The best VPN for gaming in 2022

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best VPN for gaming
I've tested a host of different paid-for services to find out which works best for gamers.

The best VPN for gaming means you can play online or browse the web without worrying about your privacy being compromised. Protecting yourself and your data is more important these days than ever before. That would explain the nearly endless amount of VPN services out there. Sadly, very few provide the average PC gamer's protection and peace of mind. These hassle-free VPNs keep your online activities private without sacrificing performance. That's a win-win in our books. 

Throughout the year I check out and test tons of different VPN services that specialize from general use to online gaming throughout the year. Below are the VPNs that provide the best overall PC gaming experience that won't strain your bank account or your CPU. I factor in cost, performance, and features to determine our picks. I do all the testing and research, so you don't have to. 

To get the best VPN experience, it'll cost you. Thankfully, the VPNs on this list that can be subscribed to monthly (or yearly) have pretty reasonable prices. You should be wary of free VPNs. Though they are free, you can almost be sure that some of your data will be tracked and sold to third parties which sort of defeats the purpose. So be sure always to read the fine print.

I would say just to be wary of free VPNs unless you're absolutely sure how your data is being processed and where it's going. They can be a handy alternative for just getting a quick look at how something looks from a different region but will generally also have the biggest impact on just how fast your connection is.

The Surfshark logo on a grey background

(Image credit: Surfshark)

1. Surfshark

The best VPN for gaming

Specifications

Servers: 1700+

Countries: 63

Max devices: Unlimited

Reasons to buy

+

Unlimited devices

+

Impressive speed

+

Top ping performance

Reasons to avoid

-

Slower upload than NordVPN

Surfshark is my boy. For me, it's the best VPN for gaming that we've tested, offering a great combination of lower ping than my non-VPN'd connection and a relatively minor hit when it comes to overall download speeds. It's ever so slightly more taxing on the uploads than NordVPN, which comes out top on that score, but not by enough to put me off. For streamers, you'll probably want to prioritize that upload speed, making NordVPN the go-to option. But then, as a streamer, you'd probably rather have the full bandwidth available to you at all times…

The app is straightforward. There are even neat features such as an optional kill switch (disabling your internet connection if the VPN drops for any reason) and a whitelist to allow banking apps and such through the VPN block. The company offers a strict no-logs policy and seems to be reliable on that front. 

Surfshark is also the only service tested that offers access to unlimited devices from a single account. That's pretty impressive considering the relatively low cost compared to some of its peers.

The only issue I've encountered is that it doesn't seem like a happy fit for torrenting. I struggled to get anything to function, so if that's a deal-breaker for you, then you'll probably want to look at Nord instead. 

NordVPN logo on a grey background

(Image credit: NordVPN)

2. NordVPN

The best VPN for consistent upload speeds

Specifications

Servers: 5700+

Countries: 59

Max devices: 6

Reasons to buy

+

Top download and upload speeds

+

Decent ping performance

+

Netflix access

Reasons to avoid

-

App requires lots of updating

It's close between Surfshark and NordVPN, but the toothy one just about wins out thanks to its unlimited devices, lower price, and lower ping. NordVPN, however, is the high-performance option if download and upload speeds are the be-all and end-all for your PC experience. It delivers one of the highest relative download speeds in my testing compared to an untouched connection and the absolute highest upload speed.

That seems to be where many VPN services fall, in just how much they tank your upload connection. My upload speed is already 10x slower than my downloads, so I can ill afford to lose any more. But NordVPN still delivers around 85% of that connection, while Private Internet Access actually dropped down to 35%.

It's also your best option if you find torrenting your go-to method of accessing content online. Surfshark seems to block everything in my experience, making Nord the next best thing.

The service also delivers an impressive ping performance, too, getting close to my unfettered ping score and consistently beating my game ping scores too. NordVPN is using the latest WireGuard VPN protocol, which it's calling NordLynx. It's reportedly the fastest around and does seem to help it run consistently well. 

IPVanish logo on a grey background

(Image credit: IPVanish)

3. IPVanish

The best-value VPN for gaming

Specifications

Servers: 1400+

Countries: 51

Max devices: 10

Reasons to buy

+

Good value

+

Decent performance

Reasons to avoid

-

Not as fully-featured as others

IPVanish is one of the most affordable VPN services we've tested, but that doesn't mean you're missing out. It might not have the full feature set of Surfshark or NordVPN, but you do get 250GB of SugarSync encrypted storage and backup for free with a new subscription, which could give you a little extra peace of mind over your more sensitive documents.

It performs well too. The impact on my upload and download speed is impressively minimal, and it also manages, for the most part, to drop down the in-game ping when gaming online. There was a little spike in CS: GO, but nothing worrying, and still with fewer packet drops than with my standard connection.

If you're after a quality VPN service to run on your gaming machine, and potentially on nine other devices simultaneously, but don't want to spend big, then IPVanish is a great alternative to the top two on our list.

ExpressVPN logo

(Image credit: ExpressVPN)

4. ExpressVPN

The best VPN for the global community

Specifications

Servers: 3000+

Countries: 94

Max devices: 5

Reasons to buy

+

Servers available across the globe

+

Great Chrome plugin

Reasons to avoid

-

Slower upload speeds

The second most expensive service on our list is also the broadest reach across the globe. With servers in a staggering 94 countries, if you're looking to play with friends abroad, or find yourself traveling a lot, then ExpressVPN could be your best bet for a solid, secure, and relatively speedy connection.

ExpressVPN isn't bad in my testing for in-game ping performance, regularly giving me a lower millisecond count than my standard connection in Battlefield 5. Still, it sometimes struggled in CS: GO. However, it was the weakest when it came to downloading speeds—not that 94% of my regular connection is bad—but the upload hit was second only to the dreadful performance of Private Internet Access.

Of the top four, it also has the fewest number of simultaneous devices allowed, though, at five devices, you can still share the load across PC, laptop, phone, and significant other. But ExpressVPN is still a quality, reliable service that may not have the top-level performance I've measured from some others but is still a decent option for PC gamers.

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(Image credit: Future)

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(Image credit: Future)

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(Image credit: Future)

Other VPNs tested

VyprVPN

Private Internet Access

CyberGhost

The best VPN FAQ

Is a VPN good for gaming?

The historical consensus has been that you shouldn't use a VPN while gaming online because it might impact your connection and slow you down. Yes, you might be able to bypass the bane of geo-blocking, but many people complain about horrifying lag and subsequent in-game failures.

That is still the case if you're using a bandwidth-limited free service, such as Hola or the basic TunnelBear package, but if you pick wisely, you could find the best VPN for gaming in some cases can improve your online performance.

It may sound like we're pulling your chain. But it's true, a good VPN service can not only keep you safe and secure behind the scenes, but it can actually improve your ping results in-game. Now, it's not a case of some fancy wizardry that will suddenly turn a slow internet connection into a lightning-quick one. But the best VPNs for gaming will often boast superior routing compared to your current internet service provider (ISP). That means you could find you get less packet loss via a VPN, and you might even see a lower ping, making your connection more responsive in-game.

I run a generally reliable, 100Mbit+ fiber connection at home, yet I still experience some packet loss when I've got boots on the ground in Battlefield 5. My ping isn't bad, but hey, it could always be better, right? Running a VPN does, however, take a bit of a chunk out of your overall download and upload speeds, but maybe not as much as you might think. Picking the best VPN for gaming will minimize that impact.

Why should I bother with a VPN?

There are other reasons you might want to run a VPN on your PC, the number one draw being online security. If you don't want a network tracking your every move, using a virtual private network is the best way to avoid that. The best VPNs run a 'no log' policy, which means they'll store no data about you or your activity, helping you stay secure in the face of any data breach. Again, it will also help you get around geo-blocking. Say you want to unlock a new game early or want to subscribe to service only available in another country, no problem.

How are VPNs tested?

Testing VPNs is a fun game and doesn't always end up with you bricking your internet connection each time you uninstall one to install another. Honestly. Not every time, anyway… We've sourced accounts for each of the services and tested them all on the same 100Mbit connection at the same time of day to ensure a fair reflection as to the performance of each of them.

There are free VPNs and some VPN services with free tiers, but you won't find them suitable for connecting while gaming online. They almost always introduce latency to your experience and severely hamper the overall performance of your network connection.

We haven't included any of the free options, such as Hola or TunnelBear, in this list. They're also not necessarily an effective choice if you're trying to get around geo-blocked services such as video streaming, as you may still find them restricted.

As for testing, first, I took a Speedtest.net measurement of my standard, unfettered internet connection, using that as a baseline against which to test each of the different services. Then I installed each VPN and tested it before uninstalling it to add a new VPN fresh. 

Dave James

Dave has been gaming since the days of Zaxxon and Lady Bug on the Colecovision, and code books for the Commodore Vic 20 (Death Race 2000!). He built his first gaming PC at the tender age of 16, and finally finished bug-fixing the Cyrix-based system around a year later. When he dropped it out of the window. He first started writing for Official PlayStation Magazine and Xbox World many decades ago, then moved onto PC Format full-time, then PC Gamer, TechRadar, and T3 among others. Now he's back, writing about the nightmarish graphics card market, CPUs with more cores than sense, gaming laptops hotter than the sun, and SSDs more capacious than a Cybertruck.

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