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Can You Game on Satellite Internet?
Laaag. We’ve all been there, but gamers on satellite internet get the short end of the stick when it comes to high latency.
Most people will tell you not to bother gaming on satellite internet. They’re wrong. With a few tweaks and adjustments to your expectations, you can most definitely game on satellite internet.
Let’s take a look at how satellite internet’s latency, data caps, and download speeds affect your gaming experience. Plus, we’ll share some troubleshooting tips and recommended video games.
How does latency affect gaming with satellite internet?
Latency is the elephant in the room when it comes to satellite internet. And latency is likely what will make you want to flip your desk in frustration if you’re playing a highly reactive game, like a first-person shooter, on a satellite connection.
(We don’t recommend flipping your desk, though. We have too many gamer friends who’ve ruined keyboards, headsets, and more expensive tech doing that.)
Latency, which is also known as ping, is a measure of the time in milliseconds (ms) it takes for your keyboard taps or mouse clicks to travel from your end of the network to the game’s server, and then back.
With satellite internet, this means that your button presses or mouse clicks have to travel thousands of miles to a satellite orbiting the Earth, then down to the game’s server, back up to the satellite, and then get beamed down to your console or computer. Now it makes sense why your character may not cast its ultimate skill right when you hit that key combo.
To give you some cold, hard data, here’s what typical satellite internet latency looks like compared to the latency of DSL, cable, and fiber internet connections:
Median latency in seconds
With satellite internet, your in-game character will take half a second to complete the action you just commanded it to—at best. That’s not accounting for other issues that might affect your latency, like your router or if you use Wi-Fi.
Can you lower your latency?
Start rejoicing because there are ways to lower your latency. Here’s how to reduce your gaming latency:
- Close other programs. You might enjoy some “get hyped!” music while you game, but closing programs like Spotify, Google Chrome, Netflix, and YouTube will free up your internet connection to focus on nailing those skill shots.
- Don’t game on Wi-Fi. A wireless connection can slow down your gaming experience. If you’re able to, hook your computer or console up to your router or modem with an Ethernet cable (also called a wired or hardwired connection).
- Update your router. First, make sure your router has the most current firmware installed. This can help fix bugs and other issues that might slow down your connection. If your problem persists, it’s probably time to upgrade to a new router.
- Pause or cancel downloads. Are you about to charge into a nail-biting boss battle? Make sure you pause those Steam downloads and ask roommates or partners to stop their downloads too. At least until you’ve won the game.
How do download speeds affect gaming with satellite internet?
Ask any gamer about their internet connection, and they’ll probably talk about their download speeds first. But is download speed really that important for gaming?
Yes and no. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recommends at least 3 to 4 Mbps download speeds for gaming,2 but that likely won’t cut it.
Why? Well, you probably aren’t just gaming on your internet connection. You’ve probably got your cell phone on the Wi-Fi, and your partner might be streaming Altered Carbon one room over. You may also have children gaming on their own consoles or doing homework online. (Likely story?)
To make sure everyone in your home doesn’t get hit with buffering or disconnects, you need faster download speeds—or more bandwidth—to keep that internet connection going. But unless you’re gaming in 4K (which we don’t recommend doing on satellite internet), your game shouldn’t need much in the way of download speeds.
What’s a good internet speed for gaming?
A minimum of 25 to 50 Mbps is a good download speed for gaming—as long as you don’t have more than two to three people and a few devices using the internet at the same time. (And remember, your smart TV, home security system, and cell phone are all using the internet.)
If you’ve got more than a few people hopping online at a time, have a smart home system, or your home security system includes several cameras, you’ll want speeds of 100 Mbps or faster.
Does this describe your happy clan of gamers? You’ll want to grab a Viasat satellite internet plan since its max download speeds go up to 100 Mbps.
How can you improve your satellite internet speed?
If your satellite internet speeds seem slower than what you pay for, there are a few things you can do to speed things up. And no, you don’t need to call Viasat or HughesNet customer service.
Check out our guide to speeding up your satellite internet for several troubleshooting tips.
How do satellite internet data caps affect gaming?
Turning on your console and stepping into the nightmare-fueled world of Dark Souls doesn’t require much data at all.
But don’t forget that you might need to download your game or download patch updates, and those things can eat up a good chunk of data. And if you go past your satellite internet data cap, your game downloads might just inch along at a mind-numbing speed of 1 to 5 Mbps.
Data caps may not mean a lot to someone on a DSL, cable, or fiber connection, but unlike its counterparts, satellite internet comes with some pretty low data caps. Viasat (formerly Exede) gives you anywhere from 12 to 150 GB of data per month, while HughesNet gives you 10 to 50 GB of data each month.
That’s not a lot of data, and it gets worse. If you use up all your data allotted for the month, both Viasat and HughesNet can slow your download speeds to 1 to 5 Mbps. Just no.
How do satellite internet data caps affect gaming?
Viasat says its unlimited plans come with “unlimited” data, and that’s kind of true. You do get unlimited data, but the amount of high-speed data Viasat gives you each month is limited. As long as you have high-speed data available, you’ll cruise along at 12 to 100 Mbps, depending on which Viasat plan you grabbed.
|Unlimited Bronze 12||$64.99/mo.*||12 Mbps||80 GB|
|Unlimited Silver 12||$99.99/mo.†||12 Mbps||45 GB|
|Unlimited Gold 12||$149.99/mo.†||12 Mbps||65 GB|
|Unlimited Silver 25||$84.99/mo.*||25 Mbps||120 GB|
|Unlimited Gold 30||$119.99/mo.*||30 Mbps||100 GB|
|Unlimited Gold 50||$119.99/mo.*||50 Mbps||200 GB|
|Unlimited Platinum 100||$169.99/mo.*||100 Mbps||300 GB|
Once you’ve used up your unlimited data, Viasat might slow your speeds down to 1 to 5 Mbps if there’s a lot of internet traffic. So, if the stars align, you could still fight off voracious velociraptors in Ark: Survival at decent speeds.
On the other hand, HughesNet offers only one download speed: 25 Mbps. That might be too slow if you have a medium- to large-sized family or if you own a lot of connected devices. And HughesNet’s max data allowance is 50 GB, which is far less than Viasat’s max of 150 GB. You’ll also end up paying more if you want a 30 or 50 GB data cap from HughesNet, even with Viasat’s three-month price bump.
The only thing HughesNet does better than Viasat is that it lets you buy more data if you go over your cap—Viasat won’t let you buy more data for its unlimited plans. HughesNet also offers a bonus 50 GB of high-speed data from 2 a.m. to 8 a.m. daily.
How much data do you need for gaming?
We mentioned that you don’t need much data for gaming, and that’s true: online gaming uses only 34 MB of data per hour. That’s 0.034 GB of your monthly data allowance, which ranges from 10 to 150 GB.
Data usage per hour
Depending on how often you game, your total monthly data usage from gaming can range from about 1.2 to 2.9 GB. That’s a drop in the bucket even with the smallest data cap available.
Of course, this takes into account gaming only. You’ll need more data for anything else you do online: browsing the web, checking email, watching Netflix, and, of course, downloading new games from Steam.
Total data used
Light online gaming
1,224 MB/mo. (1.2 GB/mo.)
Heavy online gaming
2,856 MB/mo. (2.9 GB/mo.)
What’s the best satellite internet provider for gaming?
Viasat (formerly Exede) gets our vote as the best satellite internet provider for gaming. Depending on your needs, you can get faster download speeds of up to 100 Mbps with Viasat, as well as more high-speed data each month (up to 150 GB). That's why it earned our Editor's Choice award for satellite internet.
Here’s a quick look at how your two satellite internet providers, Viasat and HughesNet, compare for download speeds and data:
|Viasat Internet||$30–$169.99^||12–100 Mbps||12–300 GB||View Plans|
|HughesNet Internet||$59.99–$149.99°||25 Mbps||10–50 GB||View Plans|
What games can you play on satellite internet?
If satellite internet is your only option, that doesn’t mean your gaming career is over. You can still game even with high latency and low data caps, but you might be restricted to certain types of games or certain roles. Here’s what we recommend for games you can play on satellite internet:
- Look for role-playing games (RPGs). RPGs are a little more forgiving than first-person shooters (FPS) if you lag or rubberband due to high latency.
- Get into singleplayer mode. You may not need an internet connection to play in singleplayer. So if completing a solo campaign quenches your thirst for quality gaming time, you’re in luck.
- Avoid player versus player (PvP) content. Sorry, all you PvP fiends. Lagging out during a PvP match has to be one of the most frustrating things ever. We say just avoid it.
- Try out support roles in multiplayer games. Instead of being on the front lines, try out a less critical support role if you want to load up a multiplayer game.
Not sure where to start even with those suggestions? Here are four video games we recommend for satellite internet.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Metacritic score: 90/100
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Game mode: Singleplayer or multiplayer up to 8
Rating: E for Everyone
With calming gameplay and dozens of cute NPCs, Animal Crossing: New Horizons offers a relaxing way to decompress. Yup, Tom Nook is back with another amazing deal you can’t refuse: escape to a deserted island and make it your home sweet paradise home. Build new decorations and customize everything from your house to your garden, give gifts to adorable new friends, or go bug hunting at night. (Just watch out for the tarantulas!)
Data effective 5/12/2020. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change. *Amazon.com List price of $59.99 (as of 05/12/2020 12:33 PM MST). Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on Amazon.com at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product. Reviews.org utilizes paid Amazon links.
Metacritic score: 93/100
Platform: PC/Mac, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and mobile
Game mode: Singleplayer or multiplayer up to 10
Rating: E for Everyone
Year: 2009 (last updated December 2019)
Get back to your 8-bit roots with Minecraft. Battle spooky enemies and venture into the Nether in Survival Mode, or relax and put your building talents to the test in Creative Mode. Whatever you choose to do, Minecraft is literally what you make it.
Data effective 5/12/2020. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change. *Amazon.com List price of $25.49 (as of 05/12/2020 12:33 PM MST). Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on Amazon.com at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product. Reviews.org utilizes paid Amazon links.
The DOOM franchise makes a comeback with intense gameplay and dark graphics. If you played the original back in the day, prepare to be sucked back into this violent world of demons and Glory Kills. And if your satellite internet connection is experiencing a case of the Mondays, you can plow through the singleplayer campaign while offline.3
Metacritic score: 88/100
Platform: PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4 (Nintendo Switch available December 31, 2020)
Game mode: Singleplayer or multiplayer up to 3
Rating: M for Mature
Data effective 5/12/2020. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change. *Amazon.com List price of $59.99 (as of 05/13/2020 10:01 AM MST). Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on Amazon.com at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product. Reviews.org utilizes paid Amazon links.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Metacritic score: 93/100
Platform: PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch
Game mode: Singleplayer
Rating: M for Mature
CD Projekt Red delivered another visually stunning Witcher game with in-depth storytelling. If you love an RPG that isn’t afraid of blood, monsters, and violence (read: mature content), it’s time to hop on your trusty steed named Roach and clear the land of baddies.
Data effective 5/12/2020. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change. *Amazon.com List price of $27.97 (as of 05/13/2020 10:01 AM MST). Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on Amazon.com at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product. Reviews.org utilizes paid Amazon links.
Find out if you have other rural internet options.
Dig into our picks for the best internet for gaming.
- Federal Communications Commission (FCC), “Communications Marketplace Report: Collected Appendices”
- FCC, “Broadband Speed Guide”
- Bethesda Support, “Do I Need to Be Connected to the Internet to Play DOOM Eternal?”