The best VPN protocols for gaming

Hello, my name is Nicholas Cuts. I am an employee of the Switcherry VPN company. My new article is intended primarily for gamers. But I am sure that other categories of readers will find a lot of useful and interesting information in this article.

Gaming confidently takes a leading place in the global entertainment industry. Tens of millions of fans fight each other every day in popular online games. And the number of gamers in the world is growing exponentially. This trend has been especially pronounced recently, against the background of the global COVID-19 pandemic, when people are forced to stay at home all day. Naturally, during online games, security and anonymity are as important as during any other online activity. However, in some types of online games, data transfer speed and delay time (ping) play a more important role. Therefore, every gamer needs to know how to set up their VPN connection so that VPNs do not worsen the gameplay. This is where the choice of VPN protocol comes to the fore, since it primarily affects the delay time and data transfer speed. What VPN protocols are best suited for certain online games will be discussed in this article.

Why gamers should use a VPN

I wrote in detail about why you should use a VPN while playing online in my article How to use a VPN for gaming. Let me remind you only the most important reasons for using VPN in gaming:

  • to get a stable and secure internet connection;
  • to ensure anonymity and protect the player from swatting;
  • to protect the game channel from hacker attacks;
  • to hide the player’s own IP address and protect him from DDoS attacks;
  • to get access games that are blocked in your country of residence. This is easily accomplished by changing location;
  • to connect to certain game servers.
I repeat again: privacy, anonymity, and security are just as important for gamers as for any other Internet users.

Which VPN connection parameters are most important for gamers

It depends on the type of online games:

  • in intelligent online games with a small number of players (such as bridge, poker, chess) data transfer speed and delay time do not matter much, but it is very important to have a reliable, well-protected communication channel, especially when playing for money;
  • in multiplayer online games with a large number of players, the speed of the Internet connection is crucial. Especially important is the high data transfer rate and the minimum delay time in multiplayer first-person shooter games.
Multiplayer online first-person shooter
Multiplayer online first-person shooter

Such different requirements dictate different approaches to the choice of VPN protocols. In my article about varieties of cryptographic protocols used in VPN I gave a description of the most popular VPN protocols. Let me remind you briefly the content of the article.

A brief description of the most common VPN protocols

Currently, the following VPN protocols are actively used in the world:

  • PPTP;
  • L2TP/IPSec;
  • IKEv2/IPSec
  • OpenVPN;
  • Wireguard;
  • SSTP.

PPTP (Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol)

The oldest of the currently actively used VPN protocols. PPTP is the fastest, but at the same time the most insecure VPN protocol. Its advantage – high data transfer speed – is a consequence of its disadvantage: this protocol either does not encrypt data at all, or uses very weak 128-bit encryption.

L2TP/IPSec

L2TP (Layer 2 Tunnel Protocol) – this is an upgraded PPTP protocol. It also does not encrypt data by itself, and therefore is used in conjunction with the IPsec cryptographic protocol (Internet Protocol Security). L2TP/IPsec is an excellent, secure VPN protocol, however, due to the complicated method of packet formation (double encapsulation is used), it has a relatively low data transfer rate.

IKEv2/IPSec

IKEv2 (Internet Key Exchange version 2) – VPN is a protocol developed by Microsoft and Cisco based on the IPsec protocol. Fast reliable and secure data transfer protocol. On mobile devices, it is used in conjunction with the MOBIKE (Mobility and Multihoming protocol) protocol. The MOBIKE protocol allows the user to switch from one Wi-Fi network to another without interrupting the VPN connection. Therefore, IKEv2/IPsec is, without a doubt, the most popular VPN protocol used on mobile devices.

OpenVPN

The most popular VPN protocol in the world. OpenVPN is a free and open source protocol. Uses 160/256 bit encryption and is considered the most reliable and secure. But it does not have a high data transfer rate. The speed can be slightly increased if you use the UDP transport layer protocol instead of TCP (OpenVPN over UDP instead OpenVPN over TCP).

OpenVPN
OpenVPN

Wireguard

A new free open source VPN protocol. Wireguard is still under development, but despite this, it quickly gained wide popularity. According to the developer, this VPN protocol provides the maximum degree of protection. It has a high data transfer rate with minimal CPU load. Built into the Linux operating system core.

SSTP (Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol)

Proprietary protocol developed by Microsoft. A relatively uncommon VPN protocol, although it is part of the core of all modern versions of Windows. SSTP is a reliable and secure protocol, but it requires a powerful processor and has a low data transfer rate.

Branded VPN protocols

Some VPN providers create their own data transfer protocols. However, all these protocols are based on existing, well-established VPN protocols. Free open source protocols such as OpenVPN or Wireguard are usually taken as prototypes. The data transfer speed and security of proprietary VPN protocols are approximately equal to their prototypes.

SoftEther

Many mistakenly consider SoftEther to be a new free VPN protocol. In fact, SoftEther is an open source VPN client and VPN server developed by a group of students from the University of Tsukuba, Japan. The SoftEther client and server can work using several popular VPN protocols described above: L2TP/IPsec, OpenVPN, SSTP, as well as SoftEther’s own SSL VPN protocol, whose traffic is indistinguishable from HTTPS traffic. According to the developers, all VPN protocols used on the SoftEther server have a higher data transfer rate than their original versions.

Which VPN protocols are best used for gaming

When choosing a VPN protocol, a general rule should be noted – the higher the security of the protocol, the lower the data transfer rate. At the same time, for some games, the main thing is a reliable and secure communication channel, for others – the maximum data transfer speed and minimum delay time. Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of popular VPN protocols, you can easily make a choice for each specific case:

  • in those games where high data transfer speed and minimal delay time are important, the Wireguard VPN protocol should be used. However, the IKEv2/IPsec protocol may be the best choice for mobile devices. If your VPN client uses only the OpenVPN protocol, then it must be configured to work via UDP. Naturally, the PPTP protocol is the fastest, but it is absolutely not recommended to use it;
  • if privacy and security come to the fore in the game, and data transfer speed does not matter much, then you should choose OpenVPN over TCP or SSTP.

Once you have selected the protocol, do not forget to check the security of the VPN connection. You can also check its speed, read how to do it here.

FAQ

1. I'm a fan of World of Tanks. Which VPN protocol is better for me to use on my home computer, and which one on my tablet?

1. I'm a fan of World of Tanks. Which VPN protocol is better for me to use on my home computer, and which one on my tablet?

In both cases, the best choice would be the Wireguard protocol. IKEv2/IPsec is also perfect for a tablet. If these protocols are not available, then OpenVPN over UDP should be used.

2. I regularly play poker and participate in online chess tournaments. Which VPN protocol is most suitable for me?

2. I regularly play poker and participate in online chess tournaments. Which VPN protocol is most suitable for me?

In your case, data transfer speed is not so important, but the security and stability of the connection is crucial. Therefore, the best VPN protocols for you will be OpenVPN over TCP or SSTP.

3. I have a VPN on my home router. Will my Internet become faster if I use an Ethernet cable instead of Wi-Fi?

3. I have a VPN on my home router. Will my Internet become faster if I use an Ethernet cable instead of Wi-Fi?

Yes, it is recommended to use a cable connection – it is more stable and has a higher bandwidth than Wi-Fi. However, the data transfer rate will increase only if the speed of your Internet connection with Wi-Fi is lower than the one that your Internet provider is able to provide you with.

4. I like to play online games on my phone and tablet in cafes and restaurants using free Wi-Fi. Which VPN protocol is most suitable for me?

4. I like to play online games on my phone and tablet in cafes and restaurants using free Wi-Fi. Which VPN protocol is most suitable for me?

IKEv2/IPSec – the best VPN protocol for mobile devices. Wireguard would also be a good choice.

Author: Nicolas Cuts

Product Managers at SwitcherryVPN. Have 5 years background in management and marketing. I never stop learning!

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