Best Gaming VPNs of 2022 | #itsecurity | #infosec


Not everyone needs the best gaming VPN  —  but serious, competitive gamers find the anonymity and location freedoms offered by VPNs to be indispensable. DDoS attacks and other hacking attempts can’t target you when a VPN is hiding your IP address. Location-swapping abilities provided by VPNs also give gamers an edge, and even allow for early access to new titles. 

All of our picks for the best gaming VPNs will let you maintain fast speeds while staying protected, with options for value, PC gaming, and even the elusive VPN console gaming. 

— Best Overall: NordVPN
— Best Value: Private Internet Access
— Best for Streaming and Gaming: ExpressVPN
— Best for PC Gaming: Surfshark
— Best for Consoles: CyberGhost

How We Picked the Best Gaming VPNs

As online security becomes more important (and more threatened) VPNs are used for a host of situations. We particularly wanted to find those services that truly supported gamers with the thing they need most: speed. While speed depends on so many factors, including hardware, internet connection, and traffic loads, the five services we recommend are consistently fast. 

We also only included VPN services who could offer broad coverage with their server locations, as many gamers utilize VPNs for their ability to location-swap. Our top providers also offer servers in the thousands so they won’t be crowded when it’s time to play — again looking out for that critical speed factor.    

We also reviewed the best VPNs overall, but the ones below offer particularly strong performance for gaming.

Best Overall: NordVPN

King of Encryption. NordVPN

Why It Made The Cut: With intense speeds and a proven track record of rock-solid reliability, NordVPN beats the competition when it comes to a top gaming experience. 

Specs:
Jurisdiction: Panama
Number of Servers: 5,400
Number of Locations: 59 countries
Gaming-focused feature: MeshNet LAN parties 

Pros:
— Upgraded servers and a proprietary VPN protocol for super fast speeds
— Top-level encryption for anonymous gaming activity
— A large number of servers for IP address anonymity
— Meshnet feature allows for remote LAN-style parties

Cons:
— Six device limit
— More expensive

NordVPN, the behemoth in the VPN industry, earns the first spot on our gaming VPN list because it stands out in three key areas: speed, privacy, and reliability. Add on the host of extra features aimed at both gaming and everyday online activities, and NordVPN wins out for the best gaming VPN. 

While there’s no getting around the fact that a VPN will add a touch of lag time to your internet connection, what gamers need is a VPN service that can offer speeds that make that lag barely perceptible. In an independent test of their connection speeds, NordVPN came out on top and neatly dominated their nearest competitors, thanks in part to their proprietary protocol, NordLynx. Based on WireGuard, its simplified code is built for speed.  

Privacy-wise, NordVPN controls nearly 5,500 servers, allowing you to grab an uncrowded server close by for super low ping, or hop to a server in one of nearly 60 countries to access the region of your choice. Either way, your IP address is effectively hidden, and there’s even a kill switch option that shuts down your connection if the VPN goes down, avoiding your IP’s exposure. Using government-level, advanced encryption standards (AES) with 256-bit keys, everything you do online is inscrutable to the outside world. 

There’s a reason Nord’s the biggest fish in the VPN sea. Constant server upgrades, a consistently tweaked proprietary VPN protocol, and excellent near-instant pro support via chat set these guys apart. 

In a neat feat for gamers, NordVPN’s new Meshnet feature allows you to use your VPN to privately connect to other gamers (on PC or mobile, provided they also run NordVPN) to create virtual LAN parties. You can storm dungeons and take out enemy encampments together, without having to share a room full of competing fast food aromas. 

Best Value: Private Internet Access

Positively Private. Private Internet Access

Why It Made The Cut: With a bargain-basement price on the two-year plan, PIA combines fast speeds over WireGuard protocol with thousands of servers to choose from, in an impressive number of countries.

Specs:
Jurisdiction: USA
Number of Servers: 10,000+
Number of Locations: 84 countries
Gaming-focused feature: Dedicated IP address add-on

Pros:
— Cheap monthly cost with a two-year plan
— The most servers of any provider on our list
— Connect up to 10 devices per account
— Dedicated privacy practices 

Cons:
— Not as fast as NordVPN

Private isn’t their middle name, it’s their first. Private Internet Access has been on the VPN scene for over a decade, racking up millions of happy customers. Don’t ask what those customers are up to, PIA keeps no logs (a practice that’s regularly tested in court) and even allows payment via crypto or third-party gift cards for a fully anonymous VPN account. Their open-source apps are laid bare for scrutiny, adding another layer of consumer protection. 

So yes, their privacy performance is stellar, but the reason we recommend it as one of our top gaming VPNs is its winning combo of price and performance. Go for the two-year plan (paid all at once) and it averages out to less than a jar of peanut butter per month. Running on WireGuard, the fastest of the VPN protocols, ping times are only imperceptibly higher and data speeds are whiz-bang fast. While PIA may not have the lightning speeds produced by NordVPN’s own (WireGuard-based) protocol, the savings make up for the disparity. 

For gamers who want to hide their personal IP address and get the encryption of VPN tunnels, without having to deal with some of the security-flagging drawbacks that using shared IP addresses can cause, PIA offers a dedicated IP option. Other VPN services also offer a dedicated IP option, but again, PIA’s is among the cheapest.

Best for Streaming and Gaming: ExpressVPN

Stream With Ease. ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN

Why It Made The Cut: Thanks to its steady reliability and globe-covering locations, ExpressVPN is great for gaming, but its consistent ability to work with streaming services makes it a potent dual-purpose service too.  

Specs:
Jurisdiction: British Virgin Islands
Number of Servers: 3,000+
Number of Locations: 94 countries
Supported Devices: Router, PC
Gaming-focused feature: Global server coverage  

Pros:
— Broad server coverage
— Fast and secure proprietary Lightway protocol
— Independently audited servers and no-log policy
— Immediate customer support 24/7

Cons:
— More expensive
— Five device limit

If you like having the option to select a server in the widest-ranging set of countries, ExpressVPN has you covered, quite literally. An all-around reliable provider, these guys consistently get great marks for speed thanks to their own Lightway protocol. They built it from the ground up to produce super-fast connection times and running speeds. It’s also nimble, with just 2,000 lines of code for faster maintenance and fixes. With more than 3,000 servers, you’re bound to find one in just the right spot for the lowest ping rates.  

It’s true, they are among the more expensive VPN providers out there, which means they’d better be more than just fast. Top-level encryption, a kill switch, and audited privacy protections keep your data secure and nobody’s business but your own. Their instant round-the-clock customer service is also extremely helpful for getting set up or troubleshooting down the road. An extensive library of video tutorials will turn you into a VPN expert in no time.  

Speed, server locations, and reliability make ExpressVPN great for gaming, but if you want to stream with the freedom of an IP address from anywhere while hiding your activity, ExpressVPN does double duty admirably. Committed to keeping their servers updated and able to get around streaming blocks, this VPN works with all the major streaming services — even the VPN-averse Netflix. And if you ever get the dreaded connection error message, the customer support team is well versed in getting you past the block and into streaming freedom. 

Best for PC Gaming: Surfshark

Surfing Worry-Free. Surfshark

Why It Made The Cut: An all-around great pick, Surfshark offers speed and value plus a smooth PC app with loads of customization. 

Specs:
Jurisdiction: Netherlands
Number of Servers: 3,200+
Number of Locations: 95 countries
Gaming-focused features: Quick Connect

Pros:
— Excellent price with the two-year plan
— Servers in the most countries
— Consistently fast speeds
— Unlimited device coverage

Cons:
— Kill switch is sometimes inconsistent 

Despite only being around since 2018, Surfshark has made a name for itself in the teeming VPN landscape. Their generous unlimited device coverage blows most other providers away — especially those who limit you to five or six devices (ahem, ExpressVPN and NordVPN). Their data speeds consistently win speed tests, and it all comes at a price that competes with the value players (they’re only a few dimes more than our value pick, PIA). 

On PC, the interface is simplified and highly customizable, letting you toggle a suite of features like a kill switch, split tunneling/whitelisting (picking which of your traffic routes through your VPN), and an obfuscation mode for deep privacy (though not a feature you’ll likely use while gaming).

As for Surfshark’s PC gaming laurels, you get the option to select which protocol handles your VPN traffic: OpenVPN (great everyday pick), IKEv2 (good for mobile), or WireGuard (what you want for lag-free gaming). Use their Quick Connect feature that automatically picks your nearest, least-loaded server so you can drop into Azeroth as quickly as possible.

Best for Consoles: CyberGhost

Haunt Your Ad Trackers. CyberGhost

Why It Made The Cut: A wide coverage of countries, plus a great router app at a competitive price put CyberGhost at the top of the list for console gaming. 

Specs:
Jurisdiction: Romania
Number of Servers: 6,200+ servers from
Number of Locations: 90+ countries
Gaming-focused features: Extensive router app support

Pros:
— Super low per-month price with the three-year plan
— Offers members discounts on VPN-installed FlashRouters
— Live 24/7 chat support in English, French, German, and Romanian
— 45-day money-back guarantee 

Cons:
— Console video tutorial is only for DNS settings

CyberGhost’s VPN service works well with routers, and they even have a deal worked out with FlashRouters that gives you a discount on a FlashRouter with CyberGhost’s VPN app already installed. Every device you connect to the router will be protected with full VPN privacy and security — including your consoles. And with CyberGhost’s seven device limit, you’ll still have plenty of room to cover those devices you take on the go, like mobile phones, laptops, and tablets. 

With ton (as in 8,000-plus) servers, you can always find something nearby to lower ping. Plus their industry-leading 45-day money-back guarantee and a low monthly price (if you opt for the three-year plan) makes CyberGhost a low risk way to cover your consoles with VPN protection.    

Many VPN services make a point to call out how well they work with gaming consoles, but unfortunately your XBox, PlayStation, and Switch won’t natively run a VPN service. While you can use your VPN service to provide the address for a different DNS server to spoof your location on your console, to get the IP address-hiding and traffic-obscuring functions of a VPN, you’ll need to install the VPN service on the router or desktop computer that you use to connect your console.

Things to Consider Before Buying a Gaming VPN

VPNs give gamers three distinct advantages: IP address protection, activity masking, and location spoofing. Keep in mind that VPNs don’t natively work with consoles, so you’ll probably want one that works well with routers.  

DDoS Attacks: Gaming can get heated. Gamers also tend to be more tech-savvy than the average human. Angry gamers can initiate illegal attacks that can boot you off the game server, or far worse. VPNs can protect you from these attacks by obscuring your IP address so attackers can’t target you. 

DDoS stands for distributed denial of service and happens when a hacker overloads your network with requests targeting your IP address. That typically spells the end of your internet connection until the attack ends. 

Your VPN service hides your IP address, connecting you to the game using their servers instead. If an attacker targets the VPN-provided IP address, your traffic won’t be affected. Of course, if you’ve already experienced a DDoS attack, a VPN can’t stop another one. If someone already has your IP address, they can still use it to boot you with another attack. Before getting a VPN, get a new IP address from your ISP. Then, once you’re shielded by your VPN, they won’t be able to get a hold of your IP address for any further illegal shenanigans. 

Some Consoles Don’t Support VPNs: To cover your consoles while gaming, you’ll either need to set up your VPN service on your router or your computer. Setting up on your router will cover any device that connects to that router, including gaming consoles. With a computer, you can share your connection from your VPN-covered PC or Mac with your console, thereby providing VPN-coverage. 

Location Spoofing:A VPN allows you to select servers around the world, making you appear as though you are somewhere you aren’t. You can use this tactic if a new title is released earlier in another region. Masking your IP address can also get you back onto games from which you were unfairly banned. While most online games allow you to pick your gaming server, some don’t, which means friends from different countries sometimes can’t play together. VPN location spoofing gets around that snag too. 

FAQs

Q: How much do gaming VPNs cost?

Gaming VPNs can cost anywhere from $13 per month, to free. Keep in mind that free VPNs tend to make their money in other ways, such as selling your data. The lowest-cost VPN on our list is Private Internet Access at just $2.19 on the two-year plan, which is very low and offers far better protection than a free VPN. 

Q: Does a VPN cause lag?

A VPN can cause lag. Just like adding extra stops on a road trip makes the journey take longer, routing your traffic to another server before heading to your gaming server can add time. The gamers who tend to experience the most lag are usually those with slower internet connections to begin with. Gamers who say they barely notice a lag when gaming over a VPN are usually those with faster internet connections. 

If you only need to spoof your location and don’t need to hide your IP address or encrypt your traffic, you can simply use the “smart DNS” function offered by most VPN services. This will change your location without creating extra lag. 

Q: Is it legal to use a VPN for gaming?

It is legal to use a VPN for gaming in most countries. Certain countries like China, Russia, Iraq, and Iran have banned the use of VPNs. Certain activities performed using VPNs can be illegal or violate copyright restrictions, but simply gaming while using a VPN is not illegal in most countries. 

Q: Are VPNs worth it for gaming?

VPNs are worth it for gaming if you engage in competitive gaming or fear you may be a target for hacking attempts such as DDoS attacks. Because a VPN can change your location, it can also be useful for accessing region-restricted content or joining worlds hosted on gaming servers that are not local to you.

Final Thoughts on Gaming VPNs

NordVPN has put in a ton of effort over the years to keep its service reliable and fast. Their proprietary VPN protocol and continuously upgraded servers pair up with great customer service to lead our recommendation for the best overall gaming VPN.  

While the competitive nature of the VPN landscape has brought most prices way down, we wanted to recommend a service that combined performance with a super low price. Our pick, PIA does a great job of both. We also know that some gamers prefer PCs, while others like a console so we found services that excelled at each (Surfshark for PCs and CyberGhost for consoles). VPNs aren’t just for your PCs and consoles though, so be sure to protect your Android too.

This post was created by a non-news editorial team at Recurrent Media, Futurism’s owner. Futurism may receive a portion of sales on products linked within this post.



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