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Best VPN for Gaming in 2021

Podium Rankings for Best VPN
Simon Migliano Head of Research at Top10VPN

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

A gaming VPN or smart DNS service can bypass IP bans and region-restricted online games and content. They also protect you against ISP throttling, and DDoS attacks on your IP address.

Above all else, a gaming VPN needs to add as little latency to your connection as possible for you to enjoy lag-free gaming.

We’ve tested 69 VPNs for gaming on PC, mobile, Xbox, and PlayStation, and these are the best we’ve found as of May 2021.

The five best VPNs for gaming in 2021 are:

  1. ExpressVPN: The all-round best VPN for gaming. Read summary
  2. NordVPN: The best VPN for mobile gaming. Read summary
  3. Surfshark: Best VPN for console gaming. Read summary
  4. Private Internet Access: Best VPN for PC gaming.
    Read summary
  5. Windscribe Free: Best free VPN for gaming. Read summary

All these VPNs have been tested according to our gaming VPN methodology. We’ve seen every one of them actually run smoothly with popular online games.

A VPN generally won’t reduce your ping, but we’ve done our best to find VPNs that will have as little of an impact on it as possible. All these VPNs add less than 5ms to your latency.

The Best VPNs for Lag-Free Gaming

  1. 1. ExpressVPN - Best Overall Gaming VPN

    ExpressVPN has Smart DNS for consoles, as well as plenty of servers and great speeds

    Ranked #1 out of 69 VPNs for Gaming
    ExpressVPN's new app on mobile devices
    (1,760 user reviews)
    Visit ExpressVPN
    1. Very low ping (3ms)
    2. Apps for 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
    1. Expensive on short plans
    2. No port forwarding

    ExpressVPN is our number one VPN for gaming, on any system. It is fast, has a low ping and is available on apps for most systems (there is a smart DNS for console gamers). It has a very minimal logging policy, unbreakable AES-256 encryption and we’ve also never seen it leaking IP or DNS information.

    It allows P2P traffic, which means it will work well regardless of the setup of the online game you’re playing (fighting games in particular often require P2P). There isn’t port-forwarding, though, which some PC gamers could use to improve the quality of their connection. We’d like to see ExpressVPN add this in the future.

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

    Based on a 100Mbps test connection

    Data LeaksNo
    Logging PolicyAnonymous Server Usage Data
    JurisdictionBritish Virgin Islands (Privacy Haven)
    Support24/7 Live Chat
    Compatible with
    1. windowsWindows
    2. androidAndroid
    3. iosiOS
    4. playstationPlayStation
    5. xboxXbox
    6. macosMacOS
    7. routerRouter

    Low ping and a huge server network

    It has a consistently low ping which has stayed below 3ms on a local New York connection for several months (top competitors add as much as 8ms). This is thanks in part to its Lightway protocol, and to its huge 3,000+ VPN servers network across 94 countries.

    A 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. This may require some trial and error, though.

    The VPN’s speeds stay strong over long distances, which is perfect if you’re looking to unlock content. Still, don’t expect to be playing competitively from the other side of the world – no VPN can offer that.

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

    ExpressVPN is one of the most user-friendly and versatile VPN services. It has custom apps for Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android, and more. These all come with a kill switch to protect you from unexpected leaks.

    While you can’t install the VPN directly on your Xbox, PlayStation or Nintendo Switch, 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 DNS service called MediaStreamer DNS which you can install directly onto your Xbox or PlayStation (see these step-by-step instructions).

    MediaStreamer isn’t a full VPN, but it can spoof your location to unlock content, and reroute your traffic.

    Great for unlocking geo-blocked content

    And if you’re based in a highly-censored nation like China or Turkey, ExpressVPN is the most effective VPN at bypassing censorship of online gaming. You’ll need to use the full VPN on your router, though, or install it on PC.

    If you run into any issues unlocking online gaming content, ExpressVPN has a 24/7 live support team, which is both responsive and knowledgeable. It also comes with a risk-free money-back guarantee of 30 days so you can try it without worrying about losing your money.

  2. 2. NordVPN - Best VPN for Mobile Gaming

    Easy apps for all devices with low ping and fast speeds

    NordVPN Mobile App Screenshot
    (246 user reviews)
    Visit NordVPN
    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
    1. PayPal not accepted
    2. No port forwarding

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

    Cheapest Price$3.71/mo over 24 Months See all plans
    Top Download Speedi

    Based on a 100Mbps test connection

    Data LeaksNo
    Logging PolicyNo Logs
    JurisdictionPanama (Privacy Haven)
    Support24/7 Live Chat
    Compatible with
    1. windowsWindows
    2. androidAndroid
    3. iosiOS
    4. playstationPlayStation
    5. xboxXbox
    6. macosMacOS
    7. routerRouter

    Superfast local & international connections

    NordVPN is fast on both local and international connections, which is good news if you want to unlock international content. On local connections we’ve seen it cut as little as 2% off of download speeds.

    Connecting from the UK to Australia – normally an extremely slow connection – we saw a download speed drop of 40%. On a slightly shorter connection, like London to New York, we saw a speed drop of just 21%. These are both incredible 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, the ping is really low. When testing on a local New York connection over the last few months, we’ve never seen it go below 4ms. It should have very little noticeable effect on latency (although as with all VPNs, there will be some).

    Large server network

    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 or user friendly apps

    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 unlock regional content. NordVPN provides dedicated how-to guides to help you set this up.

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

    Comprehensive support

    NordVPN has a 24/7 live chat support service that we 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 service, you can always ask for a refund within 30 days of signing up.

  3. 3. Surfshark - Best VPN for PlayStation 5 & Xbox Series S|X

    Smart DNS for consoles, as well as low ping and great value

    Surfshark app
    (99 user reviews)
    Visit Surfshark
    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
    1. Slower long distance speeds
    2. No port-forwarding

    Surfshark is a great value VPN with a pretty good ping (averaging around 5ms). This is absolutely fine for most gamers, but might be a bit slow for any pro players. It is our top choice for the PS5 and Xbox Series S|X, but we recommend it for console gaming in general, including last-gen consoles.

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

    Based on a 100Mbps test connection

    Data LeaksNo
    Logging PolicyAnonymous Server Usage Data
    JurisdictionBritish Virgin Islands (Privacy Haven)
    Support24/7 Live Chat
    Compatible with
    1. windowsWindows
    2. androidAndroid
    3. iosiOS
    4. playstationPlayStation
    5. xboxXbox
    6. macosMacOS
    7. routerRouter

    International server network

    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, although there are plenty of these to choose from.

    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 unlocking blocked online gaming content on console, such as regional special events or local betas.

    It is also an excellent choice if you want to unlock global streaming content on your games console. It can spoof your location for apps like Netflix and BBC iPlayer and generally avoids VPN blocks.

    Quality apps for most devices

    Smart DNS isn’t a full VPN, though. For better security and privacy 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, unbreakable AES-256 encryption and trusted WireGuard and OpenVPN protocols. You can also install Surfshark on a router to protect your whole local network.

    Professional user support

    Surfshark’s 24/7 live customer support is consistently high-quality, and we recommend contacting them if you have any issues setting up smart DNS on your console.

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

  4. 4. PIA - Best VPN for PC Gaming

    Port forwarding enabled so you can optomise your online gaming setup

    Private Internet Access
    (27 user reviews)
    Visit PIA VPN
    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
    1. No SmartDNS functionality
    2. Doesn't work consistently in China

    Private Internet Access is a great low-ping gaming VPN. It’s apps use the industry leading WireGuard VPN protocol with AES-256 encryption. It’s also the only VPN here which allows port forwarding, and so is our number one pick for PC gaming.

    Cheapest Price$2.69/mo over 26 months See all plans
    Top Download Speedi

    Based on a 100Mbps test connection

    Data LeaksNo
    Logging PolicyNo Logs
    JurisdictionUS (Five-Eyes Member)
    Support24/7 Live Chat
    Compatible with
    1. windowsWindows
    2. androidAndroid
    3. iosiOS
    4. playstationPlayStation
    5. xboxXbox
    6. macosMacOS
    7. routerRouter

    Port forwarding and P2P allowed

    PC gamers will be happy to hear that port forwarding is possible with PIA – an increasingly rare perk in modern VPNs. This gives you the ability to manually optimize your connection for minimal lag and short lobby waits.

    P2P gaming is also allowed on all servers, which makes this a great choice for any 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 (although not quite as simple as competitors), and include a kill switch alongside other advanced features.

    There’s no smart DNS service available, which is the easiest way to get the benefits of a VPN on games consoles – so we don’t really recommend this service for console gamers. Crucially, though, PIA does come with router-level support which allows you to use it with your PlayStation, Xbox, or Nintendo console.

    Global server network

    PIA has 77 country locations available to connect to, and over 25,000 individual servers. This is really important as it gives users from around the globe the ability to connect to a local server, and minimize lag.

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

    Low ping for seamless gaming

    When we test Private Internet Access on a local New York connection we regularly get a latency of just 4ms. This means the additional ping when you game online 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 global server network. Having servers near you will always result in a lower ping, and PIA has one of the most evenly distributed server networks we’ve seen.

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

  5. 5. Windscribe - Best Free VPN for Gaming

    The best free VPN we've tested, with minimal ping and 10GB of data

    Windscribe mobile screenshots
    (2 user reviews)
    Visit Windscribe
    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
    1. Limited server network
    2. No port-forwarding on free plan
    3. No smart DNS

    Windscribe is the best free VPN we’ve found for gaming. It uses unbroken AES-256 encryption, and importantly (unlike competitors like ProtonVPN) it allows P2P traffic, which means all online games will work over its servers.

    Cheapest PriceFree
    Top Download Speedi

    Based on a 100Mbps test connection

    Data LeaksNo
    Logging PolicyAnonymous Server Usage Data
    JurisdictionCanada (Five-Eyes Member)
    SupportEmail & Online Resources Only
    Compatible with
    1. windowsWindows
    2. androidAndroid
    3. iosiOS
    4. playstationPlayStation
    5. xboxXbox
    6. macosMacOS
    7. routerRouter

    Variable speeds, but low ping

    Windscribe Free isn’t as fast as the paid version, or any of the other VPNs here. In speed tests we’ve found it runs at 54Mbps on a 100Mbps local connection, a drop of 46%. This is compared to a drop of just 5% in the premium VPN.

    Despite variable speeds, though, we’ve found that ping is consistently very low (around 4ms). This means that while files will take a long time to download, you shouldn’t experience lag when gaming. We’ve received this low ping in London thanks to good server coverage here, but other locations aren’t as lucky.

    There are only 10 locations to choose from, nowhere near the number offered by any of the paid VPN services we recommend for gaming. While there is plenty of choice in Europe and North America, there is only one location in Asia, though, and none in South America or Africa. Users in these areas are likely to experience quite poor speeds with this VPN.

    Apps for popular systems

    Windscribe has apps for iOS, MacOS, PC, and Android, and 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, though.

    The apps all come with a kill switch, which is a key feature if you want to keep your connection secure. We’ve never seen any of them leak, either, so you can be confident your connection won’t drop out mid-game. By default they use the IKEv2 VPN protocol, a trusted industry standard, which works particularly well on mobile.

    Some premium features missing

    There is currently no smart DNS service available through Windscribe, but the service provider does appear to be working on it now. When it is launched, though, this service probably won’t be available to free users.

    There is no live support, either, but there are online guides and FAQs.

Best VPN for Gaming: Graphs & Tables

Ping Comparison Graph

Here are the results of our automatic ping tests for the last eight weeks, on a local New York to New York connection:

VPN Speed Performance Comparison Chart

Do I Need a VPN for Gaming?

There are lots of reasons you might need a VPN for online gaming:

  • Preventing DDoS attacks
  • Bypassing IP bans
  • Getting around geo-blocks
  • Avoiding ISP throttling
  • Bypassing local firewalls or content filters

It’s important to say upfront that, with some important exceptions, a VPN is unlikely to speed up your connection.

Here are the main ways a VPN can help you when online gaming:

Protection against DDoS attacks

If you’re into competitive online gaming or e-sports, a VPN can protect you against 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.

Bypassing IP bans

Some online game ban lists use IP addresses. If this has happened to you, a VPN might help you get around the ban.

It will hide your banned IP address from the game and give you a VPN IP address instead. This won’t work for other kinds of bans, though, such as those connected to an email address or account.

Beating geo-restrictions

Many online games include location-specific features, such as events and stores, and other games are totally geo-blocked. This means that you won’t be able to access part or all of the game depending on your location.

Using a VPN with worldwide servers, you can make it appear as though your location is different, and get access to exclusive content from outside your country.

Avoiding ISP throttling

Sometimes ISPs will throttle your internet connection when you’re gaming. If this is happening a VPN will hide what you are doing from your ISP, and stop it from throttling your connection.

Bypassing 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’s settings.

Can I Install a VPN on My PlayStation or Xbox?

Installing a VPN on a games console isn’t always straightforward, but there are several options available for consoles like PlayStation, Xbox or Nintendo Switch.

Unfortunately you can’t generally install a VPN directly onto the console. These are the best methods for using a VPN on a gaming console:

Using Smart DNS

By far the easiest way to run a VPN on a gaming console, like a PS5 or an Xbox Series X, is to use a VPN’s Smart DNS feature, if available. All you need to do is go into the DNS settings of your gaming console and update them with DNS credentials provided by your VPN service.

Many VPN providers don’t come with Smart DNS functionality so we recommend PlayStation, Xbox, and Nintendo users go with either ExpressVPN, NordVPN, CyberGhost, or Surfshark, which all have a Smart DNS feature.

Use a pre-configured router

Alternatively, you can connect your games console to a pre-configured, or pre-flashed, VPN router. Selected VPN providers 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’re in possession of the router, complete the VPN installation following the instructions supplied by your VPN provider.

Manually configuring a 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. However, you’ll need a router that has either been configured with an OpenVPN client, or which can be flashed with new firmware.

To know more about methods #2 and #3, read our dedicated guides to VPN routers and VPN router setup.

Using a VPN for Streaming TV on Your Console

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

These will spoof your location details to streaming services like Netflix, turning your console into a truly international media-hub.

Microsoft Xbox One & Series S|X

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 either install the VPN on your router or use a smart DNS service.

For the last-generation Xbox One range the process is very similar. You’ll need to either install your VPN on a router or set up smart DNS. As it’s a few years old now, it has a very broad set of streaming options.

PlayStation 4 & 5

The PS5 is Sony’s competitor to the current generation Xbox. When it comes to streaming it’s more limited than the Xbox X or S, though. There’s no iPlayer app, for instance.

Like the Xbox One, the PS4 has had plenty of time to develop streaming apps for its platform. You’ll find most streaming services do have apps for it, including BBC iPlayer.

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

How Do We Test VPNs for Gaming?

We test VPNs for gaming according to a standard criteria, and rank them according to how closely match it. Our ideal VPN for gaming has:

  • Very low ping on local connections
  • A large, well distributed server network
  • Smart DNS service for console gaming
  • Minimal logging policy
  • No leaks or connection issues
  • Allows P2P traffic and port forwarding
  • Easy to use apps for major platforms and router compatibility

We also trial each VPN for Gaming on a list of popular online games to make sure they actually work in practice.

This list includes:

  1. Fortnite
  2. League of Legends
  3. Crossfire
  4. Minecraft
  5. Apex Legends
  6. CS: GO
  7. PUBG
  8. DOTA 2
  9. GTA 5
  10. Destiny 2

All the VPNs we’ve recommended for gaming work with all these online games and more.

Like all our VPN reviews, when we test VPNs for gaming we put them through our impartial 10-step methodology and we never take payment from a VPN company for positive coverage.

Additional research by Liam Mullally

Gaming VPN FAQs

Will a VPN Reduce My Ping?

Generally no, but there are a few exceptions.

In almost all cases a VPN will make your ping worse, which is why we only recommend VPNs for gaming if they add as little latency as possible. There are a few rare situations in which a VPN might improve your ping though:

  1. Your ISP or local network administrator is throttling your online gaming speeds. In this case a VPN will hide your activity and avoid throttling.
  2. Your VPN exit node is close to the gaming server you are connected to. This can allow a more optimized connection, but requires you to be very lucky.

There are some gaming DNS services available (like Outfox from GoldenFrog, the owner of VyprVPN) which claim to speed up your ping. We haven’t extensively tested these services, but since they’re actively optimized for specific gaming servers they may well offer small improvements to ping.

What Is the Best VPN Protocol for Gaming?

Connection speed and latency are really important factors in picking a VPN protocol for gaming. Generally speaking, the best option will often be WireGuard, which tends to add less latency to your connection than OpenVPN, without sacrificing security. This will vary slightly from VPN to VPN, though.

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

What Is the Best VPN for Online Gaming?

The best VPN for online gaming is ExpressVPN. It has super fast apps for mobile and PC, as well as smart DNS service for games consoles like the Xbox S and PS5.

It also has a really low ping (averaging around 3ms). This means it has a really minor impact on your latency when gaming. It has a huge server network, too, which is ideal for unblocking regional gaming content.

What’s the Best Free VPN for Gaming?

Windscribe is the best free VPN we’ve tested for gaming. In our tests we’ve always found it causes very little change to ping. It also allows P2P traffic, which allows it to work with games some other VPNs are not optimised for, like Super Smash Bros Ultimate.

Another free VPN you might want to try for gaming is ProtonVPN. It has no data limit but only three servers, which might cause big latency issues for some games. It also doesn’t allow P2P traffic on its free servers, so some games simply won’t work.

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