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The Best VPNs for Gaming

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Podium Rankings for Best VPN
Simon Migliano Head of Research at Top10VPN
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Simon is a recognized world expert in VPNs. He's tested hundreds of VPN services and his research has featured on the BBC, The New York Times, CNet and more. Read full bio

You can use a gaming VPN to bypass IP bans, and to access geo-restricted online games and content.

A best-rated VPN also protects you against ISP throttling and DDoS attacks on your IP address.

By changing your region, a VPN also lets you find easy lobbies and avoid skill-based matchmaking (SBMM) on games such as Call of Duty: Warzone and PUBG.

We tested 68 VPNs for speed, latency, and compatibility on PC, smartphone, Xbox, and PlayStation. The VPNs below excelled in our gaming-specific tests.

Based on our recent gaming tests, the best free and paid VPNs for gaming are:

  1. ExpressVPN: The overall best VPN for gaming. Read summary or Visit ExpressVPN
  2. NordVPN: The top VPN for mobile gaming. Read summary or Visit NordVPN
  3. Surfshark: Our #1 choice for console gaming. Read summary or Visit Surfshark
  4. PIA: The best VPN service for PC gaming. Read summary or Visit PIA
  5. Windscribe: The best 100% free gaming VPN. Read summary or Visit Windscribe

We rated these VPNs using our unique gaming VPN testing methodology. We tested each VPN with popular online games and consoles and recorded how smoothly it ran.

The VPNs we selected are easy to install and use, and have little impact on your ping times. In fact, every VPN in this list adds less than 5ms to your latency.

Keep reading to learn more about our gaming VPN recommendations in detail and find out why you might need a VPN for gaming.

The 10 Best Gaming VPNs Compared

Using the table below, you can compare the top 10 gaming VPNs based on their download speeds, average ping, and compatibility with games consoles through routers and Smart DNS.

You’ll find all of the testing data you need to decide which service is right for you.

The Top VPNs for Gaming: Performance Ratings

The table below compares the five top gaming VPNs based on their performance in six important testing categories:

The 5 Best Gaming VPNs of 2021

  1. 1. ExpressVPN: Best Gaming VPN Overall

    A fast VPN with low latency, Smart DNS, international servers and a native app for routers.

    Ranked #1 out of 68 VPNs for Gaming
    ExpressVPN's new app on mobile devices
     96% 
    (1,773 user reviews)
    Visit ExpressVPN

    Pros

    1. Very low ping (3ms)
    2. Apps for routers, PC and mobile
    3. Smart DNS for console gamers
    4. No leaks & good logging policy
    5. 24/7 live-chat support
    6. 30-day money-back guarantee

    Cons

    1. Expensive on short plans
    2. No port forwarding

    Overall Gaming Rating: 9.6/10

    This overall rating is calculated using the following six subcategory ratings. To learn more, read our testing methodology.

    • 9.89.8/10
    • 9.59.5/10
    • 9.69.6/10
    • 9.69.6/10
    • 9.59.5/10
    • 8.98.9/10

    ExpressVPN is the top-rated VPN for gaming on all devices. It has a large server network, excellent native applications for mobile and PC gamers, and Smart DNS for console gamers on Xbox, PlayStation, and Nintendo Switch.

    Our tests measured low ping and fast download speeds when using ExpressVPN, which means it will have a minimal effect on latency. It also has a dedicated router app and supports P2P traffic, which means it will work well on all game types. There is no port-forwarding though, which some PC gamers could use to improve the quality of their connection.

    Cheapest Price$6.67/mo over 15 Months See all plans
    Top Download Speedi

    Based on 100Mbps local test connection

    88Mbps
    Servers3,000
    Smart DNSYes
    Countries94
    Logging PolicyAnonymous Server Usage Data
    Support24/7 Live Chat
    Compatible with
    1. windowsWindows
    2. androidAndroid
    3. iosiOS
    4. playstationPlayStation
    5. xboxXbox
    6. macosMacOS
    7. routerRouter

    An average ping of 3ms and over 3000 VPN servers

    ExpressVPN’s ping time has remained below 3ms on local connections for several months. This is especially impressive when compared to several top competitors, which often add as much as 8ms.

    This is thanks in part to its Lightway protocol and its remarkable network of 3,000+ VPN servers network across 94 countries.

    The benefit of such a large network is the ability to connect to a VPN server near to the servers of the game you are playing, which will minimise the latency ExpressVPN adds to your connection.

    The VPN’s speeds stay strong over long distances, which is great if you’re looking to access region-restricted content.

    Apps for PC & mobile, plus smart DNS for console gamers

    ExpressVPN makes a good choice for gaming because it is user-friendly and versatile.

    It has native apps for Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android, and more – all of which offer effective encryption and a simple user interface.

    You can’t install the VPN directly on your Xbox, PlayStation or Nintendo Switch. However, you can install it on a router or share a connection from your PC to route all your gaming traffic through the VPN network.

    Thankfully, router installation isn’t your only option for console gaming. ExpressVPN has a Smart DNS service called MediaStreamer DNS which you can install directly onto your Xbox or PlayStation.

    MediaStreamer isn’t a full VPN, but it can spoof your location to access region-specific content.

    Great for accessing geo-restricted content

    If you’re based in a highly-censored nation like China or Turkey, or you’re looking to access games in countries like South Korea or Japan, ExpressVPN is a reliable choice.

    It’s effective at bypassing online censorship, but you’ll need to use the full VPN on your router or install it on your PC.

    If you run into any issues using it for online gaming, ExpressVPN has a 24/7 live support team which our tests found both responsive and knowledgeable. It also comes with a risk-free money-back guarantee of 30 days so you can trial it for a limited period.

  2. 2. NordVPN: Best for Mobile Gaming

    A low-latency VPN with user-friendly apps for PC, Android, and mobile gamers.

    NordVPN Mobile App Screenshot
     94% 
    (246 user reviews)
    Visit NordVPN

    Pros

    1. Fast speeds & low ping (4ms)
    2. User friendly mobile, PC & router apps
    3. Smart DNS functionality
    4. Minimal logging policy & no IP leaks
    5. 24/7 live chat support
    6. 30-day refund period

    Cons

    1. PayPal not accepted
    2. No port forwarding

    Overall Gaming Rating: 9.3/10

    This overall rating is calculated using the following six subcategory ratings. To learn more, read our testing methodology.

    • 9.69.6/10
    • 8.78.7/10
    • 9.69.6/10
    • 9.59.5/10
    • 8.98.9/10
    • 8.98.9/10

    NordVPN is an excellent VPN for gaming, with a consistently low ping of 4ms. We recommend NordVPN for gaming on any platform, but it’s user-friendly iOS and Android apps make it the top-rated VPN for mobile gaming.

    Cheapest Price$3.30/mo over 27 Months See all plans
    Top Download Speedi

    Based on 100Mbps local test connection

    93Mbps
    Servers5,208
    Smart DNSYes
    Countries60
    Logging PolicyNo Logs
    Support24/7 Live Chat
    Compatible with
    1. windowsWindows
    2. androidAndroid
    3. iosiOS
    4. playstationPlayStation
    5. xboxXbox
    6. macosMacOS
    7. routerRouter

    Less than 2% speed loss on international connections

    NordVPN is fast on both local and international connections, which is good news if you want to access international content. On local connections our tests have shown speed loss as low as 2% on download speeds.

    Connecting from the UK to Australia – normally an extremely slow connection – we measured a download speed loss of 40%. From London to New York, we measured a speed drop of just 21%.

    These are both good results, although as a general rule for online gaming you will want to stick to local connections for the smallest effect on speeds.

    Most importantly for gaming, NordVPN’s ping is low. When testing on a local New York connection over the last few months, we’ve never seen it go below 4ms. Based on these tests, it should have very little effect on latency.

    Over 5,000 gaming-optimized servers in 59 countries

    The NordVPN network includes over 5,000 servers spread across 59 countries. This is really useful for gaming, as it allows you to select a server near to the gaming servers you’re connecting to to minimize latency as much as possible.

    If you’re playing something that uses a P2P connection, you can select a local P2P server to keep latency low. There isn’t a port forwarding option, though, so you won’t be able to totally optimize your connection.

    SmartDNS and user-friendly native applications

    For console gamers, NordVPN has a smart DNS service which allows you to reroute your traffic from the settings of your console. This doesn’t encrypt your traffic like a full VPN, but it will reroute your traffic to access regional content.

    Alternatively, you can install NordVPN on a router to fully encrypt your console traffic. For PC, MacOS, iOS, and Android gamers there are user-friendly apps with a full suite of features including obfuscation and a kill switch.

    All the apps include a choice between the WireGuard, IKEv2, and OpenVPN protocols, as well as AES-256 encryption.

    Comprehensive customer support

    NordVPN has a 24/7 live chat support service that our tests have always found prompt and helpful. There are also installation and FAQ guides available on its website.

    If you’re not happy with the VPN, you can also ask for a refund within 30 days of signing up.

  3. 3. Surfshark: Best for Games Consoles

    An affordable choice with low ping time and smart DNS for easy installation on consoles.

    Surfshark app
     82% 
    (120 user reviews)
    Visit Surfshark

    Pros

    1. Fast speeds & good ping (5ms)
    2. Smart DNS for games consoles
    3. Zero-logs policy & no IP leaks
    4. 24/7 live chat support
    5. 30-day money back period

    Cons

    1. Slower long distance speeds
    2. No port-forwarding

    Overall Gaming Rating: 9.2/10

    This overall rating is calculated using the following six subcategory ratings. To learn more, read our testing methodology.

    • 9.29.2/10
    • 8.98.9/10
    • 9.69.6/10
    • 9.79.7/10
    • 8.98.9/10
    • 8.78.7/10

    Surfshark is a good value gaming VPN with a low average ping of 5ms. This is absolutely fine for casual gamers, but might be slow for professional players. It is the top-rated VPN for PlayStation, Xbox, and other console users thanks to the quality of its Smart DNS feature, but we recommend it for console gaming in general.

    Cheapest Price$2.49/mo over 24 months See all plans
    Top Download Speedi

    Based on 100Mbps local test connection

    85Mbps
    Servers3,200
    Smart DNSYes
    Countries65
    Logging PolicyAnonymous Server Usage Data
    Support24/7 Live Chat
    Compatible with
    1. windowsWindows
    2. androidAndroid
    3. iosiOS
    4. playstationPlayStation
    5. xboxXbox
    6. macosMacOS
    7. routerRouter

    66 international VPN server locations

    There are server locations in 66 countries, with multiple city locations in 12 of those. You can choose from countries like the US, Japan, South Korea, and Germany to unlock region content or get the best speed possible. If you want to minimize latency, we recommend a local connection.

    If you’re playing a game which works over P2P, you’ll need to manually select a P2P server, of which there are plenty.

    Optimized for console gaming & streaming

    Surfshark has a smart DNS service available for games consoles which allows you to reroute the traffic of the console itself, rather than having to install it on a router. This makes it perfect for accessing restricted online gaming content such as regional events or local betas.

    It is also an excellent choice if you want to access global streaming content on your games console. It can spoof your location for apps like Netflix and BBC iPlayer, increasing the number of titles available for you to watch.

    Quality apps for most devices, including routers

    For better security and privacy than Smart DNS, you’ll want to use one of Surfshark’s easy-to-use apps.

    They’re available for Windows, MacOS, Android, and iOS, and include a kill switch, AES-256 encryption and trusted WireGuard and OpenVPN protocols.

    If you don’t want to change your device’s DNS setting, you can also install Surfshark on a router for gaming.

    Professional user support

    Surfshark’s 24/7 live customer support is consistently high-quality. If you have any issues setting up smart DNS on your games console, there will be a live chat agent ready to answer your questions.

    One of the key benefits of Surfshark is its price. It may not have as low ping as ExpressVPN or NordVPN, but it is much cheaper, without many trade-offs.

  4. 4. PIA: Best for PC Gaming

    An advanced VPN with port forwarding for optimized gaming on PCs.

    Private Internet Access
     86% 
    (29 user reviews)
    Visit PIA VPN

    Pros

    1. Excellent speeds worldwide
    2. Average ping time of 13ms
    3. No logs & no IP address leaks
    4. Revamped apps for popular devices
    5. 24/7 live chat support
    6. 30-day money-back guarantee

    Cons

    1. No SmartDNS functionality
    2. Doesn't work consistently in China

    Overall Gaming Rating: 8.6/10

    This overall rating is calculated using the following six subcategory ratings. To learn more, read our testing methodology.

    • 9.69.6/10
    • 9.29.2/10
    • 0.10.1/10
    • 9.99.9/10
    • 9.69.6/10
    • 9.59.5/10

    Private Internet Access is an advanced gaming VPN with low ping. Its apps use the industry-leading WireGuard VPN protocol with AES encryption. It’s also the only VPN in this list that allows port forwarding, which makes it the top-rated VPN for PC gaming.

    Cheapest Price$2.08/mo over 26 months See all plans
    Top Download Speedi

    Based on 100Mbps local test connection

    98Mbps
    Servers29,643
    Countries78
    Logging PolicyNo Logs
    Support24/7 Live Chat
    Compatible with
    1. windowsWindows
    2. androidAndroid
    3. iosiOS
    4. playstationPlayStation
    5. xboxXbox
    6. macosMacOS
    7. routerRouter

    Supports port forwarding and P2P traffic

    PIA supports port forwarding on windows, which is an increasingly rare feature in most top VPNs. This gives you the ability to manually optimize your connection for minimal lag, which is useful for PC gamers.

    P2P traffic is also supported on all servers, which makes it a good choice for online games without central servers.

    No smart DNS, but apps for most devices

    PIA has apps for PC, MacOS, iOS and Android. They’re all well-designed, but some users may find them more complicated to use than apps from competitors.

    There’s no smart DNS service available, which is the easiest way to get the benefits of a VPN on games consoles.

    For this reason, we don’t recommend using Private Internet Access if you’re primarily interested in using a VPN for console gaming. Crucially, PIA does come with support for routers, which means you can use it on PlayStation, Xbox, or Nintendo consoles if necessary.

    77 VPN server locations with 25,000 individual servers

    PIA has 77 server locations and over 25,000 individual servers on offer. This gives users from around the globe the ability to connect to a local server and minimize lag, wherever they are.

    Server coverage in Asia, Europe, and North America is very strong, but like many VPNs, coverage of Africa and South America is weaker.

    Low ping times for smoother gaming

    Our most recent speed tests of Private Internet Access on a New York VPN server measured a ping of just 4ms. This means the additional latency when you game will be very small, so it shouldn’t have a negative impact on your overall experience.

    This low ping is thanks in part to PIA’s large global server network. Nearby servers will almost always result in lower latency, and PIA has one of the most evenly-distributed server networks available.

    If the service doesn’t turn out as expected, there’s also a 30-day refund guarantee.

  5. 5. Windscribe: Best Free VPN for Gaming

    The top-rated free VPN for gaming with low ping, P2P support and 10GB of data.

    Windscribe mobile screenshots
     100% 
    (3 user reviews)
    Visit Windscribe

    Pros

    1. Great ping (4ms)
    2. 10GB free data allowance
    3. Apps for mobile, PC and router
    4. Minimal logging policy & no IP leaks
    5. P2P traffic allowed on almost every server

    Cons

    1. Limited server network
    2. No port-forwarding on free plan
    3. No smart DNS

    Overall Gaming Rating: 8.3/10

    This overall rating is calculated using the following six subcategory ratings. To learn more, read our testing methodology.

    • 9.69.6/10
    • 8.58.5/10
    • 0.10.1/10
    • 9.59.5/10
    • 8.78.7/10
    • 8.78.7/10

    Based on the latest tests, Windscribe is the best free VPN for gaming. Unlike most free VPNs it uses AES-256 encryption, has fast speeds, and it allows P2P traffic, which means all online games will work over its VPN servers.

    Cheapest PriceFree
    Top Download Speedi

    Based on 100Mbps local test connection

    54Mbps
    Servers-
    Smart DNSNo
    Countries10
    Logging PolicyAnonymous Server Usage Data
    SupportEmail & Online Resources Only
    Compatible with
    1. windowsWindows
    2. androidAndroid
    3. iosiOS
    4. playstationPlayStation
    5. xboxXbox
    6. macosMacOS
    7. routerRouter

    Variable download speeds, but low ping time

    Windscribe Free isn’t as fast as the paid version of Windscribe, or any other paid VPN.

    Our most recent speed tests have measured an average download speed of 54Mbps on a 100Mbps local connections, which is a speed loss of 46%. This is compared to a speed loss of just 5% on the paid version.

    Despite its variable download speeds, Windscribe Free’s ping time is consistently around 4ms, which is very low. This means that while files might take a long time to download, you’re unlikely to experience lag when gaming.

    There are only 10 server locations to choose from, which is good for a free VPN but significantly less than its paid competitors.

    While there are plenty of servers in Europe and North America, there is only one location in Asia, and none in South America or Africa. As a result, in these areas are likely to experience quite slow speeds with this VPN.

    Secure apps for popular devices and routers

    Windscribe Free has native applications for iOS, MacOS, PC, and Android. It can be installed on a router, which makes it a viable option for PC, mobile, and console gamers. The 10GB data cap will be limiting on any of these devices, though.

    All applications come with a kill switch, and our testing has never detected an IP or DNS leak, so you can be confident your connection won’t drop out mid-game.

    The VPN uses the IKEv2 VPN protocol by default, which works particularly well on mobile.

    Smart DNS and live customer support missing

    There is currently no smart DNS feature available on either version of Windscribe, but the service provider claims to be releasing one soon. When it is launched, it’s unlikely be available to free users.

    There is no live customer support either, but there are online guides and FAQs. Overall, Windscribe Free is a safe free VPN that offers all the features necessary for gaming.

    It’s not as effective as its paid competitors, but it’s a good option for testing a VPN for gaming before purchasing a subscription.

Which Gaming VPNs Have the Lowest Ping?

Ping or ‘latency’ refers to the time it takes in milliseconds (ms) for data to be transmitted from your device to another server and back again.

Having low latency is a key attribute of a good gaming VPN. It will reduce the amount of lag you experience online.

However, VPNs with fast download speeds do not always have low ping.

Based on our test results, ExpressVPN and Windscribe are the two gaming VPNs with the lowest ping. Over the past eight weeks, they recorded an average ping of approximately 2ms.

In comparison, CyberGhost has a high ping of up to 20ms.

The graph below displays the results of our automatic ping tests over the last eight weeks, on a New York to New York VPN connection:

VPN Speed Performance Comparison Chart

Why Do You Need a VPN for Gaming?

There are many reasons for using a VPN for gaming. In this section we go over why many gamers choose to game online with a VPN.

You can use a gaming VPN to:

  • Access region-restricted gaming content
  • Avoid SBMM and find easy lobbies
  • Stream geo-blocked movies and TV shows
  • Prevent DDoS attacks
  • Bypass IP bans
  • Avoiding ISP throttling
  • Bypass local firewalls or content filters

While a VPN offers many advantages for gamers, we must point out that a VPN is unlikely to speed up your internet connection.

However, the top-rated gaming VPNs have minimal impact on your latency and connection speeds.

Moreover, if your ISP is slowing (throttling) your internet connection, using a VPN can improve the speed and stability of your connection.

Below is a more detailed list of the reasons for using a VPN when gaming online:

1. Bypass Geo-Restrictions

Using a VPN with worldwide servers allows you to access exclusive gaming content outside of your geographical location.

Many online games include region-specific servers, events, and stores. Other games are only available in certain countries. Without a VPN or a proxy, you can’t access all these features from your home country.

2. Avoid Skill-based Matchmaking

Popular games like Call of Duty: Warzone and PUBG implement a system known as Skill-based Matchmaking (SBMM).

The system determines a player’s skill level and matches them with similarly-skilled players.

By connecting to a server abroad, some games will favor a better connection over the SBMM. As a result, you can play in much easier lobbies and achieve better ratings.

3. Avoid ISP throttling

Sometimes ISPs throttle your internet connection when you’re gaming. ISPs do this because you’re engaged in a high-bandwidth activity, or because of your geographic location.

If this is happening to you, a VPN will hide your activity and location from your ISP, preventing it from throttling your connection.

4. Bypass IP bans

Some online games ban users based on their IP address. If your IP address is blocked, a VPN can help you get around this ban.

A VPN will hide your banned IP address from the game server, and give you a new IP address, instead.

Using a VPN won’t bypass email address or account-related bans, though.

5. Bypass NAT firewalls

If your network has a strict NAT firewall, you might struggle to maintain a P2P gaming connection.

Some games and consoles – the Nintendo Switch for example – rely largely on P2P and won’t work online if you have a strict NAT firewall.

A VPN routes your traffic past the firewall, and allows a P2P connection regardless of your router or network settings.

6. Protect against DDoS attacks

If you’re into competitive online gaming or e-sports, a VPN can protect you against distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks on your IP address.

A VPN replaces your true IP address with the anonymous IP address of the VPN server you connect to. This makes it virtually impossible to attack your true IP address.

7. Stream region-restricted movies and TV shows

Modern video game consoles like the PS4, PS5, and Xbox One provide access to content platforms like Netflix, BBC iPlayer, and HBO.

These game consoles can therefore be used in place of a smart TV.

A VPN lets you change your IP and DNS location to unlock video content from other countries. If this is why you want a VPN, see our list of the best VPNs for streaming.

How to Install a VPN on PlayStation and Xbox

Installing a VPN on a games console isn’t always as straightforward as it is on other devices.

However, there are several options available for consoles like the PlayStation, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.

Sadly, you can’t usually set a VPN up directly onto the games console. Instead, you have to use Smart DNS or install the VPN on your home router.

1. Use Smart DNS

Using Smart DNS is by far the easiest way to use a VPN on a games console like a PS4, PS5, or an Xbox Series X.

Smart DNS is a feature that redirects your DNS requests through servers in a different country. It lets you access content usually unavailable in your country.

Surfshark's Smart DNS tool

Surfshark VPN offers a Smart DNS feature for games consoles.

To use Smart DNS, subscribe to a VPN that supports Smart DNS, and update your device’s DNS settings with the DNS credentials of your chosen VPN server.

Many VPN services don’t have Smart DNS functionality, though. We recommend PlayStation, Xbox, and Nintendo users to use either ExpressVPN, NordVPN, or Surfshark, which all have a Smart DNS tool.

You can find full installation instructions in our VPN setup guides, or in our guide to using NordVPN on PS4.

2. Use a Pre-Configured VPN Router

You can also connect your console to a pre-configured VPN router.

Selected VPN services sell pre-flashed routers either directly on their website, or via authorized third-parties.

The VPN router will be almost completely set up on arrival. Once you’ve received the router, complete the setup by following the instructions supplied.

3. Manually Configure a VPN Router

The third option is to install a VPN on your home router yourself. It’s more complicated than buying a pre-flashed router, but it can be cheaper.

To do this, you’ll need a router that has been configured with an OpenVPN client, or can be flashed with new firmware.

You can find full installation instructions in our VPN router setup guide.

Using a VPN for Streaming on Game Consoles

Network settings menu on the PlayStation 4

If you want to watch geo-blocked streaming content on your games console you’ll need either a VPN or a smart DNS service (offered as a special feature by some VPN services).

These will spoof your IP address and location details, allowing you to watch international movies and TV shows on your Xbox, PS4, PS5, and more.

The Xbox Series S and Series X have only recently launched, but they already have a good range of streaming options. You can access Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, Disney+, Hulu and more.

Unfortunately there aren’t any VPN apps for the systems, so you’ll need to follow the instructions above.

The PS5 is Sony’s competitor to the current generation Xbox. Its streaming capabilities are more limited than the Xbox X or S, though. There’s no BBC iPlayer app, for example.

Like the Xbox One, the PS4 has many more streaming apps than the PS5. You’ll find apps for many content platforms, including Netflix and BBC iPlayer.

Like Xbox, neither PS4 or PS5 have native VPN apps, so you’ll have to use either a Smart DNS service, or install the VPN on your router.

How We Test the Best VPNs for Gaming

We test every gaming VPN to see how it performs in six key categories. Each of these categories carries a weighting that corresponds to its importance.

These subcategory ratings are then combined to calculate a unique overall gaming rating for each VPN service.

For gaming VPNs specifically, we test for:

  • Low ping on local connections
  • Fast download and upload speeds
  • Smart DNS for console gaming
  • A large, diverse server network
  • P2P traffic and port forwarding support
  • Minimal logging policy
  • No leaks or connection issues
  • Native apps for major platforms and router compatibility

We test all VPNs on a list of popular online games to make sure they actually work in practice. This list includes Fortnite, PUBG, CS:GO, League of Legends, and more.

Here’s a more detailed list of the six key testing categories, along with how much of the overall gaming rating they make up:

1. Ping: 50%

Minimum Requirement: An average ping time of 10ms or less.
We Recommend: An average ping time of 5ms or less.

‘Ping’ refers to the time it takes in milliseconds (ms) for data to be sent from your device to a third-party server and back again.

Having a low ping time or ‘latency’ is the most important attribute for a top gaming VPN, as it will reduce the amount of lag you experience while playing.

Using a VPN almost always worsens your ping. We test every VPN using both automated and manual speed tests to make sure the services we recommend add as little latency to your connection as possible.

We also take upload and download speeds into account; the higher the average speed, the higher the rating.

2. Server Network: 20%

Minimum Requirement: A large number of servers in several global locations.
We Recommend: Thousands of VPN servers in a wide range of global locations.

A large network of VPN servers in a diverse range of locations is the second most important attribute of a top gaming VPN.

A good server network increases the likelihood of finding a VPN server near to the gaming server you’re connecting to, which will minimize latency.

Having an evenly-distributed network of servers near you will always result in lower ping.

Worldwide servers are also important for accessing exclusive games, events, and content that are restricted to specific countries.

3. Smart DNS: 10%

Minimum Requirement: Smart DNS is not a minimum requirement.
We Recommend: VPN services that come with Smart DNS functionality.

Using a VPN service with Smart DNS is the easiest way to get the benefits of a VPN on games consoles like the Xbox, PlayStation, and Nintendo Switch.

This feature lets you use the VPN service’s DNS servers to reroute the web traffic of the console through another country.

Though it doesn’t encrypt your data, Smart DNS is useful for accessing region-restricted content on consoles without installing a VPN on your router.

Most VPN services don’t come with Smart DNS, so we reward those that come with the feature by default.

4. Logging Policy: 10%

Minimum Requirement: The VPN only collects anonymised usage logs.
We Recommend: A clear, strictly no-logs privacy policy.

Privacy is important for any VPN, not just those for gaming. If you install a gaming VPN on Android, PC, or any other device, it’s likely you’ll use it for web browsing as well as gaming.

For this reason, we factor each VPN’s logging policy into our overall rating. Those that collect the smallest amount of user data are rewarded, while those that collect identifying or unnecessary information are penalised.

5. P2P Functionality: 5%

Minimum Requirement: Support for P2P traffic on some servers.
We Recommend: Full P2P support across all servers.

Peer-to-Peer (P2P) functionality is an under-appreciated aspect of any top VPN for gaming.

Some games and consoles – the Nintendo Switch for example – rely largely on P2P connections and won’t work online if you have a strict NAT firewall.

This is mainly true for games without central servers, where a P2P connection is required to connect you to other players.

A VPN routes your traffic past the NAT firewall, and allows a P2P connection regardless of your router or network’s settings.

The top-rated gaming VPNs allow P2P traffic on all servers, which means they’ll work well with all online game types.

We reward the services that make it easy to find low-latency P2P servers in any location.

6. Additional Features: 5%

Minimum Requirement: AES-256 encryption and OpenVPN.
We Recommend: All of the above plus port forwarding and 24/7 live chat.

Finally, our gaming rating accounts for overall quality by factoring in basic standards of security, customer support, and additional features.

We use packet-inspection technology to test every VPN for AES encryption, OpenVPN support, and IP or DNS leaks.

For gaming specifically, we reward VPNs that offer additional configuration options, easy installation, and a native application for home routers.

Port forwarding is a rare but related feature we also test for; this gives you the ability to manually optimize your connection for minimal lag and short lobby waits.

We also test customer support by contacting the VPN service through email and live chat, if available. If the support agent responds promptly and helpfully, we’ll rate the VPN higher.

Additional research by Liam Mullally

Gaming VPN FAQs

Will a VPN Reduce My Ping?

Ping time or ‘latency’ is the time it takes for data packets to be transmitted from your device to an internet server and back again.

The lower the latency on your connection, the less lag you’ll experience while gaming. However, VPNs with fast speeds do not always have low ping.

In almost all cases a VPN will make your ping worse to some degree, because your data has to travel further. We only recommend VPNs for gaming if they add as little latency as possible.

In very rare situations, a VPN might improve your ping. For example, your ISP or local network administrator could be throttling your connection speeds due to network congestion.

Similarly, if your VPN exit node is close to the gaming server you are connected to, your latency might be reduced.

What’s the Best Free VPN for Gaming?

Based on our latest testing, Windscribe Free is the top-rated free VPN for gaming. It has very little effect on ping and allows P2P traffic, which means it works with games that non-P2P VPNs are not optimized for.

Windscribe Free offers excellent security and reasonably fast speeds for a free VPN. However, its 10GB data limit is likely to run out quickly while gaming.

What Is the Best VPN Protocol for Gaming?

Connection speed and latency are very important factors when picking a VPN protocol for gaming.

Generally speaking, the best VPN protocol for gaming will usually be WireGuard, as it adds less latency to your connection than OpenVPN without sacrificing security. This will vary slightly according to the VPN service you’re using, though.

In some cases PPTP might be the fastest protocol, but it isn’t secure and we don’t recommend using it. You can find out exactly how much additional data each VPN protocol uses in our guide to VPN data usage.

About the Author


  • Simon Migliano Head of Research at Top10VPN

    Simon Migliano

    Simon is a recognized world expert in VPNs. He's tested hundreds of VPN services and his research has featured on the BBC, The New York Times, CNet and more. Read full bio