Ever been network throttled?
It’s slightly less painful than the physical version, but only slightly, and it’s what happens when your ISP suddenly cuts your connection speed in response to what you’re doing with it.
That can include torrenting, streaming, and gaming. You’re engaging in what is an otherwise legal, fun pastime – and being speed-penalized for it by your ISP.
That’s when you need a VPN. We know, we know, there’s been a longstanding issue that VPNs themselves throw speed bumps in the way when measuring your connection-speed. But those speed bumps are being flattened more and more by newer VPNs, and those VPNs can help to stabilize your connection speed – and keep your sensitive data (potentially including your financial data if your game includes in-world payments) while it’s about it.
Great. But there are a thousand VPNs out there at least. Which are the ones you need to look at to best serve your gaming performance?
Step this way. No, seriously, this is what we do for a living. We’ve checked out the VPN market and boiled it down to five top contenders – the best VPNs for gaming – so you can read, choose, click, go, and gave the chivalrous finger to network throttling and data-thieves both.
How We Picked
Gaming can be life or death, and while choosing the right VPN isn’t quite that dramatic… it might as well be. We only want to offer the best of the best products to our readers. We know how important gaming is to you, and that’s important to us. So, to ensure we’re only recommending products that we can fully support, we’ve carried out extensive research.
Size really does matter, so we looked at each option’s worldwide server network and how fast they were able to run the connection to the internet. We looked at a number of different factors as well as this, including, connection speeds, customer support services and help lines offered, and streaming capabilities.
The end results, we’re happy to report, is a list of 5 truly great VPNs that we know would be great for gaming. So, what are you waiting for? Ready, player one?
Best VPN For Gaming in 2021
Throttle is eliminated by the high-speed connection
There’s likely to be no drop-off in speed by using the VPN – a surprising rarity in the past
You can get access to international entertainment storehouses with ExpressVPN
ExpressVPN stops short of full encryption, which feels more vulnerable than it should
It comes with only five connections per plan, which should be enough, but may not be if your family want in on the VPN action
ExpressVPN is among the more costly options on the market, so you have to be sure it’s worth the price
ExpressVPN has to top our list for a couple of crucial reasons.
Firstly, depending on your ISP and the speed you’re getting from them, there’s every likelihood that ExpressVPN is fast enough to leave you with no speed drop-off by the fact that you’re using it. If you’re getting around the 100-200Mbps mark, you’re golden with ExpressVPN – it’s been known to hit 220Mbps on a 600MB line, which should be fast enough to cover you, glitch-free.
ExpressVPN also gives you a dedicated router VPN app. What does that mean? Means throttle be gone, that’s what it means. Also, you and your data will be safe even on consoles with no clue what a VPN is.
With the VPN’s MediaStreamer Smart DNS tool, you can switch locations on the likes of your Playstation or your Xbox. Haha! Throttle me now, o gods of internet speed limitation!
Quite apart from the gaming-specific bonuses, ExpressVPN will pretty much lay the entertainment warehouses of the world open to you. Netflix libraries from around the world? Yours. National restricted sites (we’re looking at you, BBC iPlayer!)? You just blew the doors off.
Importantly, because it’s a VPN, in the event of things either going wrong or getting a touch complicated, ExpressVPN hosts a full 24/7 live chat service to help you through – a back-up missing from lots of VPNs, and arguably worth its weight in bitcoin.
With 160 different locations across 94 countries, ExpressVPN should be able to find you a rapid server to use, anytime you need one.
Any gripes? Well, the MediaStreamer Smart DNS tool is all well and good, but it stops short of genuine encryption, which would be a useful development in a future upgrade. And if we were being extra-picky, ExpressVPN gives you only five simultaneous connections per purchase. With a little application though, if you use one for your router, anything connecting through that is automatically covered, leaving you four more to do with what you like – your gaming laptop, for use away from home, your phone, etc.
Bottom line, ExpressVPN is a slick service that evaporates throttle, doesn’t penalize your speed by using it, and gives you fantastic support as and when you need it. That earns it the top spot on our list.
Speeds of 350Mbps are enough to make us drool
It has 5,000 servers, so it’s pretty next level in terms of connectivity certainty
Throttle-free gaming from your regular internet line
Stream everything from everywhere with this VPN
Lacks some interface polish
Just let that sink in for a second. NordVPN – the VPN everyone’s heard of, even the people who don’t know what a VPN is – has 5,000 servers across 59 countries. There’s no way in Hell (where it probably also has a server, just for completeness) you’re not going to find the right one to give you maximum speed.
That means, game on, you crazy space commando – you can get a great, throttle-free connection direct from your regular internet line.
Are we going to tell you things have always been wine and roses in NordVPN’s garden? No, of course not – you’d call us liars, we’d slink away knowing you were right. It’s had trouble in the past with the unreliability of its crucial speed numbers.
Yyyyyeah, those days are history now, we need to move on. With the WireGuard-based NordLynx protocol, NordVPN has re-announced itself, and it’s come to play, and play fast. How fast? How does 350Mbps grab you?
Yeah, we figured.
One of the extra joys of NordVPN is that its apps are more stable than at least half your relatives. That means – also like your relatives – you won’t feel the need to keep checking on the apps. Just do your gaming thing, and all will be well. Set up an app on your router, and console be speedy.
Streaming support? Oh, it’s goooood. You’re probably going to be watching Everything from Everywhere once you get done with gaming. One set of square eyeballs over here, please.
Does it have quite the polish of the ExpressVPN offering? No, not quite – which is why you find it in second place on our list. It’s also uncommonly honest, admitting that VPNs are not a 100% secure solution to the problems you have, like the pesky hell that is DDoS (Distributed Denial-of-Service) attacks. The irony of which is that it’s one of the best and most complete solutions on the market right now.
Unlimited connections mean you’ll connect everything to this VPN with no stress
3,500 servers around the world give you plenty of chances to find the fastest server around the clock
Extremely affordable for everything it offers
Likely no drop-out for using the VPN
Not as fast overall as the likes of ExpressVPN and NordVPN
We love unlimited connections. It’s a plank in the SurfShark offering that makes us look up from interplanetary jungle warfare and go “Huh?”
It’s practically unheard-of in the VPN world, which is why it makes such a pleasing splash for SurfShark. Go with this VPN and you no longer have to think craftily or strategically/ Unlimited! Connect another device! Connect alllll the devices!
It’s enough to make you giddy with possibility and power.
Add to that a network of 3,500 servers and you’re starting to knock on the doors of the more popular VPNs with severely restricted numbers of connections and demand answers.
Add to that the fact that SurfShark is brain-slappingly affordable, and it’s a shark that threatens to become your new best friend.
Are there drawbacks? Sure – the speed’s never going to overtake ExpressVPN or NordVPN. But importantly, it pulls that same trick that ExpressVPN does – if your ISP is getting you speeds of 100 Mbps, you’re not going to notice a drop driven by using the VPN, but you will notice that instances of throttle fade away.
A vast network of servers means you’ll always find the one you need
An optimized suggestion means that in fact, CyberGhost will find it for you
An easy-to-use interface and 24/7 live customer support make CyberGhost among the friendliest of VPNs
As a VPN, it’s cagy about its speeds, which makes judging its anti-throttle potential unnecessarily difficult
You thought you had it goo,d with the 5,000 servers of NordVPN, right?
How about over 6,800 in 90 countries worldwide?
Yep – that’s what we thought you’d say.
CyberGhost is one of those internet phenomena that doesn’t shout too loud about its successes but is nevertheless dedicated to building up a loyal fan base. Those 6,800+ servers have something to do with that, but by no means explain everything.
Based in Romania, CyberGhost is more generous than ExpressVPN too, giving you seven connections per plan. Sure, it doesn’t compare to SurfShark’s infinite option, but then, what could? Delivering AES 256-bit encryption – again, something even ExpressVPN doesn’t offer – is another point that sets CyberGhost apart in a crowd.
With a strict no-logs policy, CyberGhost promises web anonymity at all times – perhaps not necessary if all you want to do is game your face off without the threat of throttling. Still, it’s reassuring to have, in terms of protecting you from data thieves: if there’s no data held, it makes it very much harder to steal. Just to be sure, it comes with a kill switch and DNS leak protection – so whatever happens, you’re not going to leak data back to your ISP. Privacy, privacy, all is privacy.
Weirdly enough, not even the CyberGhost website seems prepared to divulge how fast its VPN is, so in terms of maximizing your gaming speed via VPN, all it will say is that its servers are optimized for high-speed use.
A point that endears CyberGhost to us though is that – unlike many VPNs – it recommends the best and fastest server for you. We love a helpful recommendation, and we’re guessing you do too, or you wouldn’t be reading this page, so it feels like the CyberGhost geeks are kindred spirits.
Matching our list-leader, CyberGhost also offers 24/7 live customer support, should you find you need it at any point.
Among the easier VPNs to use, CyberGhost can crack open all the location-restricted entertainment vaults you need it to around the world. That combination of ease of use, a vast server network, impressive encryption and helpful suggestions in a hurry put CyberGhost onto our list of the best VPNs for gaming.
Being labeled ‘the world’s fastest VPN’ has got to attract gaming users
The removal of data limits makes for a very freeing VPN experience
24/7 customer support
Having no access to OpenVPN protocol feels needlessly restrictive
Only five unique connections at a time, compared to some VPNs which offer infinite connections
Qualms are likely over the data it admits to collecting
You’ll likely have heard of Hotspot Shield for its free VPN. Step up a level to the full version though, and it unlocks benefits of particular use to gamers.
First of all – no data limits. Send, receive, stream, download – if your machine can take it, HotSpot Shield can handle it.
Also, when it comes to speed, HotSpot Shield makes a lot of having been independently judged the fastest VPN in the world, increasing download speeds by over 26% compared to having no VPN – and imposing no drop-off in speeds for using it. That’s pretty impressive whichever way you look at it, and it’s explained by a proprietary protocol called Catapult Hydra. Certainly, that’s cool for speed, but it also means you can’t use the commonly supported OpenVPN protocol with Hotspot Shield.
Like ExpressVPN, Hotspot Shield only allows five connections at one time, so for the sake of supremacy in speed, you sacrifice a little of the ease of some other VPNs like SurfShark. And like several of our top VPNs, you have 24/7 live customer support for HotSpot Shield
Compared to the likes of CyberGhost, HotSpot Shield raises a few hackles in terms of data collection too – it logs the bandwidth you use, how long you use it for, your device’s ID – and more besides. If you’re looking for absolute privacy then, go with the likes of CyberGhost over Hotspot Shield. If you’re looking for pure gaming connection speed, Hotspot Shield is difficult to argue with.
Things To Consider
When investing in a VPN for gaming, keep a handful of things in mind.
Speed is life to gaming performance
If you’re a gamer, the chances are you’re looking for speed above all. Keep that in the front of your mind when choosing your VPN. There will be an array of bells and whistles that come with it, like access to restricted entertainment vaults around the world, but keep in mind, if it doesn’t tackle the speed and smoothness of your connection, it’s not doing the primary thing you want it to do.
A little help goes a long way
Check whether the VPN you’re thinking of going with has 24/7 customer support, so you can get any questions answered immediately. If not, you just know that when you’re at a crucial stage of your game, the speed will glitch and you’ll have no one to ask about it.
Size is important
Network size, that is – how many servers in how many different countries can your VPN connect you to? The higher the number, the more likely you are to have a secure, fast connection around the clock, so, all other things being equal, prioritize VPNs that deliver you a wider network of servers to choose from. If your VPN selects the server that’s right for you at any given moment, so much the better.
Why do I need a VPN for gaming?
There are lots of reasons why gamers would choose to run a VPN. Smoother, faster connections for one. A response to the throttling tendencies of some ISPs is another. Protection from DDoS attacks is more likely with a VPN. And whether your data includes financial information, activity location or the ability for hackers to put malicious code on your computer through your IP address, an effective (ideally log-free) VPN can give you a better gaming experience all round.
Don’t VPNs themselves cause a dip in connection speed?
Not the ones we’ve listed! In fact, more and more in the 21st century, this is becoming a non-issue, especially if you’re getting speeds of 100 Mbps from your ISP. If you’re already using a VPN, and it’s causing a glitch in your connection speed, get rid of it immediately and go for one of the modern alternatives we suggest.
Is a boost in smooth speed all I’m getting from my VPN?
No. You’re getting privacy online, for one thing, and safety from hackers, fishers, malware, and other internet nasties for another. And of course, you’re getting access to lots of location-restricted entertainment vaults from around the world, all folded into the price of something you’re investing in mainly because it improves the smoothness and speed of your gaming experience.
Speed, safety, streaming services aplenty are what you get with ExpressVPN. It’s great for gaming and with 160 different locations across 94 countries, you’ll have plenty of access to server use pretty much on cue.
Nord VPN is another quick-connecting VPN server that offers throttle-free gaming and ultimate streaming, although the user interface is less refined in comparison. Surfshark is a slower but more affordable option, and CyberGhost deserves your consideration due to it’s easy-to-use interface and excellent customer support which is accessible 24/7.
The final decision will come down to you and you alone, but we hope we’ve at least been able to point you in the right direction.