Esports, GDQ, and similar phenomena have ushered in the renaissance of gaming. However, this rampant growth has also attracted all sorts of cybercriminals. From dishonest players looking for a competitive edge to hackers trying to steal your accounts or sensitive data.
Using a solid antivirus program is a must for any modern gamer. But striking that fine balance between security and performance can be extremely challenging.
So, we tested dozens of antivirus programs to find the best options for gaming. We picked the top three that will keep you safe without eating away at your frames:
- Norton 360: Best overall gaming antivirus
- Bitdefender: Advanced cloud scanning with an auto game mode
- McAfee: Best antivirus for gaming on low-end PCs
All our picks offer excellent features dedicated to gamers. From auto game modes to performance boosters. Norton 360 is our top choice if you’re looking for well-rounded protection paired with amazing gamer-friendly tools.
Only passionate gamers can truly understand that every frame counts. Especially if GDQ got you into speedrunning (guilty!). Blowing potential PBs just because your antivirus threw a pop-up is soul-crushing. And, we all know that bosses with “lag armor” get infinite AC.
Playing without any antivirus protection becomes so tempting at some point, doesn’t it? However, doing so will leave your system vulnerable to all sorts of online threats.
So, is there a way out of this? Can you enjoy seamless gameplay without sacrificing your security? Let’s find out by checking the best antivirus programs for gaming in 2022.
Best Antivirus for Gaming – Our Recommendations
Until recently, antivirus programs didn’t really care about gamers. They were designed to provide security at any cost. That “cost” was usually your system’s performance. However, this deal is not good enough if you’re a hardcore gamer.
So, we tested all the popular antivirus programs to see if any of them can be called “gamer-friendly.” Ideally, we wanted solid security, low resource consumption, and high customizability. Gaming modes and performance boosters are always welcome as well.
The result? We found the very best antivirus suites for gaming. Read more about them below.
1. Norton 360 – The best overall gaming antivirus
Norton 360 got a perfect score by AV-Comparatives during their tests in June 2021. This means it was able to detect and block 100% of the threats they threw at it. Its real-time protection uses machine learning and heuristics to monitor and assess online threats.
The package includes the Norton Web Safe browser extension, Norton Smart Firewall, a password manager, and even a VPN for extra privacy. PC users also have access to cloud backups (50GB) and the SafeCam feature.
Norton GO is a part of their 360 package that comes with a ton of gamer-friendly utility:
- Automatic game optimizer: Reduces performance interruptions to maximize gameplay performance.
- Full-screen detection mode: Silences everything but critical security alerts.
- Dark web monitoring: Sends you notifications if your data pops up for sale on the dark web.
All Norton subscriptions come with a 60-day money-back guarantee and 24/7 live online support.
You can read more about this gamer-friendly antivirus service in our full Norton 360 review.
2. Bitdefender – Advanced cloud scanning with an auto game mode
According to AV-Comparatives, Bitdefender Total Security has always been one of the best virus removal tools out there. During their tests in 2021, it blocked 99.99% of all malware threats.
It offers superior protection against advanced malware (like ransomware and Trojan horses), web attacks, phishing, network threats, tracking, and much more. Bitdefender Photon adapts to your configuration to improve speed and performance. Every antivirus pack also comes with Bitdefender VPN (200 MB daily traffic).
Bitdefender Game Profile detects running games automatically and optimizes system resources accordingly. Here’s what it can do for you:
- Disable all Bitdefender alerts and pop-ups
- Postpone automatic updates
- Postpone scheduled scans
- Disable search advisor
- Disable special offers notifications
Most of Bitdefender’s heavy scanning is done in the cloud, which frees up system resources for gaming. It doesn’t offer a game booster, but its OneClick Optimizer will tweak your system, shred junk files, and clean up your registry for enhanced performance.
Bitdefender offers a 30-day money-back guarantee and you can contact them via live chat.
Learn all about this feature-packed service in our full Bitdefender Total Security review.
3. McAfee – Best antivirus for gaming on low-end PCs
McAfee has a special advanced tool dedicated to gamers. It’s called McAfee Gamer Security. You can get it as a stand-alone product or with Individual/Couples, Ultimate, and Family Antivirus packages.
When it comes to malware removal, McAfee was able to beat 99.6% of threats tested by AV-Comparatives between February and May 2021.
Every McAfee antivirus subscription includes:
- Password manager
- File shredder
- Identity protection service
- PC optimization
If you opt for auto-renewal, you’ll also get five licenses for Secure VPN. This software will keep your online activities private with military-grade encryption.
McAfee Gamer Security also comes with some gaming-specific must-haves:
- MicroAV Engine: Offloads threat detection to the cloud to preserve resources for demanding games.
- Game Boost Engine: Prioritizes your games over other resource-hungry background apps.
- Realtime performance monitoring: Allows you to monitor and control the performance of your gaming PC.
McAfee Gamer Security offers a fully customizable app manager. You can tweak the settings to boost only specific games, pause certain background services, and much more. You can even choose to boost other apps that require more computing resources.
All but the monthly subscriptions come with a 30-day money-back guarantee. Monthly subscribers can cancel their subscription anytime but they’re not eligible for a refund.
You can get more info in our full McAfee Antivirus review.
What to Consider When Choosing an Antivirus Suite for Gaming?
As mentioned, your primary focus when choosing an antivirus suite should be to choose one that allows smooth gaming without exposing your system to threats. With those guidelines in mind, here are the factors we measured during our tests:
- Security: Your antivirus has to keep your gaming sessions free of malware. This includes viruses, spyware, adware, and other malicious threats. We also need to be aware of keyloggers that could record much more than your Steam password. Lastly, we’re looking for good protection against phishing scams.
- System load: Modern antivirus apps can detect gaming sessions in progress. When they do, they can pause all updates, notifications, and background processes. This allows your system to allocate more resources to improve the gaming experience. Game boosters and cloud scanning also prevent your CPU from getting overburdened.
- System cleaning: You’ll want to clean as many junk/cached files and background processes as possible. This boosts your system by freeing up your RAM. Most advanced antivirus programs do that.
- Price/quality: Saving some money is always a good idea. So, we always appreciate solid antivirus apps with lower price tags.
Note that none of the existing antivirus programs can check all these boxes perfectly. They all have their strengths and weaknesses. It all comes down to your priorities.
You can learn all about our best antivirus suits for gaming in our separate reviews with hands-on testing.
Why Your Gaming PC Needs Virus Antivirus Protection?
Hackers and other cybercriminals have started noticing gamers much more in the past few years. Steam accounts, for example, are now hacked and sold for real money, which generates lots of profits for hackers. Online gaming has become a huge market and cybercriminals simply “follow the money.”
With that in mind, here are some of the major threats you’ll face when gaming online:
- Malware: Apart from games ridden with malware, you can also find malicious files embedded on legitimate sites. Furthermore, we have a litany of corrupt pages offering cheats, bots, and other in-game benefits. Criminals will even create trojanized copies of popular games and upload them to online stores.
- Credential stuffing: This is one of the most common cyberattacks on gamers. It happens when hackers breach a gaming site and steal your login info. They can then use those credentials to access different sites. Note that this can only happen if you’re using the same password across multiple sites (which many people do).
- Identity theft: Much like your real identity, your “gaming persona” can also be stolen and impersonated. Criminals can use it to solicit favors or money from your online friends.
- Phishing: Phishing scams aimed at gamers are much trickier to spot than your regular phishing emails. They usually come in the form of login requests in your favorite game. You can get an in-game message from a person posing as an admin asking you to use the provided link to relog. Scams with criminals posing as support team members are also quite common.
- DDoS attacks: Some players will use DDoS attacks to gain a competitive advantage and win games. The case of two of the top 10 Apex Legends players getting banned for it is the perfect example.
- Ransomware attacks: If you’re making money off your gaming, you’re a perfect ransomware target. This malware allows its operators to take over your gaming PC and keep it hostage until their ransom is paid
Best antivirus software for gaming has to offer a security suite that eliminates all these online threats. All while features a good gaming mode and everything else PC games need on a daily basis.
Wrap-Up: The Best Antivirus for Gaming
The best antivirus programs for gaming can help you enjoy your favorite titles without worrying about potential attacks or backdoors. Their modern iterations also come with some gamer-friendly features that reduce their overall system load.
So, it’s actually possible to stay safe while gaming without drowning your session in lag. We now have performance boosters, game modes, and other features that keep things smooth and seamless.
If you want the best antivirus for gaming, we recommend going with Norton 360. If you want to play on a lower-end gaming PC without buying a new rig, McAfee is the right tool for you. Bitdefender doesn’t have a game booster in the strict sense of the word but it offers plenty of advanced features to make up for it, including an excellent VPN.
If you’d like to compare our picks with some other solid options, you can find them on our list of the best antivirus programs for this year.
Have some extra questions about good antivirus programs for gaming? Just click on one of the frequently asked questions below to expand the answer.
Yes! You’ll need a good antivirus program, no matter what you do on your computer. Every time you start a game, you’re exposing yourself to all sorts of attacks. From identity theft to hack attacks and online frauds. Using a good antivirus suite for gaming is essential if you want to stay safe while enjoying your favorite games.
Low-end antivirus software will hog the majority of your system’s resources, leaving very little for your games. This will result in lag and frequent crashes. That’s why we recommend going with gamer-friendly options like Norton 360. Good antivirus suites for gaming consume fewer resources, disable background processes, suspend notifications, and boost your games with all available resources. You’ll enjoy smoother gaming without any lag or annoying notifications.