What to Look For in a VPN in 2023
A VPN (virtual private network) allows you to encrypt your connection, making it more secure and ensuring your data’s privacy.
VPNs protect you against DDoS (Distributed Denial-of-Service) attacks and other security threats from hackers. When you’re connected to a VPN, your connection is encrypted.
However, VPNs use different protocols and ciphers to encrypt your connection. You should look for protocols like OpenVPN and WireGuard and ciphers like AES-256 and ChaCha20 for the best security.
When selecting a VPN for gaming, you should look for a well-spread server network and the ability to bypass geo-restrictions effectively. VPNs help gamers access servers in other countries by spoofing your location.
For example, if an online gaming server you want to access is only available in the UK, you can connect to a UK-based VPN server and use the portal.
The VPN you choose should also have a strict no-logs policy to protect your privacy. Remember, many VPNs you find online are untrustworthy.
You also want the VPN to be fast and ensure minimum latency. A latency of up to 60ms or lower is great. However, if latency remains over 100ms, you’ll experience noticeable lag when gaming.
Note that regardless of which VPN service you use, latency will increase. The reasons for this are encryption and data traveling a longer distance.
Since your data has to travel through an intermediary VPN server, communicating with web servers takes longer than on a non-VPN connection. This means using a VPN with server locations closer to your physical location can help improve speeds.
The best gaming VPNs offer encryption protocols like OpenVPN and WireGuard. These protocols offer great security without massive overhead.
RELATED: How to Choose the Best VPN Service for Your Needs
Best VPN For Gaming Overall: ExpressVPN
- ✓ Fast speeds and low latency
- ✓ App for Xbox, PlayStation, and Nintendo Switch
- ✓ Excellent security
ExpressVPN is the best VPN service overall and also the best VPN for gaming. We love ExpressVPN’s gaming performance, thanks to its high speeds and low latency. Our tests show the latency generally hovers between 3ms to 5ms and almost always remains under 10ms when connected to US servers.
Moreover, ExpressVPN is excellent at unblocking geo-restricted websites. This means it can help you get early access to exclusive titles released early in specific regions on the PlayStation Network.
ExpressVPN offers top-notch security, which means it can protect you against DDoS and other attacks. The VPN app encrypts your connection using OpenVPN and AES-256, though you also get options for IKEv2 and Lightway (ExpressVPN’s proprietary protocol).
You can use ExpressVPN on almost all gaming devices, including Xbox Series X and PlayStation. Alternatively, you can install it on your router for other unsupported devices.
The only real downside to using ExpressVPN is its price. If you don’t mind paying a few extra dollars for the best service on the market, ExpressVPN is a great pick.
Best VPN For Gaming Security: NordVPN
- ✓ Fast speeds and low latency on most servers
- ✓ Onion over VPN and obfuscated servers
- ✓ Top-notch security
- ✗ High latency on distant servers
NordVPN offers an excellent combination of security and speed. The service’s latency range is much higher than ExpressVPN but almost always remained under 100ms during our tests using US-based servers.
NordVPN matches ExpressVPN in terms of speed and the ability to bypass geoblocks. It even exceeds ExpressVPN in terms of security, thanks to its specialty servers.
Onion over VPN and obfuscated servers are the most relevant for gaming of the four specialty server types. An Onion over VPN server routes your internet traffic via the Onion network and the VPN server, adding another layer of security to your connection.
Obfuscated servers, meanwhile, are optimized to conceal VPN usage, which helps users play games from countries with heavy internet censorship.
The VPN encrypts your connection using OpenVPN and AES-256. You also get other protocol options like IKEv2 and NordLynx, NordVPN’s take on WireGuard. Learn how to use NordVPN in our beginner’s guide to NordVPN.
Best Gaming VPN For Advanced Options: TorGuard
- ✓ Low ping
- ✓ Advanced options
- ✓ Simple user interface
TorGuard is a superb VPN that keeps latency and ping low, allowing gamers to enjoy a lag-free gaming experience. Of course, connecting a distant server can impact the latency considerably.
TorGuard is still one of the fastest VPNs on the market, making it an excellent choice for gamers. One of the many reasons TorGuard performs well is because it offers WireGuard and ChaCha20 as the default protocol and cipher, respectively, especially on mobile apps.
We also appreciate TorGuard’s easy-to-use interface. The interface, though simple, houses plenty of advanced features like custom scripts and DNS configuration settings.
Custom scripts allow automating VPN-related tasks like opening a specific web page once the VPN is connected or quitting apps automatically. DNS configuration options allow you to change the DNS, which can help improve speeds.
TorGuard has a lot going for it, but it’s expensive. It costs almost as much as ExpressVPN’s best-value plan but lags slightly behind in performance. Even so, it’s an excellent VPN for gaming if you want an app with a simple user interface and advanced options.
- ✓ Pocket-friendly
- ✓ Excellent speeds
- ✓ Low latency
- ✗ Lacks advanced features
Private Internet Access (PIA) costs far lower than other services on the list, provided you opt for the two-year subscription costing $2.19 per month. With PIA, you get access to servers in 84 countries.
This well-spread server network gives you more options when accessing geoblocked games and websites. It also lets you grab region-specific discounts and deals.
Our tests reveal that PIA keeps latency under 10ms when using the US servers. However, the latency was relatively high in a few locations, peaking at about 150ms. Connection speeds are impressive, though. PIA is faster than some of the best VPNs, including CyberGhost and Windscribe.
PIA is a secure VPN with a zero-logging policy. You get three security protocols with PIA: IPSec, OpenVPN, and WireGuard. PIA uses AES-128-GCM to encrypt your connection by default, but you can switch to 256-bit.
Best Budget VPN For Gaming
Best Free VPN For Gaming: Windscribe
- ✓ Low latency
- ✓ Fast connection speed
- ✓ Flexible pricing option
- ✓ Generous free plan
- ✗ Short, three-day money-back guarantee
Windscribe is one of the best free VPNs on the market. Free VPNs are generally a terrible idea. Most of them are unreliable, slow, or steal your data.
However, we found during our tests that Windscribe’s US-based servers had low latency hovering between 2ms and 5ms. Windscribe is also one of the fastest VPNs, beating some premium competitors like CyberGhost and Mullavad.
Windscribe is a premium VPN service with a generous free plan, which means you can’t access all features on the free plan. You get 15GB of free monthly data once you confirm your email and tweet about Windscribe. That is great for a few hours of gaming during the weekend.
However, if you game more frequently, you might want to get one of its paid plans. Windscribe’s build-a-plan option (which has a minimum $3 checkout value) lets you add unlimited data and two server locations to your account.
Frequently Asked Questions
A VPN allows you to send public data through a network as if you were somewhere else. The most common uses for VPNs are security (as it encrypts your data before sending it to a website) and to access geo-blocked content. If you want to learn more, check out our explainer on what a VPN is.
VPN is an acronym that stands for ‘Virtual Private Network’.
It depends on the games you’re playing. The biggest advantage to using a gaming VPN is to protect yourself from DDoS attacks, but some games already have strong anti-DDoS procedures in place. There are also some scenarios where a VPN can lower your ping, but these instances are not as often as you might think. Make sure to research the games you play before investing in a VPN. If you need guidance, our article about if you should use a VPN for gaming can help you.
Generally, no, it does not. VPNs can often raise your ping and make your connection a bit slower, as the connection needs to work through the VPN as opposed to a direct internet connection. However, there are some cases where a VPN can lower your ping and raise your speeds. For example, if your internet provider is throttling game connection speeds, you can try and use a VPN to bypass that throttling, making your game faster.