One of the most important tools for online gamers is a virtual private network (VPN). It’s a great way of tightening up your data security and privacy, which are always at risk whenever you use the internet. It can also protect you from DDoS attacks, which are becoming painfully common in esports tournaments.
VPN also provides much more fun advantages, too: the ability to access content and gaming servers restricted to different locations, as well as the possibility of reducing connection lag. We’d recommend using a paid VPN service, but we’re also aware that isn’t always an option.
What should the best free VPN for gaming feature?
- VPN security: will it protect you against DDoS attacks and privacy violations?
- Performance: does it provide speedy connections or limit your bandwidth?
- Entertainment: is it any good at bypassing geo-restrictions?
- Reliability against firewalls and censorship: is it any good for users in regions where internet access is heavily repressed (i.e. China)?
- Ease of use and customer support: is this a VPN for beginners or experts?
1. ProtonVPN ‣
- Pros: unlimited speed and bandwidth, great encryption, decent speeds
- Cons: only 3 servers available in free version
- VPNpro rating: 8.0
ProtonVPN is one of the best free VPN providers available today. The fact that it was developed by former CERN scientists should give you an indication of how comprehensive this service is.
Right off the bat, gamers should be enticed by the fact that ProtonVPN does not impose any speed, bandwidth, or session limits on its users. This means that your connection will not be overly affected by throttling or lags like with many other free VPN providers.
Its security credentials also largely stand up to scrutiny. It uses AES-256-bit encryption, which makes your connection invisible, impenetrable, and, most importantly, unhackable.
ProtonVPN also supports the OpenVPN protocol to ensure your connection remains totally secure. For mobile gamers, you have the option of IKEv2, which is the desired protocol for mobile data security.
Better yet, it features a reliable kill switch within its arsenal, which protects your data in the event of server connection loss. Its Swiss registry also places it outside the jurisdiction of the 14 Eyes alliance, and its additional no-logs policy is a huge privacy plus.
The catch with ProtonVPN is that it isn’t a free service, but a paid service that offers a “freemium” package. As with all VPN providers with this feature, there are certain limitations on the free package.
For one thing, the free package only grants access to three servers within the ProtonVPN server fleet. This not only means that there are only certain regions in which it can bypass geo-restrictions, but also that it isn’t an ideal choice if you’re not within one of the three regions in which the free version has servers.
The other catch is that while ProtonVPN won’t limit your connection speeds even in its free version, the speeds aren’t always that great. If you’re geographically close to one of those three servers, you might be lucky – but not necessarily.
ProtonVPN remains one of the best free VPN for gaming even despite these niggling flaws; really, it’s amazing there aren’t even more drawbacks than the ones we’ve listed.
2. VPNBook ‣
- Pros: unlimited bandwidth, bypasses geo-restrictions and content filters, good support
- Cons: contains ads, no kill switch
- VPNpro rating: 5.5
VPNBook is a little-known VPN provider that is comparable to ProtonVPN in a lot of ways. For instance, it’s based in Switzerland, which means it’s geared towards protecting your data privacy online.
It’s also one of the rare free VPN providers that use AES-256-bit encryption which, as we said for ProtonVPN, is practically invincible. Its protocol support could be better – support for OpenVPN is only optimized for AES-128-bit encryption – but again, that’s still better than the majority of options out there.
What’s more, VPNBook does not limit your bandwidth usage, which makes it ideal for use while gaming. With its support for SSL encryption, it’s also likely to bypass just about any geo-restriction you unleash it on.
This also means that VPNBook is likely to be a great option for accessing online content in repressive countries such as China, Belarus, or Turkey. Strength in this department is something even the most expensive VPN providers struggle with, so that’s a major achievement for a free VPN.
It isn’t all good, though; VPNBook’s logging policy is actually quite suspect. Where most VPN providers should aspire to practice zero logging, VPNBook retains your IP address for up to a week after usage.
As your IP address is one of the key parts of your online identity, and because you’re likely to use VPNBook a whole lot once you’ve downloaded it, this is problematic. This is mitigated slightly by VPNBook’s registry outside of 14 Eyes jurisdiction, but you should definitely beware of its logging policy if you’re privacy conscious.
The other major problem with this VPN provider is that it contains ads. This is slightly reassuring as it suggests that the company may not be selling your data to turn a profit. Nevertheless, ads are irritating, and they often slow down your connection considerably.
That aside, though, there are very few flaws with VPNBook, and on the whole, it seems quite reliable for a free VPN.
- Cons: 10GB bandwidth allowance, average speeds
- VPNpro rating: 8.4
Like ProtonVPN, Windscribe isn’t a completely free VPN provider, rather one that offers a freemium package which works as a limited version of the full product.
The great thing with freemium VPN providers is that you know they’re funding the project through paid subscriptions, and (hopefully) not by cramming the GUI with ads or selling off your data to third-party companies.
One factor that may worry some users, though, is that Windscribe is registered in Canada. This is a 5 Eyes country that cooperates with other member states to spy on its citizens; anyone who runs a server in this territory is required by law to comply with all data requests from the authorities.
However, Windscribe adheres to a strict no-logs policy. This claim is verified through its warrant canary, which states that out of hundreds of thousands of DMCA requests, Windscribe has complied with exactly none due to “lack of relevant data.”
As well as having great privacy credentials, furthermore, Windscribe is also no slouch in terms of general security. It uses military-grade AES-256-bit encryption as standard, and its basic package also allows for use of IKEv2 and OpenVPN. (This can be connected through UDP, the optimum transport layer for gamers.)
Not only does it bypass geo-restrictions rather easily (though the free version only has 13 servers with which to work), Windscribe offers timezone spoofing as a feature. Above anything else, this allows you to obtain early access to some content!
Unfortunately, Windscribe, as with many other free VPN providers, has its limitations. Its bandwidth allowance is limited to just 10GB per month, and the speeds aren’t great whether you pay for it or not.
Granted, 10GB is more than what a lot of free VPN providers offer (TunnelBear only offers 500MB per month), but considering the amount of data gaming chews up, it may prove frustrating for many players.
While it isn’t the best free VPN for gaming, then, Windscribe is still a viable choice if you only need it every so often. Even if not, you can still earn more bandwidth by tweeting about Windscribe and/or recommending it to a friend!
4. TouchVPN ‣
- Pros: no session limits, unlimited speed, unlimited bandwidth, SSL encryption
- VPNpro rating: 3
As you can see, we weren’t fans of TouchVPN when we tested it for general purposes. However, bandwidth and speed limitations are important when choosing a VPN for gaming, and on that front, TouchVPN delivers.
This VPN provider offers servers in 30 countries worldwide, which gives you a fair bit to work with considering the app is completely free. To connect to these servers, TouchVPN uses SSL encryption, a form of Certificate Signing Requests that is widely used for securing HTTPS.
To provide you with even greater security, TouchVPN uses protocols such as OpenVPN via UDP. OpenVPN is known as one of the more secure protocols available, and receives consistent updates to ensure its users are safe from things such as DDoS attacks.
The use of UDP should also excite gamers, as this is arguably the best transport layer systems to use for gaming. UDP is an alternative to TCP, which basically keeps an eye on all data sent to make sure it arrives in the right order; UDP merely just sends the packets without checking up on them.
The benefit of this practice is that it’s much easier on your bandwidth, and has lower latency than TCP. As such, the combination of OpenVPN and UDP is great for ensuring your data remains secure and that it also gets to you at light speed, reducing connection lag considerably.
If you’re concerned about your privacy, however, TouchVPN is not the choice for you. Not only does it log your usage activity, but it also grants itself access to your device’s hardware information, right down to the IMEI number.
This is a severe privacy violation that should not be taken lightly; we wouldn’t want to guarantee anything without proof, but given the way that most free VPN providers turn a profit, there’s a very real chance that TouchVPN is selling this data to third-party companies without your consent.
As well as this, the unlimited speeds offered by TouchVPN are indeed unlimited, but they aren’t always very good. This can surely be a dealbreaker for gamers, especially considering that TouchVPN selects its servers at random; that is, it does not allow you to choose where you’re receiving your connection from.
For these reasons, we’d only really recommend TouchVPN as a last resort.