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The Best Free & Premium VPNs for Gaming

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Simon Migliano
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Simon Migliano 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 and more.

A top gaming VPN bypasses NAT firewalls and geo-restrictions on online video games. It also protects against ISP throttling and DoS attacks on your IP address.

By changing your IP address location, top VPNs also let you find easier gaming lobbies and avoid skill-based matchmaking (SBMM) on games such as Call of Duty: Warzone and PUBG.

Here’s a summary of the best free and premium gaming VPNs in 2022:

  1. ExpressVPN: Absolute Best VPN for Gaming
  2. NordVPN: Best VPN for Mobile Gaming.
  3. Surfshark: Best VPN for Console Gaming
  4. PIA: Best VPN for PC Gaming
  5. Windscribe: Best 100% Free VPN for Gaming

The gaming VPNs we recommend are easy to use and deliver low ping times. In fact, every VPN in this list adds less than 5ms to your latency.

If you’re still unsure about using a VPN when gaming online, read the reasons for using a VPN for gaming later in this article.

The 5 Best Gaming VPNs Compared

The table below compares the best gaming VPNs based on gaming speeds, average ping, and compatibility with games consoles through routers and Smart DNS.

Note: We test each gaming VPN on a variety of devices and consoles including a PS5, Lenovo T480s, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. All of our speed tests are carried out on a 100Mbps connection.

Why Trust Top10VPN.com?

Unlike many review websites, we’re completely independent and focused on VPN software. We’ve spent thousands of hours testing and reviewing gaming VPNs using our gaming VPN testing process.

Here is an overview of the key gaming VPN testing statistics:

Gaming VPNs Tested56
Total Hours of Testing30,000+
Weekly Speed & FPS Tests3,000+
Lowest Ping Recorded3ms
Largest Server Network17,087 Servers
IP & DNS Leak Tests Performed9,500+

Top Gaming VPNs: Summary Test Ratings

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

The Best Free & Premium Gaming VPNs of 2022

  1. 1. ExpressVPN: Best Gaming VPN Overall

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

    Ranked #1 out of 56 VPNs for Gaming
    ExpressVPN's new app on mobile devices
     Rated 4.8 out of 5 
    (1,813 user reviews)
    Visit ExpressVPN

    • Very low ping (3ms)
    • Apps for routers, PC and mobile
    • Smart DNS for console gamers
    • No IP or DNS leaks
    • 24/7 live chat support
    • 30-day money-back guarantee

    • Expensive on short plans
    • Port forwarding only via router

    Overall Gaming Rating: 9.6/10

    This overall rating is calculated based on the following subcategory ratings. To learn more, read our gaming VPN 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 our 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 gaming tests measured low ping and a high frame rate when using ExpressVPN.

    The service also offers a dedicated router app, and supports P2P traffic, meaning it will work well with all game types.

    Cheapest Price$6.67/mo over 15 Months See all plans
    SpeediSpeedBased on 100Mbps local test connection92Mbps
    Servers3,000
    Smart DNSYes
    Countries94
    Logging PolicyAnonymous Server Usage Data
    Support24/7 Live Chat
    Compatible with
    1. windowsWindows
    2. androidAndroid
    3. iosiOS
    4. macosMac OS

    An average ping of 3ms and over 3000 VPN servers

    ExpressVPN’s ping time has remained below 3ms on local connections for several months. Other popular gaming VPNs can often add as much as 20ms.

    The low latency is partly due to the VPN’s Lightway protocol and a network of 3,000 VPN servers across 94 countries.

    The benefit of such a large network is the ability to connect to a VPN server near the servers of the game you’re playing, which reduces latency.

    Using ExpressVPN with CS:GO

    Our FPS was unaffected when connecting to ExpressVPN’s US server from London.

    Our frame rate per second (FPS) remained strong even over long distances. This is great if you want to play geo-blocked games.

    By changing your virtual location with ExpressVPN, you can also use it to block Twitch Ads.

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

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

    The service has native apps for Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, and more. All software comes with effective encryption and a simple user interface.

    You can’t install the VPN directly on your Xbox, PlayStation or Nintendo Switch. Thankfully, ExpressVPN has a Smart DNS service called MediaStreamer DNS.

    MediaStreamer isn’t a full VPN, but it spoofs your geo-location to access geo-blocked games on your games consoles.

    Or, you can install ExpressVPN on your home router, or even share a connection from your PC to route your gaming traffic through the VPN network.

    Great for accessing geo-restricted content

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

    In fact, ExpressVPN is the best VPN for bypassing the PUBG Mobile ban in India.

    The VPN is very 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, ExpressVPN has a 24/7 live support team which our tests found both responsive and knowledgeable.

    Moreover, the service’s 30-day risk-free money-back guarantee lets you trial ExpressVPN with peace of mind.

  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
     Rated 4.7 out of 5 
    (246 user reviews)
    Visit NordVPN

    • Fast speeds & low ping (4ms)
    • User friendly mobile and PC apps
    • Smart DNS functionality
    • Minimal logging policy & no IP leaks
    • 24/7 live chat support
    • 30-day refund period

    • PayPal not accepted
    • No port forwarding

    Overall Gaming Rating: 9.3/10

    This overall rating is calculated based on the following subcategory ratings. To learn more, read our gaming VPN 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 best VPN for mobile gaming.

    Cheapest Price$3.29/mo over 2 years See all plans
    SpeediSpeedBased on 100Mbps local test connection98Mbps
    Servers5,613
    Smart DNSYes
    Countries59
    Logging PolicyNo Logs
    Support24/7 Live Chat
    Compatible with
    1. windowsWindows
    2. androidAndroid
    3. iosiOS
    4. macosMac OS

    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 short-distance NordVPN connections, our tests show a speed loss as low as 2% in terms of 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.

    Using NordVPN on CSGO

    Our ping never exceeds 4ms on NordVPN servers.

    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 above 4ms. Based on these tests, it should have very little effect on latency.

    Over 5,000 gaming-optimized servers but no port forwarding

    The NordVPN network includes over 5,000 servers spread across 59 countries.

    A large server network is critical for gaming. It lets you select a VPN server near the gaming servers you’re connecting to, which greatly minimizes latency.

    If you’re playing a game that uses a P2P connection, select a nearby NordVPN P2P-labeled server to keep latency low.

    Sadly, there isn’t a port forwarding option, 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 that lets you reroute your internet traffic from the settings of your console.

    Smart DNS doesn’t encrypt your traffic like a full VPN, but it reroutes your traffic to unblock geo-restricted games.

    Alternatively, you can install NordVPN on a router to fully encrypt your console traffic.

    Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android gamers can use native 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.

  3. 3. Surfshark: Best for Games Consoles

    A cheap VPN with low ping times and smart DNS for easy setup on consoles.

    Surfshark app
     Rated 4.1 out of 5 
    (131 user reviews)
    Visit Surfshark

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

    • Slower long distance speeds
    • No port forwarding
    • Long-distance speeds could be faster
    • Kill switch not enabled by default
    • Sometimes leaks IPv6 addresses

    Overall Gaming Rating: 9.2/10

    This overall rating is calculated based on the following subcategory ratings. To learn more, read our gaming VPN 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.

    Surfshark is our favorite VPN for PlayStation, Xbox, and other consoles thanks to the quality of its Smart DNS feature.

    Cheapest Price$1.99/mo over 26 months See all plans
    SpeediSpeedBased on 100Mbps local test connection85Mbps
    Servers3,200+
    Smart DNSYes
    Countries100
    Logging PolicyAnonymous Server Usage Data
    Support24/7 Live Chat
    Compatible with
    1. windowsWindows
    2. androidAndroid
    3. iosiOS
    4. macosMac OS

    100 international VPN server locations

    Surfshark offers servers in 100 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-restricted gaming content, or to get the best speeds possible.

    If you’re playing a P2P-based game, you’ll need to connect to one of Surfshark’s many P2P servers.

    Optimized for console gaming and streaming

    Surfshark has a Smart DNS service available for games consoles, letting you reroute the traffic of the console itself, rather than having to install the VPN on a router.

    Smart DNS makes it much easier to play geo-blocked online games such as regional events or local betas.

    You can also spoof your location to unblock US Netflix and HBO Max directly from your games console.

    Quality apps for most devices

    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.

  4. 4. PIA VPN: Best for PC Gaming

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

    Private Internet Access
     Rated 4.3 out of 5 
    (29 user reviews)
    Visit PIA VPN

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

    • Smart DNS tool needs work

    Overall Gaming Rating: 8.6/10

    This overall rating is calculated based on the following subcategory ratings. To learn more, read our gaming VPN 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 (PIA) is an advanced gaming VPN with low ping. Its apps use the industry-leading WireGuard VPN protocol with AES encryption.

    PIA is also the only top gaming VPN with a port forwarding setting on its Windows software, making it the top-rated VPN for PC gaming.

    Cheapest Price$2.03/mo over 28 months See all plans
    SpeediSpeedBased on 100Mbps local test connection93Mbps
    Servers17,087
    Countries84
    Logging PolicyNo Logs
    Support24/7 Live Chat
    Compatible with
    1. windowsWindows
    2. androidAndroid
    3. iosiOS
    4. macosMac OS

    Supports port forwarding and P2P traffic

    PIA supports port forwarding on windows, which is an increasingly rare feature in most top VPNs.

    This feature 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.

    Apps for most devices but Smart DNS is unreliable

    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.

    While there is a Smart DNS tool available, it doesn’t work very well. Namely, it doesn’t unblock popular streaming apps.

    At least, PIA come with support for routers, so you can still use the VPN on PlayStation, Xbox, or Nintendo consoles if necessary.

    84 VPN server locations with 17,087 individual servers

    PIA has 17,087 VPN servers in 84 countries. It’s the largest VPN network available.

    Such a range of servers gives PIA’s global users the ability to connect to a close-by 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.

    The additional latency when you game with PIA will therefore be very small. This low ping is thanks in part to PIA’s large global server network.

  5. 5. Windscribe: Best Free Gaming VPN

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

    Windscribe mobile screenshots
     Rated 5 out of 5 
    (3 user reviews)
    Visit Windscribe

    • Very good ping (4ms)
    • 10GB free data allowance
    • Great apps for mobile and PC
    • Minimal logging policy & no IP leaks
    • P2P traffic allowed on almost every server

    • Limited server network
    • No port forwarding on free plan
    • No smart DNS

    Overall Gaming Rating: 8.3/10

    This overall rating is calculated based on the following subcategory ratings. To learn more, read our gaming VPN 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
    SpeediSpeedBased on 100Mbps local test connection54Mbps
    Servers11
    Smart DNSNo
    Countries11
    Logging PolicyAnonymous Server Usage Data
    SupportEmail & Online Resources Only
    Compatible with
    1. windowsWindows
    2. androidAndroid
    3. iosiOS
    4. macosMac OS

    Variable download speeds, but low ping time

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

    We recorded a mediocre average download speed of 54Mbps on a 100Mbps local connections (a speed loss of 46%). This is compared to a speed loss of just 5% on the paid version.

    Despite the underwhelming download speeds, Windscribe Free’s ping time is consistently around 4ms, which is very low.

    In other words, files may take a long time to download with Windscribe, but you’re unlikely to experience lag when gaming.

    Using Windscribe Free on Minecraft

    We didn’t experience any lag on Minecraft using Windscribe Free.

    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. In these continents you’ll experience even slower speeds.

    Secure apps for popular devices

    Windscribe Free has native applications for iOS, Android, macOS, and Windows.

    You can also install the VPN on a router, which makes it a viable option for console gamers, too.

    All applications come with a kill switch, and we’ve never detected an IP or DNS leak in our tests.

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

    The 10GB data cap will be limiting on any of these devices, though.

    Smart DNS and live customer support missing

    There is currently no smart DNS feature available on either version of Windscribe.

    Furthermore, there is no live customer support either, but there are online guides, FAQs, and a chatbot service.

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 minimize 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 Surfshark are the two gaming VPNs with the lowest ping. Over the past eight weeks, they recorded an average ping of roughly 3ms.

In comparison, Private Internet Access has a higher ping of roughly 13ms.

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

Provider speed comparison chart

Why Do You Need a VPN for Gaming?

There are many claims online surrounding the use of VPNs when gaming. In this section we go through each use case and verify whether they are true or false based on our in-depth testing and research.

Here’s a quick summary of our findings:

You can use a gaming VPN to:

  • Avoid SBMM and find easier lobbies
  • Stream geo-blocked movies and TV shows
  • Prevent DoS attacks
  • Bypass IP bans
  • Avoid ISP throttling
  • Change a strict NAT Type
  • Bypass local firewalls

You can’t use a gaming VPN to:

  • Speed up your internet connection
  • Lower your ping and remove lag
  • Prevent DDoS attacks
  • Access games early or at a discounted price

1. Avoid Skill Based Matchmaking

Verdict: True
Difficulty: Easy
Best VPN: NordVPN

Popular battle royale games, such as Call of Duty: Warzone and PUBG, utilize a system known as skill-based matchmaking (SBMM).

The matchmaking algorithm determines your skill level based on your in-game performances, then matches you with similarly-skilled opponents.

By connecting to a server abroad or in a region with a smaller player base, the algorithm will prioritize filling the server over matching skill. As a result, you can play in much easier lobbies and perform better.

We would recommend using NordVPN to avoid SBMM as it has one of the largest server networks we’ve tested with 5,613 servers across 59 countries.

2. Stream geo-blocked movies and TV shows

Verdict: True
Difficulty: Easy
Best VPN: ExpressVPN

Games consoles such as the PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S all support streaming apps like Netflix, Disney+, and HBO.

A VPN lets you change your IP and DNS location to unlock video content from other countries.

ExpressVPN is equipped with its own Smart DNS system, MediaStreamer, which spoofs your location to access international libraries such as US Netflix. If you want to know how to set up MediaStreamer on your Xbox, follow our step-by-step instructions for using ExpressVPN on Xbox.

You can also change your location to a VPN server in the relevant region and access the content that way. If this is why you want a VPN, see our list of the best VPNs for streaming.

3. Prevent DoS attacks

Verdict: True for DoS attacks but false for DDoS
Difficulty: Easy
Best VPN: Private Internet Access

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

DoS attacks are when an attacker sends large amounts of traffic to your IP address to disrupt your connectivity and potentially disconnect you from the internet.

Connecting to a VPN assigns you the IP address of the VPN server, effectively concealing your real IP address from DoS attacks.

Private Internet Access (PIA) is great for preventing DoS attacks, using AES-256 encryption and Perfect Forward Secrecy to ensure your identifiable data is kept secure. We can confirm from our testing that PIA does not leak your IPv4, IPv6, or DNS.

A distributed denial-of-service attack (DDoS) is a far more sophisticated attack on your network from multiple sources. These types of attack are generally faster, more severe, and much harder to protect against.

A commercial VPN would not be able to prevent or disrupt an ongoing DDoS attack.

4. Bypass IP bans

Verdict: True (But we don’t recommend it)

Some online games will blanket ban IP addresses it suspects of wrongdoing. This can wrongly lead to your IP address being banned, preventing you from playing the game.

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

We don’t recommend you do this as bypassing an IP ban would violate the terms and conditions of the game you’re playing and potentially lead to a permanent suspension.

Moreover, using a VPN won’t bypass email address or account-related bans.

5. Avoid ISP throttling

Verdict: True
Difficulty: Easy
Best VPN: ExpressVPN

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.

It’s also not uncommon for ISPs in hotels, college dorms, or other shared accommodations to throttle your connection.

A VPN will hide your activity and location from your ISP, preventing it from throttling your connection.

If you suspect your ISP is slowing down your speeds while gaming then try out our internet throttling test.

6. Changing a Strict NAT Type

Verdict: True, but only on Windows
Difficulty: Hard
Best VPN: ExpressVPN

A Strict NAT Type can affect your matchmaking, connection to the game server, and restrict your communication with other players.

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.

Despite what you may have read elsewhere, connecting to a VPN does not change your router’s NAT Type. If anything, running your console’s traffic through both your router and a VPN server would restrict your NAT Type further.

However, you can change to a different NAT type by connecting a VPN to a Windows 10 hotspot. This will consistently provide you with a Moderate NAT Type regardless of your router or network settings.

7. Bypass local firewalls

Verdict: True
Difficulty: Medium
Best VPN: Surfshark

You may not be able to access an online game at your school, university, or workplace due to firewalls in place.

A VPN can encrypt your traffic and redirect it to a secure, remote server. This means your online activity will be hidden from your local firewall.

Firewalls differ in application and can require different solutions to outmaneuver them. Surfshark is well-equipped with obfuscation technology and Shadowsocks protocols specifically designed to bypass firewalls.

8. Faster connection speeds and no ping

Verdict: False

It is widely reported that using a VPN will improve your connection speeds and lower your ping when gaming: this is false.

By routing your console’s traffic through a VPN server, you are adding an extra ‘stop’ on the way to the game server. This will always add to your latency and result in varying degrees of speed loss.

However, all of our recommended VPNs for gaming are fast enough to prevent any noticeable loss in speed.

A VPN can stop your ISP from throttling you, which would result in an increase in connection speeds. However, it cannot boost your base speed.

9. Access games early and discounted

Verdict: False

It’s widely reported that using a VPN to spoof your location can allow you to purchase games early in a different country or at a cheaper price.

Unfortunately, this is not true.

Can you use a VPN to get PS4 and Ps5 games cheaper & earlier?

The location and content of your PS store is determined by the region and address you entered when you initially created your PlaySation Network (PSN) account.

This is fixed and cannot be changed.

If you want to access content early and at a discounted price then you need to make an entirely new PSN account

There are several factors to consider:

  1. Ensure the new address you submit is an acceptable ZIP or postal code from your selected region.
  2. You cannot transfer any of the progress from your previous PSN account including: purchased games, PS store credit and funds, trophies, or your friends list.
  3. The PSN Terms of Service claims that your account may be suspended “if you give false information.” There’s never been a reported case of this happening from using a VPN, but it is a possibility nonetheless.

This process does not require a VPN at any step.

Can you use a VPN to get Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S games cheaper & earlier?

Similarly, a VPN cannot be used to access games cheaper or earlier on Xbox consoles.

Fortunately, the process is much simpler as Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S are not region locked. This means you can purchase a game in Europe and play it on a North American Xbox console.

To access Xbox games earlier and cheaper, follow these steps:

  1. Change your location on the Microsoft Store by clicking the globe icon at the bottom of the page.
  2. Search for Xbox digital gift card and buy one that covers the full cost of your game.
  3. Redeem the gift card on your Xbox Live Account.

    If you are prompted to provide an address, use a publicly accessible one from the location you’ve switched to e.g. an embassy or a hotel.

  4. Go to the Xbox Game Store and click on the globe icon at the bottom of the page to change your location to the same one from step 1.
  5. Search for your chosen game in the now updated Store and purchase it with your account’s funds.
  6. If you are asked to provide an address, use the exact one from step 2.

This process does not require a VPN at any step.

Can you use a VPN to get games on Steam cheaper & earlier?

We do not recommend you use a VPN to buy games earlier or cheaper on Steam as doing so will result in a ban.

This is made clear in Steam’s Subscriber agreement:

Steam Subscriber Agreement

You can still use a VPN normally to encrypt your traffic on Steam.

In general, we advise against any attempt to spoof your location on Steam. Valve is increasingly looking to restrict efforts to obtain discounts or access geo-restricted content.

In the past two years, Valve has introduced the following counter-measures:

  1. Steam only lets you change your store location and currency once every three months.
  2. You need a regional payment method that matches the location.
  3. Steam will ask you to provide a billing address from your new region.

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.

Use one of the following methods to install a VPN on your games console:

  1. Use Smart DNS: A VPN equipped with Smart DNS can spoof your location to access geo-restricted content. However, it does not offer the privacy or security of a full VPN.
  2. Connect your console to your computer: By connecting your console to your computer via ethernet or WiFi, you can share the latter’s VPN connection.
  3. Install a VPN on your router: A VPN-configured router can cover all devices on its network, including your games console.

1. Use Smart DNS

Pros
Cons
  • Easy to set up and use
  • Reliably unblocks international streaming librarie
  • Does not encrypt your traffic or conceal your IP address
  • Will not let you bypass local or NAT firewalls
  • Smart DNS is generally only offered by premium VPN services

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.

The Smart DNS settings page in our Surfshark account

The Smart DNS settings page in our Surfshark account.

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.

We used ExpressVPN's MediaStreamer to watch US Netflix on Xbox One.

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 setup instructions in our VPN setup guides, or in our guide to using NordVPN on PS4/PS5.

2. Connect your console to your computer

Pros
Cons
  • Encrypts your traffic and assigns you a new IP address
  • Reliably unblocks international streaming libraries
  • Allows you to bypass local and NAT firewalls
  • Can be turned on and off easily
  • Moderately technical setup
  • A VPN will negatively impact your connection speeds and ping

By sharing your computer’s network, you can route your game console’s traffic through a VPN.

Depending on your operating system, your Xbox or PlayStation can connect to your computer via WiFi or ethernet.

You can then connect to a VPN server on your computer and encrypt all of your console’s traffic.

We recommend using NordVPN on your PS4 and PS5, and ExpressVPN on your Xbox One and Series X|S.

3. Install a VPN on your router

Pros
Cons
  • Encrypts your traffic and assigns you a new IP address
  • Reliably unblocks international streaming libraries
  • Allows you to bypass local and NAT firewalls
  • Unlimited simultaneous connections as your router counts as one device
  • Difficult and overly-technical setup if done manually
  • Pre-flashed routers are expensive
  • A VPN will negatively impact your connection speeds and ping

Installing a VPN on your router allows you to secure every device on your local network without having to create an individual connection for each device.
As long as your games console is connected to your router, all of its traffic will be automatically encrypted and sent to the VPN server.

This isn’t the simplest solution, though. Not every router will support VPN software and not all VPNs support router installation.

There are three methods for obtaining a VPN router:

  1. Manually installing a VPN on your router
  2. Buy a pre-flashed router
  3. Use a VPN app

You can find step-by-step instructions for each method on our VPN router setup guide.

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, Warzone, 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.

Gaming VPN FAQ

What Is the Best VPN Protocol for Gaming?

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

Generally, the best VPN protocol for gaming is WireGuard. It adds less latency than OpenVPN without sacrificing security. This varies according to the VPN service you use, though.

In some cases, PPTP may be the fastest protocol, but it isn’t secure and we don’t recommend using it.

Find out how much additional data each VPN protocol uses in our guide to VPN data usage.

Will a VPN Reduce My Ping?

Ping time or ‘latency’ is the time it takes for data packets to travel 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.