VPN FOR GAMING 2021: Ping reduction, region change, protection. 5 best & 5 free services
Does your ISP limit game traffic speed? A new game has been released, but it is not available for your region? Are you losing your position due to high ping because you are far from the game server? These and other common problems can be solved by Virtual Private Network (VPN). I will tell you what and how to do it, and which VPN services are optimized for games.
📑 Table of contents:
The things to keep in mind when choosing a VPN for gaming.
- The best VPN for gaming based on 2021 test results
- ExpressVPN for gaming
- Free gaming VPN - does it make sense?
It doesn’t matter if you play multiplayer games on a computer, on a Playstation, Xbox or smartphone, you may encounter the same problems. As a rule, this is a too high ping and geo-restrictions. In addition, I often hear about cases when the Internet provider limits the speed or blocks P2P connections which are used for some games, or for unknown reasons, players do not see each other. Also, cases of blocking games in some countries are widely known.
How does a VPN help solve these problems and improve game performance?
By using a secure connection from a computer / smartphone / user router to a special VPN server, which can be selected in the same country or even city where the game server to which you are connected is located.
I will talk about the features of using a VPN to solve each specific problem a little later, but for now, I want to introduce you to 10 VPN services that showed the best results when testing with multiplayer games.
- ExpressVPN: It supports all platforms, has some of the fastest servers in 94 countries. Stable connection without reconnections.
- NordVPN: 5800+ servers in 59 countries. Minimal ping, the high-performance WireGuard protocol support.
- Surfshark: The best combination of price and quality. The cheapest VPN from the top 5. At the same time, it supports 62 countries.
- CyberGhost VPN: The largest VPN. There are both fast and slow servers. 6200+ servers in 90 countries.
- PIA: Port forwarding support. Connection fine-tuning up to disabling encryption. Shadowsocks support.
- ProtonVPN: The optimal combination of advantages and disadvantages. Supports all OSs and routers. Has a good paid version. Average speed, 4 countries.
- Windscribe: It has a limit of 10GB per month and a speed of about 2-5Mbps. 11 countries, good features.
- TunnelBear: High speed and excellent selection of countries. 1500MB traffic limit per month.
- hide.me: 10GB per month. Connection failures are possible.
- VPN Gate: Nonprofit project. Suitable for game servers in Asia.
- Recommendation. Due to the special requirements for the quality of the connection to the game server, I strongly advise against using services with insufficient speed. Even if they improve ping, there will be other troubles associated with the dynamic loading of content. This happens with most free VPNs. If you are not sure that a paid service will solve your problems, use the money-back guarantee. For represented providers, it ranges from 30 to 45 days from the date of registration.
So, you have decided to configure a VPN for your gaming device. Depending on your purpose and type of device, different nuances will appear when choosing, installing and launching a gaming VPN.
Let’s go through the main devices:
- Gaming computer
- Gaming mobile device
- Gaming consoles
At the same time, we consider the main goals of using virtual networks during gaming to be:
- To change your region
- Ping reduction
- To increase connection speed
Read on and I will talk about my experience with VPN set up in all of these cases.
Features of using VPN on different devices
You are lucky if you play on a computer with Windows or with MacOS. In this case, there is no need to think about the nuances of VPN software for gaming. It is enough to choose a service with maximum speed and good connection stability. As a rule, while the remaining parameters are also on the top.
The VPN on the computer is installed in a few clicks after subscribing to the selected service. Just select the location you are interested in and enable the VPN in the app. After that, the entire device’s traffic will go through the server of your choice, and the IP address will change. In games, no additional settings need to be changed.
If you use a tablet or smartphone for gaming, there is no difference in the installation process. Differences are only in the choice of service. Not all VPNs support Android devices. For iOS, the choice is even narrower. Also, it is important to consider the energy efficiency of these applications, which can only be determined empirically.
The services presented on our list have apps for mobile platforms with a good or excellent processor and battery efficiency.
The hardest thing to use a VPN with is game consoles. After all, they do not have the built-in ability to configure a secure connection. But it is possible!
The easiest way is to set up a VPN on a router. Then all the devices connected to it will work through the virtual network.
You can also connect your PS3, PS4 or Xbox via an Ethernet cable to a computer that can share the Internet (see the step-by-step setup guide in the article on using Roku). But not all laptops support this.
Features of choosing a gaming VPN
There are two ways to choose the best service:
- Choose a powerful and at the same time universal provider that will yield good results in all cases.
- Choose a provider by the most important criterion. For example, if you are behind NAT and do not see some of the players on the network (it happens with games based on P2P technologies), then you need a VPN with port forwarding.
Read on the brief descriptions of the services I have selected for the best choice.
ExpressVPN got the most points during tests with multiplayer games (Rainbow Six Quarantine, World of Tanks, Call of Duty, Halo Infinite, Minecraft and others). It is also one of the fastest VPNs that supports 94 countries and has excellent connection stability.
The second one is NordVPN. This service allows you to select any of more than 5800 servers in 59 countries. It also has high speed and stability. Since April 2020, it supports the WireGuard protocol, which allows you to increase productivity and save battery power on mobile devices.
Read on to learn more about all 5 best VPNs for gaming.
Comparison of the main characteristics of VPN services for gaming
Ranking (out of 10)
Nomber of servers
- Very high speed
- Perfect stability
- Great selection of countries and cities
- P2P support
The provider works equally efficiently on Windows 7 and 10, MacOS, Android, iOS, and all models of routers that support VPN.
The provider is more convenient than its competitors at the first launch since after registration it sends an email with a button that allows you to activate the app on any OS in 2 clicks.
The table lists the ExpressVPN tariff plans
- 5800+ servers
- Visualized selection of locations
- Obfuscation (for countries with censorship)
NordVPN practically does not lag behind ExpressVPN in speed and even has advantages in functionality. The main one is support for the most productive protocol to date, WireGuard, which is ideal for mobile devices due to the minimum processor load. Also, the provider allows you to bypass blockages in UAE and other countries where they block VPNs.
NordVPN is used on all platforms and is suitable for any purpose that virtual private network technology can serve.
The table lists the NordVPN tariff plans
- The lowest price
- Large selection of countries
- Unlimited devices per subscription
- NoBorders (Obfuscation)
Surfshark has powerful functionality for universal use and at the same time costs less than all other services listed in this review. However, tests have shown that its maximum speed is lower than competitors’, especially in US locations. But lower does not mean low. 20-30Mbps is still above the required minimum for a good game.
This provider, like NordVPN, is suitable for circumventing almost any restrictions, supports P2P, and even allows you to connect with double protection using MultiHop technology.
The table lists Surfshark VPN’s plans
- 6200+ servers in 90 countries
- Full screen app
- Dedicated IP
- Special servers for P2P
CyberGhost VPN, although it is the largest provider in 2021, is inferior to its competitors in speed and cost. It may be interesting to those who need their personal dedicated IP address — though for a fee.
The provider supports all platforms and is a universal solution for any purpose and on any device.
The table lists the CyberGhost VPN’s tariff plans
Dedicated IP connectivity is available for and extra charge of $5 per month.
- Port forwarding
- Advanced settings
- High speed
- Shadowsocks support
PIA stands out from the competition with its advanced secure connection options. The provider allows you to change more than 10 parameters, among which the choice of the encryption standard, the choice of encryption degree up to its complete deactivation for maximum performance, DHCD, DNS and much more:
The main feature that can be useful for gaming is port forwarding. Thanks to it, devices connected via P2P can see each other even through NAT. However, this requires additional configuration of the game console or router.
The table lists PIA’s tariff plans
The best free VPN service I could find was ProtonVPN. Like most free solutions, it has disadvantages but it does not have a traffic limit compared to the others.
Warning: All free VPNs have significant drawbacks. For gaming, this is a low speed (usually 0.1-4Mbps), a small selection of countries and, often, a traffic limit. I do not recommend using them to familiarize yourself with how VPNs work. Use free solutions only if you need a VPN for a short period and you do not need a good connection quality.
Read on to see a list of 5 free providers that have been tested with multiplayer games.
- Unlimited traffic
- Suitable for paid use
- Average speed
- Routers support
ProtonVPN is a balanced combination of free features with a high level of performance. It is good because not only does it not have a traffic limit, but also has a good connection speed (during testing, the speed reached 10Mbps and higher). It also supports routers on the free plan.
It has two main disadvantages:
- Only 4 available countries
- P2P prohibited
When switching to the paid version, the speed rises significantly, and the shortcomings are removed.
- 10GB per month for free
- Advanced functionality
- Good paid version
- N registration needed
Although free Windscribe allows you to connect to a VPN on any device without payment, it limits the user to a monthly amount of traffic. If you use Windscribe with registration, then it is 10GB, and if without, then it’s 2GB per month.
I want to separately note the “VPN sharing” function, thanks to which you can create an access point with VPN directly on the computer. The function is not available on all computer models.
Free Windscribe does not support routers.
To remove the restrictions, use the paid version.
- High speed
- 20+ countries
- 1500Mb of traffic per month
- Animated interface
TunnelBear is notable for its high speed (tests showed 20Mbps or more) and an excellent choice of countries for a free VPN. The traffic limit is the only significant limitation on a free subscription. It is not enough for games with a lot of moving objects. At the same time, TunnelBear is well suited for a game like Minecraft.
No routers support.
- 10GB per month
- Minimum features
- Only 3 countries available
Hide.me may seem like Windscribe, but I would not use it often for games. It's all about the instability of the VPN connection. During testing, lags and freezes of characters often occurred. Ping not only didn’t decrease, but increased significantly.
Hide.me is suitable as a means to change the region in the not so active games.
Disadvantages: more connection failures than in Windscribe, during which the connection to the Internet is lost.
- Totally free
- SoftEther high-performance VPN protocol
- Low speed
- Asian region
It may seem that I offer only paid services. Their free plans are limited and strongly encourage users to switch to premium subscriptions. However, this is the reality of 2021. There are no good providers who make ends meet only by broadcasting ads.
Except for one project - VPN Gate.
This is not a familiar service where there is client software and servers on the Internet. This is a nonprofit project created by a Japanese university to popularize its SoftEther VPN protocol.
It has 4 significant drawbacks:
- It doesn’t have its own servers. The computers of other users with a limited speed are used as them. They can go offline at any time.
- The prevalence of locations in the Asian region. There are also servers in Europe and America, but I could not connect to them.
- Low speed (0.1-1 Mbps).
- It doesn’t work with routers.