting with is the VPN server, so none of the websites you visit can track you (except with browser cookies, if you allow them).
Any reputable VPN service, such as the ones on this list, will store absolutely no logs of your activity. That means that even if a data breach occurred, there wouldn't be any data about your internet usage to find.
Even the best VPN for PC gaming can slow down your bandwidth, but many find the increased security to be a worthwhile tradeoff—and you can always disconnect when playing online games.
Besides encrypting your online communication, VPNs allow you to get around geo-blocking, for instance to watch Netflix as if you're in another country. Before subscribing, check that your chosen VPN works with Netflix and other streaming services, as they've made attempts to block VPN usage.
The best VPN for gaming.
Servers: 700+ | Server locations: 73 | IP addresses: 20K+ | Ping: 22ms | Download: 37.00Mbps | Upload: 21.78Mbps | Max devices: 3—5
VyperVPN features support for a very expansive variety of platforms: you can use it on Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, Tomato routers via an app, DD-WRT, OpenWrt, AsusWRT, Blackberry 10, Synology NAS, Android TV, Boxee, the Anonabox, and the privacy-centric Blackphone (and breathe). This distinguishes it from the competition right away. VyperVPN also has the advantage of being based in Switzerland, a nation that has favorable privacy laws and views IP addresses as personal information to be protected.
Priced at $9.95 monthly or $60 annually for unlimited data across a maximum of three clients (not to mention the monthly $12.95 premium option that includes a cloud VPN server and a ‘Chameleon Protocol' to defeat VPN-blocking tech), it’s slap-bang in the middle of our recommendations in terms of cost. While there is no free tier, the company offers a free trial of 1 GB of data over three days to test out the service.
It’s worth considering: this robust platform is based around 700+ servers on six continents across 70+ locations, and it offers over 20K IP addresses. VyprVPN also uses VyprDNS, a system they claim is encrypted for website requests so they don’t go through your ISP. Because they have “zero knowledge” of the DNS requests, there is no log of a user’s activity and therefore no record of the user’s activities while online. This further guarantees anonymity.
The challenging thing about choosing a VPN is that none of them excel on every test, but VyprVPN did better than most: it offers a balanced approach to performance. On our download test it managed 37.00 Mbps of throughput, the second fastest speed obtained in this guide. Similarly, the upload test managed 21.78 Mbps of throughput (the number 2 spot once again). It also had a ping of 22 milliseconds, giving it the second-best latency test, which is ideal to avoid lag when playing a game. Finally, VyprVPN has an integrated Kill Switch to block the internet connection if the VPN tunnel gets compromised to prevent unencrypted data from being sent.
With support for so many platforms, top-of-the-pack speeds on each of test, a large number of servers, and reasonable pricing, we continue to recommend VyprVPN as the best VPN for PC gaming.
The most easy-to-use VPN.
Servers: 1000 | Server locations: 20 | IP addresses: N/A | Ping: 24ms | Download: 24.73Mbps | Upload: 14.85Mbps | Max devices: 5
If we were giving out awards for the cutest VPN, TunnelBear would easily win with its themed software that makes the promise to, er, “browse privately with a bear.” It was also the simplest to set up and use, but that’s missing the point: BEAR.
Anyway, TunnelBear VPN includes a free tier of 500 MB monthly (the least amount of data on this list’s services) and unlimited browsing for $9.99 monthly or $49.99 annually, making it moderately priced for the category. It supports all the major platforms, including Windows, Mac, iOS and Android, and has extensions for Chrome and Opera. They state that the service cannot be configured manually to run on a router, but TunnelBear VPN promises to collect “the minimal amount of information required to operate our service”.
In other news, TunnelBear has a network across 20 countries and states a “no log” policy. In addition, its “Ghostbear” feature can make VPN traffic less detectable and therefore defeat VPN blocking.
That said, the download speed of 24.73Mbps was on the slower side, and the upload speed of 14.85 Mbps was middling as well. Still, it did at least boast a lower ping time of 24 milliseconds. It’d be a decent choice for gaming as a result.
We would recommend TunnelBear VPN for anyone who is happy using a VPN application, and doesn't want to mess with router settings.
The best free VPN for gaming.
Servers: 348+ | Server locations: 11—50 | IP addresses: N/A | Ping: 95ms | Download: 9.26Mbps | Upload: 10.53Mbps | Max devices: No limit
Windscribe VPN has two notable distinctions up front: although it has a free tier that supports Windows, Mac, and iOS, its paid-for services are the most expensive on an annual basis. Secondly, it was the only service we looked at that supports an unlimited number of clients. That makes Windscribe worth a look for larger households with more than five devices to connect. It also has router support for both DD-WRT and Tomato firmware.
So, about that paid tier. It’s unlimited, is priced at $9/month or $49 annually, and includes unlimited bandwidth for an unlimited number of devices. While the free tier has servers in only 11 locations, the paid tier bumps it up to a healthy 50 countries. They also claim to not “keep any permanent logs” (although this is hardly synonymous with a “no log” policy) and there is an integrated kill switch. Meanwhile, their ‘Windflix’ feature unblocks US Netflix when viewing overseas.
The problem? Speeds were quite lackluster with 9.26Mbps on the download and 10.53Mbps on the upload, an enigmatic result with more bandwidth on the upstream then on the downstream (which we did confirm on repeated tests), along with a higher ping of 95 millisecs. This all adds up to making Windscribe VPN less preferred for anonymous PC gaming. However, Windrush does admittedly have the most generous free data allotment of 10GB monthly, even if you do need to provide an email address (if you don’t, this data allowance drops to 2GB... but that’s still considerably larger than other VPNs that have free tiers).
Based on that, Windscribe VPN is the only service that offers a free tier that may last a lower bandwidth user for a full month. However, to ensure privacy, we highly recommend using a paid VPN service rather than a free one.
Best annual price
The best budget VPN (paid annually).
Servers: 50+ | Server locations: 12 | Ping: 162ms | Download: 29.04Mbps | Upload: 23.08Mbps | Max devices: 3
Private Tunnel VPN is a decent VPN offering. There's no free tier, but there a 200MB time-limited trial. Their software supports the major platforms including Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android. In addition, it offers support for VPN at the router level via the OpenWrt platform, an open source router firmware.
The Speedtest was decent with a healthy download of 29.04Mbps and a particularly strong upload of 23.08Mbps (which makes it the fastest upload we tested). It also had the highest ping time of 162 milliseconds. There are some downsides though, including being based in the US and having only 12 server locations in nine countries.
On the bright side, there is no unlimited monthly plan; rather, 20GB of data can be purchased for $9.99 or a better-priced 100GB of data for $19.99 with no expiration date. There’s a yearly plan for an affordable $29.99 annually as well that supports up to ten devices, making PrivateTunnel VPN one of the more affordable options for the user looking at an annual plan.
Best monthly price
The best budget VPN (paid monthly).
Servers: 400+ | Server locations: 70+ | Ping: 21ms | Download: 29.00Mbps | Upload: 14.85Mbps | Max devices: 5—10
VPN Unlimited offers a compelling feature-set at bargain basement price. Although it does not offer a free tier other than the initial seven-day trial, the service does give an excellent array of servers to connect to.
Pricing is excellent, too. It has a monthly plan of $6.99 and an annual plan of $39.99 across up to 5 clients, and it also supports the usual platforms (including Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Roku boxes, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Google Chromecast). There’s even router support for both DD-WRT, Open Wrt, and limited support for Tomato firmware, making VPN Unlimited an excellent choice for wider platform support.
Speedtest speeds are a mixed bag, though. On the one hand, download speeds of 29.00Mbps puts it in the middle of the pack. On the other, upload speeds of 14.85Mbps, combined with the lowest ping time of 21 milliseconds, makes VPN Unlimited an excellent choice for PC gaming.
All the same, the real distinction of VPN Unlimited is price. It has the lowest monthly cost compared to every other service we looked at.
How we test VPNs and future testing
There are several points of intervention that can encrypt VPN traffic. The most common way is to load VPN software from a provider onto your computer. While this used to be a complex task with configuration of multiple manual settings, most services are as simple as a download and account creation. This approach can not only be used on a computer, but also on the Android or iOS smartphone platforms via an app. The limitation of client software or a smartphone app is that only the client running the VPN software gets secured, and many users have other devices, such as a smart TV or an Amazon Alexa, that are transmitting unencrypted data.
As it's impossible to secure each and every device via VPN software, the solution is to run the software at the router level, which can be set up to encrypt all the transmissions to the VPN provider. Finally, for those occasions when installing and running software may be less practical, a VPN tunnel can be created at the browser level.
The often-progressive Opera browser is offering this feature integrated into the browser—with no monthly data limit and no account creation via the SurfEasy VPN service. Other browsers offer an extension that can be added, such as the ZenMate and DotVPN extensions for Chrome. But be aware that back in 2015 the Hola browser extension for VPN sold users' bandwidth to botnets. Be very cautious when looking at extensions, especially free ones.
Choosing a VPN service can be a daunting task. For this guide, we focused on the following items:
- The monthly data allotment, as some services limit the amount of data that can be sent, while others are unlimited.
- Pricing on a monthly and annual basis.
- A free trial so the service can be tested without commitment, as some only offer a time limited money back guarantee for their service.
- A free tier, for limited, lighter usage, for example when using public Wi-Fi at an airport, library, or internet cafe.
- The number of client devices per account, as most users have more than a single device.
- Availability of iOS and Android apps from the VPN in order to protect mobile device usage.
- The speeds obtained, as bouncing an internet connection through proxy servers has an overhead, with latency increasing and both download and upload speeds less than without a VPN service.
VPN is a highly dynamic area, with plenty of recent attention. We’ll be on the lookout for the introduction of new offerings among these services, and modified tiers among the current providers.
For a good number of users, our overall recommendation of VyprVPN is an excellent choice, although users looking for more affordability, (or even free), or unlimited client support should check out our other recommendations. The offering of a free trial is compelling before committing, as YMMV depending on your internet connection, your geographic location, and networking equipment. Finally, realize the limitations of a VPN, and while it can help to preserve the right to privacy from your ISP and from packet sniffing on public Wi-Fi spots, none of these services will provide complete anonymity.
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