What is the best internet speed for online gaming?

If there is one thing online gamers hate more than anything, its lag. It can be the bane of existence for online gamers, often being hugely detrimental to gameplay in twitch-reflex games, such as online shooters. Lag isn’t really noticeable in turn-based strategy games, but in shooting games where you need real-time updates, lag, and slow internet can not only make games unenjoyable, it can make them downright unplayable.

Thus, many online gamers often wonder what kind of internet connection they need for optimal gaming. Of course faster is always better, but some people may not be able to afford the upper echelons of fibre-based internet, or it simply may not be available in more rural areas. If you fall into one of those categories, take comfort in the fact that 50 – 100 Mbps internet isn’t actually necessary for an optimal gaming experience.

Download vs Upload Speed

Your overall internet speed plays a role, but what many don’t realize is that your upload speed, and the path your data takes to the game’s servers, is of equal importance. Your upload speed (which can be measured with a network speed test) is important for sending your game movements to the server (which then sends them to the other players).

The most important determining factor in lag / latency is your ping rate – often displayed in milliseconds in online games. A ping rate of 80 or below is considered optimal in online shooters. 100+ is playable with maybe little noticeable lag, while 200 – 300 ping rate often results in shooting at thin air.

The Server Matters

Internet speed can play a large role in ping rate, but so can other factors, such as server location and server congestion. If you live in New York and play a game based in China, you’re going to experience a bit of lag whether or not you have a 50Mbps fiber internet connection – although you’ll experience less lag than the guy on a 15Mbps DSL line. If a server is not equipped to deal with a high volume of players, then everyone will lag, regardless of their individual internet speed.

So to answer the question of “what is the best internet speed for online gaming?”, a few things need to be determined. If you’re playing turn-based strategy games, you could certainly get by with 2Mbps as the bare minimum. You don’t need a very fast connection, since gameplay isn’t happening in “real time” anyway. If you’re playing online shooters or other games that require twitch-reflexes, you’ll need at least 10 – 15 Mbps for an enjoyable experience, and you should stick to game servers close to your location.

A gamer in New York, on a 15Mbps DSL connection, should probably stick to game servers in New York, Chicago, and other northeast regions of the United States. If that same gamer was on a 20 – 30Mbps connection, they could comfortably branch out to west coast servers. On a 50 – 100Mbps connection, you could play in servers in other countries, with little to no lag.

Of course, this is only a very general guideline. As we mentioned, many other factors beyond your internet speed can affect online gaming.

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