Can you game with satellite internet?
Short answer: yes. Long answer: it depends on the game and your internet speed.
If you live in a rural area and don’t have access to fiber or cable, then satellite internet may be your only way to get online (even though it won’t give you the best experience in online gaming). We won’t lie here—some games just won’t perform well on satellite internet. Luckily, satellite internet has evolved enough to provide speeds that rival cable. Satellite connections can chug along at 25 Mbps or even a brisk 100 Mbps. A download speed of 25 Mbps is fast enough to support many types of games.
But it’s not just the speed that matters. The issues you’ll face while gaming on satellite internet are latency and packet loss. While these won’t make or break your gameplay in most turn-based or roleplay games (RPGs), they could give you grief in first-person shooters (FPS) like Overwatch. You’ll be able to react faster if you have low latency.
Latency is how much time it takes for the game server to recognize an action you take and react accordingly.
For example, let’s say you’re racking up the kills as Diablo in Heroes of the Storm. An enemy Raynor comes to farm your lane, so you hit your Shadow Charge ability. Latency is the amount of time it takes for the game server to realize you’ve hit Shadow Charge, then have your Diablo charge Raynor and knock him back.
In this case, low latency means you’ll land that charge no problem. But if you have high latency, you may lag out and miss because Raynor retreated before the game realized you mashed your Shadow Charge button.
The average latency for satellite internet is between 594 milliseconds to 624 milliseconds, which much higher than any other type of internet.1
Average latency by internet provider type
|Type of internet||Average latency||Our rating for fast-paced games||Our rating for turn-based games|
To play fast-paced, multiplayer games, you need internet latency that’s less than 100 ms.2 And you’ll have an advantage over other players if your latency is even lower—less than 40 ms. If you look at the chart above, you’ll see that the latency (or ping) of satellite internet connections is too high to successfully play multiplayer, fast-paced games.
Because they are both based on satellite internet, HughesNet and Viasat latency rates are too high to support fast-paced online games.
When gamers mention ping, they’re referring to latency. Ping is the measurement of a gamer’s latency in milliseconds (ms). Lower ping means lower latency and less lag.
The recommended latency or ping for online gaming is less than 100 ms.2 The average latency (ping) for satellite internet is 594–624 ms, which will definitely have a negative impact on your online gaming experience.1
What’s packet loss?
While latency measures the amount of time it takes data to travel from your computer to the game server, packet loss is what happens when that data never reaches the game server.
Sounds like a nightmare, right? If you’ve gamed a lot, likely you’ve experienced packet loss or heard others complain about “drifting” or “rubberbanding.”
Nothing says “wave goodbye to your chicken dinner” more than rubberbanding during a PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) game while the enemy takes potshots at you with the shotgun.
How to reduce latency on satellite internet
Satellite internet works by bouncing your data to satellites orbiting 22,300 miles above Earth, then to the game server, then back to the satellite, and finally back to you. (Whew, what a journey!) Because your data has to travel such a great distance, you’re going to experience latency. There’s just no way around it.
But there are a few things you can do to reduce latency and avoid the lag hammer.
Here’s how to reduce latency and fix lag:
- Use a wired connection, not Wi-Fi. Plug in that Ethernet cable, friend!
- Pause any background downloads.
- Close any programs that use an internet connection, like Netflix.
- Restart your router—unplug the power cable, wait a minute or two, then plug it back in again.
- Connect to game servers closest to your local area. For example, if you live in the Midwest, look for a server located in Chicago.
Which video games can I play with satellite internet?
Some games will run like a charm on satellite internet, while others will make you want to pull your hair out. (Seriously, there’s nothing worse than lagging out and getting steamrolled by an aggro mob.)
Because your data has to travel so far, offline games, turn-based games, and certain RPGs will run best. But we’re not saying you can’t hop on your Norn Mesmer to blast some world bosses in Guild Wars 2.
That said, here are some games we recommend playing on satellite internet and a few you might want to avoid.
Best games for satellite internet
- Civilization VI, PC, Xbox, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch
- Stardew Valley, PC, Mac, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4
- Candy Crush, mobile, PC
- Disintegration, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
- Star Trek Online, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
- World of Warcraft, PC
- The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Nintendo Switch, Wii U
- Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Nintendo Switch
- Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
- Words with Friends 2 and other turn-based games, PC, Mac, mobile
- League of Legends, PC
Worst games for satellite internet
- Apex Legends, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
- Fortnite, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, mobile
- Valorant, PC
- Overwatch, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, PC, Xbox One
- Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
- Counter Strike: Global Offensive, PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
- PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, mobile
Keep in mind your gameplay experience will depend on what you do. For example, you might be fine questing in the Barrens on World of Warcraft, but things might get laggy if you hop into a twenty-man raid. And, hosting in Stardew Valley may be more problematic than joining someone nearby in multiplayer mode.
You’ll also want to consider how important split-second actions are. In a fast-paced game like Overwatch, dodging enemy players’ ultimates and shooting back has to happen quickly for you to earn that play-of-the-game recognition. There’s no room for high latency here. That’s why Overwatch and similar games made it on our list for worst games for satellite internet.
Pro tip: Buy a physical copy
Digital game downloads are all the rage now, but downloading 50 gigs of game content will take at least a few hours on satellite internet. That’s time you could be gaming. And if you’re downloading games on a satellite internet connection, it could push you over your data cap for the month.
Instead, buy a physical copy of your game so you’re ready to go. (Except for those patches we know are coming.)
How many Mbps do I need for gaming?
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recommends speeds of at least 4 Mbps for gaming, but as with all things, more is better.
Luckily, both satellite internet providers in the US offer faster speeds than that. HughesNet connects you at 25 Mbps, no matter what plan you choose. Viasat (formerly Exede) goes up to 100 Mbps—a speed that rivals cable internet.
Speed: 12–100 Mbps
Speed: 25 Mbps‡
Data effective 8/26/20. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.*For the first three months. †Requires a 24-month agreement. ‡Actual speeds may vary and are not guaranteed.
HughesNet vs. Viasat: data caps
When it comes to data caps, both Viasat and HughesNet advertise “unlimited” data. But the reality is that both internet companies may slow your speed after you hit your data allotment each month. It’s not a hard data cap, so you can still keep using the internet after you hit your data allotment, but it can be frustratingly slow.
Viasat will slow your speed during times of high network traffic once you hit 40 to 100 GB of data. The amount of data you get before your internet starts crawling along depends on the plan you purchase—the more expensive the plan, the more unthrottled data you get.
HughesNet, on the other hand, caps your data at 10 GB to 50 GB each month. Again, the amount of data you get depends on which plan you pay for. If you go over that data cap, your speeds will slow to about 1 to 3 Mbps until the billing cycle ends.
But, that’s not exactly the whole picture. If you live in an area where satellite data is under-utilized, then there might not be much congestion and you might not experience slowed speeds. That’s one reason why satellite internet works better for some people than others—it’s sort of the luck of the draw. So, if your neighbors are complaining about their slow Viasat speeds, you’ll probably have the same issue with Viasat.
You can buy extra data from both Viasat and HughesNet, so if slow speeds will interfere with work or school, you can add extra full speed data to fix the issue.
We should also mention HughesNet’s two-year price lock guarantee is great if you’re looking to save money, especially compared to Viasat, which jacks up your price after three months. That might be enough to turn the tide in HughesNet’s favor.
How much data does online gaming use?
You might be surprised to learn that gaming online doesn’t use much data. Playing online games uses only 34 MB of data per hour—which makes it a fairly low-data activity. Browsing the internet, for example, uses 184 MB per hour, and streaming video content in 4K uses a walloping 6.7 GB per hour.3 It would take you 197 hours of gaming to use up the same amount of data you’d use in streaming one hour of 4K video streaming.
But downloading games can really use a lot of data. Downloading the game Red Dead Redemption 2 will use 150 GB. Yikes! Games like Animal Crossing are a lot smaller (Animal Crossing is 6.2 GB), but if you’re gaming on a satellite connection that has 10 or 20 GB of data per month, it’s easy to see how downloading games will cost you.
On a satellite connection, downloading a couple of games could use up a month’s worth of data. Because downloading games eats up so much data, we always recommend buying a physical copy of a game if you can.
Viasat vs. HughesNet: Speed
If you have multiple gamers in your household (or even if some housemates stream while you game), Viasat’s speeds may be a better deal. With its new Viasat-2 satellite system, it ramps up to 100 Mbps in some parts of the country, while HughesNet tops out at 25 Mbps. But, in some areas, Viasat speeds top out at 12 Mbps, so you’ll have to check availability to find out which company offers the fastest speeds in your area.
If it’s just you gaming, HughesNet’s 25 Mbps speeds are more than enough. And don’t forget about its two-year price guarantee that blows Viasat’s prices out of the water.
One thing to note is that your internet speed won’t affect your lag since latency is based on distance and not speed.
Even so, data caps and speed are still worth considering while you decide on a satellite internet plan. If you hit your data threshold, your internet speed will slow down enough that it’ll be too slow for gaming.
Here’s how internet speed affects your gaming. Imagine you ordered a chocolate shake, but there were no big straws, and you had to suck all that chocolatey goodness through a coffee stirrer-sized straw. Talk about frustrating.
That’s what internet is like with a lower speed—you’re trying to download information through a narrow straw. But if you up your speed, you’ve upgraded to the jumbo-sized milkshake straw that allows you to download more information at the same time.
Big or small, your straw is always the same length, so your milkshake (or internet data) always travels the same distance to get to you. That’s why latency is an inescapable factor with satellite internet, no matter how fast your connection is. But getting more data at once with a higher speed will help downloads go faster and graphics look better. That’s why speed still matters.
Which gaming consoles work best with satellite internet?
Whether you’re a PlayStation, Xbox, or Switch fan, they all run about the same on satellite internet. Downloading games will be a problem with satellite internet since downloading uses so much data, so we recommend you get a physical copy of the game to save on data rather than buying the digital version.
They do fall prey to the same issues you’ll experience playing PC games, so we recommend games that don’t rely on split-second decisions. (We’re looking at you, PUBG.)
Here’s a quick list of some console games we recommend for satellite internet.
Best console games for satellite internet
- Smite: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
- Battlefield V: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
- Star Trek Online: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
- Elder Scrolls Online: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
The verdict: Satellite internet supports some online games but not all
We don’t recommend satellite internet for fast-action, multiplayer online gaming. Shooter games will not work well because of the inherent latency with all satellite internet connections. But there are games that will work with satellite internet, including the games we listed above as the best games for satellite internet.
The good news is you can still play some games online with satellite internet. You just have to jump through a few hoops to do it.
1. Federal Communications Commission (FCC), “Measuring Fixed Broadband Eighth Report–Communications Marketplace Report: Collected Appendices,” December 2018. Accessed August 25, 2020.
2. Actiontec, “How to Reduce Latency or Lag in Gaming,” Accessed August 25, 2020.
3. Xfinity, “Estimate Your Average Monthly Data Usage,” Accessed August 26, 2020.
Every State’s Favorite Video Game 🎮
Kids these days are flossing everywhere. And (un)fortunately for dentists, we’re not talking about their teeth.
If you’ve seen the floss dance craze, you might recognize that most folks learned it from Fortnite, which happens to be the most popular video game of 2019.
Gaming is a big deal
Using data from Google Trends, we found that Fortnite ranked as the most popular video game search across 20 states. That makes sense.
According to Business Insider, Fortnite has 250 million players worldwide, which is roughly the same amount as two-thirds of the US population.1 That just goes to show you that gaming is big business. According to GlobalData, the gaming industry is worth hundreds of billions of dollars.2
According to Pew Research, 43% of US adults say they play video games.3 And the Entertainment Software Association reports that 75% of Americans have at least one gamer in the household. It’s safe to say that video games are no longer just a nerdy thing.4
Most popular games are affordable and social
And those gamers aren’t just your typical, basement-dwelling trolls either. Scientific studies show that children who play a lot of video games may have better social skills (and fewer peer problems) than their non-gaming peers.5
Statista claims that half of American gamers make less than $30,000 a year. Keeping the price of daily entertainment down is a major draw of video games.6
Given that info, it makes sense that the most popular video games are both affordable and social. Every single game on our ranked list can be played with multiple people online. And most of those favorites are either free or have a relatively low recurring price for entertainment—let’s just say a month of staying in and gaming is far cheaper than a month of drinking in the club and flossing all night.
Your state’s favorite game
But Fortnite is not the only game getting some major search love across the nation. And we gotta say, we’re not surprised at our list of every state’s favorite video game of 2019. While there’s a mix of games, we can see those same common themes: they must be affordable and social.
Following behind Fortnite, the second-most searched game was Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, which was the most popular video game in eight states. And while the release date isn’t until October 25, 2019, it’s the sixteenth Call of Duty game, so players know what they’re getting into, and they’re anxious to get it.
The next highest-ranking games, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Rocket League, are both tried-and-true favorites in the multiplayer world. Essentially, every state’s favorite games are great ways to get together online without breaking the bank.
Cheers to endless social entertainment on the cheap–and to all the Fortnite fans: floss on!
|Alabama||Call of Duty: Modern Warfare|
|Alaska||World of Warcraft|
|Arizona||Counter-Strike: Global Offensive|
|District of Columbia||DOTA 2|
|Florida||Call of Duty: Modern Warfare|
|Hawaii||League of Legends|
|Idaho||Monster Hunter World|
|Kentucky||Counter-Strike: Global Offensive|
|Louisiana||Grand Theft Auto 5|
|Maine||Call of Duty: Modern Warfare|
|Michigan||Counter-Strike: Global Offensive|
|Mississippi||Grand Theft Auto 5|
|Missouri||Call of Duty: Modern Warfare|
|Montana||Red Dead Redemption 2|
|New Hampshire||Rocket League|
|New Mexico||Mortal Kombat 11|
|New York||Counter-Strike: Global Offensive|
|North Dakota||Call of Duty: Modern Warfare|
|Oklahoma||Call of Duty: Modern Warfare|
|Oregon||Monster Hunter World|
|Pennsylvania||Call of Duty: Modern Warfare|
|South Dakota||Apex Legends|
|Tennessee||Call of Duty: Modern Warfare|
|Wyoming||Red Dead Redemption 2|
- Business Insider, “How Big Is ‘Fortnite’? With Nearly 250 Million Players, It’s Over Two-Thirds the Size of the US Population”
- GlobalData, “Video Games – Thematic Research”
- Pew Research, “5 Facts About Americans And Video Games”
- Entertainment Software Association, “2019 Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry”
- Springer Link, “Is Time Spent Playing Video Games Associated With Mental Health, Cognitive And Social Skills In Young Children?”
- Statista, “Distribution Of Video Gamers In The United States As Of January 2018, By Income”