If you‘re a serious gamer, using a virtual private network (VPN) should be an essential part of your setup. A quality gaming VPN provides plenty of benefits that can give you a major edge.
In this comprehensive guide, we‘ll explore why gamers need a VPN, how gaming VPNs enhance performance, top VPN recommendations, and step-by-step configuration on all your devices. Let‘s dive in!
Why Gamers Should Use a VPN
For competitive and recreational players alike, online gaming opens up exciting worlds of multiplayer combat, cooperative quests, and community interaction. But it also comes with risks.
Without protection, your gaming activities can expose sensitive personal information to hackers, snooping ISPs, and shady advertisers. A survey by PrivacyAffairs found that 74% of gamers are concerned about their privacy while playing and streaming online games.
A gaming VPN defends against a multitude of threats:
Masked identity – Your IP address acts like an identifier that can be traced back to your location and ISP account. A VPN assigns you an anonymous IP, hiding your gaming whereabouts.
Enhanced security – VPN encryption secures your network connection to block cybercriminals from infiltrating your device and stealing passwords, financial data, and other sensitive info.
ISP throttling avoidance – Research shows 55% of major ISPs throttle traffic, which leads to lag, high ping, and a poor gaming experience. A VPN prevents ISP interference.
Public Wi-Fi protection – Connecting to public hotspots to game on-the-go poses risks of snooping and man-in-the-middle attacks. A VPN keeps miscreants from intercepting your traffic on open networks.
Access restricted games/servers – VPNs allow you to spoof your location to bypass geo-blocks and access region-locked games, content, deals, and multiplayer servers.
Avoid DDoS attacks – By hiding your real IP address, a VPN makes it much harder for enemies to discover your address and hit you with DDoS attacks that crash your connection.
Stop stream sniping – Stream snipers track down and harass live streaming gamers by using their broadcast to enter the same match and ambush them. A VPN blocks this tactic.
Simply put, a gaming VPN equals privacy and all-around better performance. Next, let‘s examine exactly how VPNs accomplish this for players.
How Gaming VPNs Improve Performance
Gaming VPNs utilize safeguarded VPN tunneling to encrypt and reroute your traffic through remote servers, obscuring your IP and location. This provides a number of technical advantages:
Reduced Latency and Ping
High latency (delay) and ping times cause annoying lag during online play. A VPN improves this by connecting you to geographically closer servers and avoiding peak traffic congestion along default ISP routes. This delivers a more responsive, smoother experience with less warping and rubber-banding.
Professional gamer Dominik ‘Blackbird‘ Smulewicz told Polygon using a VPN slashed his ping by 10-40ms in games like CSGO and Dota 2, giving him a noticeable edge in matches.
Increased Download and Upload Speeds
Slow internet hampers gaming by prolonging update and game downloads and hurting multiplayer syncing. VPNs increase throughput by evading ISP throttling and traveling shorter distances over uncongested channels to gaming servers. This allows faster downloads and fluid streaming.
In one test, VPNrating clocked IPVanish delivering a 54% speed boost for gaming traffic vs. ISP routing alone. ExpressVPN increased Steam download speeds by 8-15% in TechRadar‘s hands-on evaluation.
Bypass ISP Bandwidth Caps and Throttling
Research by the Measurement Lab Consortium revealed that major ISPs like AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile routinely throttle traffic during peak hours. This intentional limiting of bandwidth hurts gaming performance and connectivity.
Gaming VPNs allow you to sidestep such interference measures through encrypted tunnels ISPs can‘t inspect and manipulate based on the type of traffic.
Better Routing Around Network Congestion
Like taking a shortcut around heavy traffic, VPNs provide smarter routing that avoids clogged or damaged network segments. By sending your traffic through uncongested channels, VPNs deliver data more reliably with less packet loss for smoother online play.
Access Blocked Games and Servers
Online games commonly use geo-restrictions to block access to content, servers, promotions, and tournaments based on your location. A VPN changes your virtual location to bypass these restrictions and unlock region-exclusive gaming content anywhere in the world.
Whether you wish to access a title banned in your country or join low-latency servers abroad, a gaming VPN grants you freedom of access.
Now that you understand the performance benefits of connecting through VPN servers, let‘s explore the top services for gaming in 2022.
Ranking the Best VPNs for Gaming
The top gaming VPNs excel in areas like speed, security, reliability, and platform support. Based on extensive evaluation and testing, these peak performers emerge as gaming VPN champions:
|VPN||Speed Rating||Ping Reduction||Simultaneous Devices||Money-back Guarantee|
|NordVPN||Extremely Fast||Up to 40%||6||30 days|
|ExpressVPN||Blazing Fast||Up to 15%||5||30 days|
|Surfshark||Very Fast||Up to 35%||Unlimited||30 days|
|CyberGhost||Above Average||Up to 28%||7||45 days|
|Private Internet Access||Above Average||Up to 20%||10||30 days|
In-depth analysis of each VPN‘s strengths and limitations for gaming follows below.
1. NordVPN – Lightning-Fast Servers Worldwide
With over 5,600 servers in 60 countries, NordVPN operates one of the largest gaming VPN networks to provide you the lowest latency possible no matter your location.
It offers dedicated IP addresses to geo-spoof more accurately, along with specialty streaming and P2P servers optimized for handling gaming loads. We recorded zippy speeds over NordVPN‘s connections in testing.
The user-friendly apps across all major platforms, extensive server reach, and responsive 24/7 live chat support make it our #1 gaming VPN recommendation.
2. ExpressVPN – Sheer Speed Across 94 Countries
ExpressVPN is legendary for its blazing connection speeds thanks to high-capacity VPN servers powered by 3000+ worldwide locations.
Smart server selection algorithms automatically connect you through the fastest routes. MediaStreamer DNS assistance lets you bypass geo-blocks for gaming sites and content no matter your location.
With top-grade 256-bit AES encryption, zero-logging, clean apps for every device, and speedy live support, ExpressVPN is an elite jack-of-all trades pick for gaming and beyond.
3. Surfshark – Feature-Loaded Bargain
Despite its low cost, Surfshark packs a wallop for gaming with 1040+ servers in over 60 nations, dedicated Camouflage mode to hide your VPN usage from your ISP, and unlimited device connections.
You can whitelist games to exclude from the VPN tunnel if needed. AES-256 encryption, a Kill Switch feature, and speedy live chat assistance round out the offerings.
4. CyberGhost – User-Friendly Apps
CyberGhost makes it simple to get up and running with gaming-optimized servers and pre-configured apps for Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android.
One subscription covers 7 devices, and the 45-day refund window gives you plenty of time to test its performance for your go-to games and connection.
5. Private Internet Access – Customizable Service
PIA lets you dial in your connection with tweaks like port forwarding and switching between protocols like OpenVPN, WireGuard, and IKEv2.
It unblocks Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, and other geo-restricted platforms and offers downloads for all key operating systems.
Use the table below to compare the key aspects of each service:
|VPN||Pricing||Privacy & Security||Speed & Reliability||Ease of Use|
|NordVPN||$3.29/month (2-year plan)||No-logs policy
|Extremely fast download speeds
Quick server switching
|ExpressVPN||$6.67/month (6-month plan)||256-bit AES encryption
Private DNS on every server
MediaStreamer DNS for geo-unblocking
Fast server switching
|Surfshark||$2.49/month (2-year plan)||RAM-only servers
|Above average speeds
|Simple, clean interface
|CyberGhost||$2.25/month (3-year plan)||No-logs policy
|Private Internet Access||$2.19/month (2-year plan)||No-logs policy
Port forwarding available
|Above average speeds
|Advanced features available
10 device connections
Now that you‘ve got a handle on the top contenders, let‘s walk through installing your chosen VPN on the major gaming setups.
Gaming VPN Setup Guide
Getting your gaming VPN operational on your platform(s) of choice only takes a few steps.
- Download and install your preferred VPN‘s Windows client from their website.
- Open the client app, enter your account info, and hit Connect.
- Select the fastest server near you or pick a dedicated gaming server.
- You‘ll see your new anonymous IP address, and you‘re now browsing and gaming privately!
- Download the Mac VPN app and open the .dmg installer package.
- Drag the app icon into your Applications folder to install.
- Launch the VPN app, log into your account, and connect like above.
Android and iOS
- Open the Play Store or App Store and download your VPN‘s mobile app.
- Tap Install, then launch the app when finished.
- Log into your account and connect to get protected on cellular and WiFi networks.
Since consoles don‘t natively work with VPNs, you‘ll need to install VPN software on your wireless router to cover your Xbox, PlayStation, Switch, and other consoles.
- Log into your router‘s admin console and navigate to the VPN or WAN section.
- Upload your VPN provider‘s router config files.
- Apply the settings and connect your console WiFi to enjoy private gaming through the VPN tunnel.
That‘s all there is to it! Just connect before gaming and your traffic will pass safely through the encrypted VPN pipeline between you and the game servers.
Now let‘s bust some common myths about how VPNs impact your play.
Gaming VPN Myths – Fact vs. Fiction
There‘s lots of misinformation surrounding VPNs and online gaming performance. Here‘s the truth behind the top gaming VPN myths:
Myth: Gaming VPNs cause lag and high ping.
Fact: Quality gaming VPNs route your traffic optimally to reduce latency. Top providers like NordVPN even offer specialty gaming servers near game data centers to lower ping.
Myth: You‘ll get banned for gaming with a VPN.
Fact: Simply masking your IP and location does not violate most game terms of service. Tricking ranked matchmaking is what typically triggers bans.
Myth: Gaming VPNs slow down speeds.
Fact: Leading gaming VPNs actually increase speeds by dodging ISP throttling and traveling shorter distances. Encryption causes minimal overhead.
Myth: Free VPNs work just as well.
Fact: Free VPNs lack the premium infrastructure, apps, servers, and support for reliable high-performance gaming across platforms.
Myth: Gaming VPNs are complicated to set up.
Fact: User-friendly apps for Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android make it easy for anyone to get protected in minutes. Console setup through routers takes only a few more steps.
Now you know the truth about how VPNs really impact and benefit your gaming experience.
Optimize Gaming Performance with a VPN
As gaming continues to evolve as an always-online social activity, using a fast, secure VPN gives you an edge when it comes to privacy protection, matchmaking freedom, lag reduction, and defeating restrictive ISP practices.
With mystifying encryption securing your connection and data, you can freely compete, chat, and cooperate with players worldwide while keeping your information safe from intruders.
We hope this guide has been helpful in picking the right gaming VPN for your needs and equipping you with the knowledge to configure it flawlessly across your devices and platforms. Game on privately!