The 5 Best VPNs for Steam that work in 2019: Are VPNs Allowed on Steam?

Whether you're a seasoned veteran or a casual gamer, if you play PC games, chances are you've heard of Steam. Steam was originally built by Valve as a gaming platform for cutting edge online multiplayer games. These days, though, it does so much more. Steam has become a virtual hub for PC gamers offering many titles such as Fallout 4. It allows them to browse forums, chat, download and purchase new games, organize teams, and manage game files across different systems. You're probably already familiar with famous Valve games such as Portal, Counter-Strike, Left 4 Dead, Team Fortress, Half-Life and many, many others.

Unfortunately, Steam suffers from the same annoying problems as other multiplayer platforms, such as Xbox Live. The platform was created by a large business that exists to make money. As such, there are some strict account and download restrictions. These exist out of legal necessity, to help the business avoid liability issues. To that end, it's pretty common for modern gaming platforms to restrict content to certain geographic regions.

Thankfully, a Virtual Private Network (VPN) tunnel can help alleviate some of the irritation these restrictions create.

  1. ExpressVPN - Lightning fast | Apps for all platforms |24/7 live chat support
  2. NordVPN - Lightning fast | Apps for all platforms |24/7 support
  3. CyberGhost - Easy to use | Servers in 60 countries | $2.75 per month
  4. VyprVPN - Servers in 70+ countries | Anti-DPI feature |Superfast speeds
  5. PrivateVPN - Easy to use | Servers in over 50 countries | Great for streaming in HD
  1. NordVPN - Lightning fast | Apps for all platforms |24/7 support
  2. IPVanish - Servers in 60 countries | Fast connections | No logs policy
  3. Ivacy - Apps for all platforms | Value for money | Servers worldwide
  4. PrivateVPN - Easy to use | Servers in over 50 countries | Great for streaming in HD
  5. ExpressVPN - Lightning fast | Apps for all platforms |24/7 live chat support

The Best VPNs for Steam: Side-by-Side Comparison

1. ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN is a well-known service that is a fantastic all rounder for gaming

  • Pricing

    From $6.67 / month
  • Available on

    • Windows
    • MacOS
    • Android
    • Linux
    • iOS
  • Features

    • Netflix
    • iPlayer

ExpressVPN is probably the best runner-up VPN for Steam. It has many admirable qualities, but we chose it because of its consistently fast speeds and high reliability (99.9% uptime guarantee). This is impressive as speed and reliability are the two most important factors for data intensive tasks like streaming and gaming. For most applications, especially if you intend to run any real-time multiplayer games through the VPN tunnel, ExpressVPN is ideal. 

We all know how irritating lag spikes, dropped connections and latency are. And with ExpressVPN you get a large network of highly reliable and stable servers that combats these issues. Right now Express hosts servers in 94 countries around the world, and each account is permitted up to three simultaneous connections regardless of device type.

Admittedly, Express VPN is quite expensive, which is why we put it in 5th. However, if you can afford the best - and want to pay for a VPN provider that is often touted as better than the rest - this VPN is well worth testing using its 30-day money-back guarantee. 

2. NordVPN

NordVPN is perfect for unblocking Steam thanks to its fast connections

  • Pricing

    From $3.22 / month
  • Available on

    • Windows
    • MacOS
    • Android
    • iOS
  • Features

    • Netflix
    • iPlayer

NordVPN is a Panama based VPN provider that excels in privacy. It has a watertight no logs policy, military grade encryption, and 24/7 customer service. It is also super-fast for gaming or streaming - which makes it ideal for Steam. NordVPN also offers up to six simultaneous connections, P2P support, a per app kill switch, and a Smart DNS service. They also have a 30-day money-back guarantee for users to test the service risk free. A cheap option that ticks every box. 

3. CyberGhost

CyberGhost VPN is an easy to use service perfect for unblocking content around the world

  • Pricing

    From $2.75 / month
  • Available on

    • Android
    • iOS
    • Windows
    • MacOS
    • Linux
  • Features

    • Netflix
    • iPlayer

CyberGhost is an excellent for Steam, because it offers ample protection and security for its users. Furthermore, the Romanian based VPN provider also offers 61 server locations, free browser add-ons that unblock TV streaming services like Netflix, P2P support on select servers, and the connection of up to 5 devices at a time.

In addition, CyberGhost also offers WiFi protection, a kill switch, and DNS/WebRTC leak protection. If you want to try CyberGhost for free, you can use their free 7-day trial. If you’re unsatisfied with their services after your free trial, you can also use their 30-day money-back guarantee.

4. VyprVPN

Apart from sounding like it comes from a video game, VyprVPN offers superfast speeds for Steam users

  • Pricing

    From $5.00 / month
  • Available on

    • Windows
    • Android
    • Linux
    • iOS
    • MacOS
  • Features

    • Netflix
    • iPlayer

VyprVPN is owned by a parent company called Golden Frog, which is based out of Switzerland, and this VPN provider has a lot of extra security features not commonly found with average VPNs. I'd recommend it as the second of the five best VPNs for Steam. Like ExpressVPN, VyprVPN provides highly competitive speeds that will help provide for a smoother Steam experience. It's also a little better equipped to circumvent firewall restrictions and inspections than most other services. VyprVPN has an anti-DPI (Deep Packet Inspection) that helps to hide metadata, traffic types, and other similar information from firewalls and security appliances. 

There's even a NAT firewall feature and kill switch for added protection, and you won't lack for global connection options. Currently, VyprVPN hosts servers in 70+ countries. But it's not all sunshine and rainbows with this provider, because there are two things I dislike. I think that the basic plan is so stripped down it doesn't offer a good value. For instance, the anti-DPI feature isn't included in the standard version. And finally, there isn't currently a dedicated IP address option, though they may offer that option in the future.

5. PrivateVPN

PrivateVPN is a Swedish service that is loved by its subscribers and is true to its name

  • Pricing

    From $1.89 / month
  • Available on

    • Windows
    • MacOS
    • Android
    • Linux
    • iOS
  • Features

    • Netflix
    • iPlayer

PrivateVPN is a superb VPN from Sweden that always impresses us. The service is fast and it has servers in over 50 countries. What's more, this VPN is committed not just to providing high levels of privacy, but also to helping its users to access as much content as possible. With PrivateVPN you get apps for all platforms, and you can use the VPN on 5 simultaneous devices. We love that this VPN provides access to Netflix US, which means that it is good for all entertainment purposes and not just Steam. you can test it using its 30-day money-back guarantee. 

Unblock content with a VPN for Steam

VPN tunnels help unblock foreign content through a feature called IP address masking. The masking feature allows your computer or device to “borrow” an IP address from a foreign VPN server. The VPN server, which hosts your borrowed address, obtains data on your behalf and then forwards that data to your device. In the reverse direction, the VPN server sends data from your device to the destination server (Steam's servers, in this case) from its own IP address. The destination servers can't see your real IP address. Thus it appears to the Steam servers that they're only interacting with the VPN server.

Since IP addresses are distributed by geographical region, it's possible to circumvent content censorship and account restrictions. Proxy servers work in much the same way. However, VPN tunnels are superior because they encrypt data, making it unreadable to third parties. A proxy server does not. For that reason, I'd recommend sticking with VPN tunnels if you want to access Steam. However, in the interest of full disclosure, I must first offer a warning regarding Steam VPNs.

For more information, check out our What is a proxy server guide, where we take a look at proxy servers and how they differ to VPNs.

Will Steam Ban Me For Using a VPN?

Like most other online gaming platforms, Steam is subject to strict regulations and licensing restrictions. These force it to limit liability and dissuade users from using proxy connections and VPN tunnels. Again, this isn't uncommon among gaming platforms. Thankfully, PC gamers aren't as encumbered as console gamers. For instance, on an Xbox 360, Microsoft wrote the operating system to purposefully omit VPN functionality. That way, users can't connect the console to a VPN tunnel directly (though there are other ways to use VPNs with consoles).

On a PC or a Mac, however, it simply isn't feasible (or even possible) to disallow the use of VPN tunnels. As such, Steam users have a much easier time of unblocking content that's been geo-restricted. Nevertheless, I need to warn you: if you get caught downloading games (and other materials) on a VPN connection, you run the risk Steam banning your account. It's all spelled out in great detail in the Steam Subscriber Agreement. More specifically, pay attention to section 3-A: Payment Authorization.

The SSA clearly states the following:

You agree that you will not use IP proxying or other methods to disguise the place of your residence, whether to circumvent geographical restrictions on game content, to purchase at pricing not applicable to your geography, or for any other purpose. If you do this, Valve may terminate your access to your Account.

If you still want to use a VPN tunnel, proceed with caution. It seems that there is some tolerance for the use of VPN tunnels, depending on the reason you're using them, what you do, and whether or not you get caught. However, there are also some definite reasons that will result in a banned account when using a VPN tunnel. When connecting to Steam, make sure you don't use a VPN tunnel or proxy for any of the following purposes without understanding the risk of a ban:

  • To circumvent geographical restrictions on game content

  • To purchase games and media at prices not applicable in your region

  • For any purpose that can harm other Valve users

The term “game content” is rather gray and vague. When I first heard that term, I instantly thought of game purchases, downloadable content and other similar uses. However, there have been plenty of accounts banned because of users connected to regions where a video game had an earlier release date. Even though the game was technically legal in their region (eventually), the users were still punished.

As such, if you don't want to run the risk of getting your account banned, it's best to abstain from using a VPN tunnel with your Steam account, especially when trying to access games that aren't available in your area. Too many users tried to use a Russia VPN for Steam to illegally access content before it was released in Russia, and their accounts were banned as a result.

Shared Servers and Shared IP Addresses

Your average VPN subscription, regardless of which provider you choose, typically uses a shared IP address. This means that many other users can access the internet with the same IP address hosted on the VPN server. This helps protect users' anonymity. If the long arm of the law tried to trace users' online activities, it would be virtually impossible to trace the connection back to the real user for two reasons.

Firstly, most VPN providers don't keep log files of user activity. Thus there wouldn't be a paper trail to follow. Secondly, since multiple users share the same address, it would make it that much more difficult to zero in on which user actually accessed a particular web resource from the shared IP address. However, when trying to access internet resources that try to limit, restrict or completely block the use of VPN tunnels, shared addresses aren't typically your best option.

Shared IP addresses are frequently “blacklisted” by the service provider, and are usually well-known addresses. This is due to the “bad neighbor” effect, whereby someone sharing your VPN-hosted IP address (or a previous user) abused the IP address for spam emails, Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks or other misuses. In turn, this can cause that IP address to be flagged as a dangerous or illegitimate address, and frequently cause Captcha verification applets to appear before you can access a website. As such, even though shared IP addresses offer greater anonymity, they are more often blacklisted.

There are two ways to circumvent this problem. The first solution is to use a VPN provider that offers a dedicated IP address, meaning that no other users will use the IP address that you subscribe to. This is better than a shared address if you don't want a service – such as Steam – to ban your account. The best option, though, in terms of the lowest risk of an account ban, is to use your own private server. If you're a hardcore Steam user and really want a private server, you could do one of the following:

  • Set up a home-brewed Linux VPN server to access game content when you're away from home

  • Lease a dedicated/private server in the cloud

These options aren't as simple as subscribing to a VPN service, but they are highly effective alternatives.

Conclusion

VPN tunnels remain the best way to unblock content securely. They are vastly superior to proxy connections thanks to their encryption. That's why many gamers still turn to VPN services to unblock foreign game content and connect to foreign multiplayer servers. However, use caution: if you use a VPN tunnel with Steam to unblock game content or download games unavailable in your region, your account could be banned.

For more information about the fastest VPN for gaming and using a VPN on other platforms take a look at the guides below:

Written by: Ray Walsh

Digital privacy expert with 5 years experience testing and reviewing VPNs. He's been quoted in The Express, The Times, The Washington Post, The Register, CNET & many more. Ray is currently rated #4 VPN and #3 internet privacy authority by Agilience.com.

1 Comment

  1. baron_von_fleece

    on November 2, 2017
    Reply

    Steam says in its TAC agreement that if you use VPN to bypass residential or national restrictions they will terminate your account. They are less clear about general VPN use, probably for a reason.

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