The Best Antivirus Software for Gamers 2024

If you’re an avid gamer and want to prevent malware and DDoS attacks, we’ll help you choose the best antivirus that won’t lag you out.
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Best Value for PC and Android Gamers

4.8
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On Bitdefender's website

Bitdefender
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Best for Family Protection

5.0
Learn More
On McAfee's website

McAfee
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Best Free Gaming Antivirus

4.8
Learn More
On Avast's website

Avast
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Hackers and salty opponents are all too eager to prey on unsuspecting gamers minding their own business. Using an antivirus protects you from vicious malware and DDoS attacks, but not every antivirus is built with gaming in mind.

If you enjoy mobile gaming on your Android device, Bitdefender has a highly-rated app. Parents with a child who plays computer games may want to consider McAfee’s solid parental controls. And if you’re on a budget and want something free, Avast has one of the best free antivirus plans out there.

We know it can be a lot to unpack, so let’s break down the best antivirus software that won’t destroy your gameplay.

In this article
The best antivirus for PC gamers
Bitdefender: Best for PC and Android gamers
McAfee: Best for family protection
Avast: Best free gaming antivirus
Honorable mentions
Best antivirus for PC gamers FAQs
Bottom line: The best antivirus programs for PC gamers
How we tested the best antivirus software for PC gamers

The best antivirus for PC gamers

In a sea of antivirus products, we choose the best ones to meet your needs depending on your situation. We’ve mentioned some features these software products offer, but there are more options gamers might consider, too. If you don’t want a computer virus or DDoS attack bringing your game to a halt, here are some recommended choices:

  • Bitdefender: Best value for PC and Android gamers
  • McAfee: Best for family protection with parental controls
  • Avast: Best free antivirus with good security features

Top 3 antivirus products for gaming compared

Antivirus
Bitdefender

McAfee

Avast
Starting price $29.99/first yr $39.99/first yr $69.48/first yr
Free version
Firewall Yes, Windows only Yes Yes, Windows only
Phishing protection
Ransomware protection
Parental controls
Learn more Get Bitdefender
Read Bitdefender Review
Get McAfee
Read McAfee Review
Get Avast
Read Avast Review

Bitdefender: Best for PC and Android gamers

4.8
Learn More
On Bitdefender's website

Bitdefender
  • Antivirus software offering reliable security
  • Simple yet powerful interface tools
  • Perfect protection score in third-party tests
  • Premium features incur additional subscription fees

Who it’s best for

Bitdefender works on Windows or macOS, but you won’t have access to as many features on an Apple device. But for PC and Android gamers, Bitdefender gives you plenty of bang for your buck and may be the best Android antivirus overall.

If you want an antivirus with real-time scanning, phishing protection, and a firewall for more gaming protection, Bitdefender is a reliable option.

Bitdefender offers several plans ranging from $14.99–$49.99/first yr to accommodate most budgets, and gamers will also appreciate the antivirus not showing any impact on system performance so your games won’t take a hit.

If you use Steam to purchase and download video games, be aware of popular Steam gift card scams.

What we liked

One of the features we thought stood out with Bitdefender is that it comes with a Rescue Environment for Windows. You can scan for threats that hide behind legitimate system processes and then remove them.

Bitdefender also protects against phishing with its browser extension, TrafficLight. It’s an extra security precaution for visiting websites, which can be good for gamers who download games or mods as these can contain malware — the Minecraft Fractureiser malware is one such example.

Ransomware protection is a feature that is a must for anyone who spends a lot of time online. The more time you spend online, the more you’re open to hackers, and the more chances they have to take control of your device, so we were happy this is included.

Bitdefender also includes parental controls to help parents monitor online activity for their children. It’s a helpful addition if you want to know how much time they spend playing games instead of doing their homework.

The Bitdefender Total Security and Internet Security plans also include movie, work, and gaming modes to ensure your CPU is dedicated to your gaming experience and not to unnecessary background apps. Gaming mode also blocks annoying notifications that pop up in-game.

What we didn’t like

Bitdefender can be a bit confusing at first. It comes in two different parts: You have the antivirus application and the browser hub, Bitdefender Central.

You must be logged into Bitdefender Central to set up parental controls, and the process isn’t very user-friendly. Once that’s installed, it works well, but swapping between two parts to access what many consider a prominent antivirus feature can be time-consuming and tiresome.

Additionally, we don’t recommend Bitdefender to Apple fans because you’ll miss out on some features, like a firewall, file shredder, and scheduled scanning. That’s a pretty big miss, in our opinion.

Bitdefender specs

Starting price $29.99/first yr
Free version Yes
Firewall Yes, Windows only
Phishing protection Yes
Ransomware protection Yes
Webcam protection Yes, Windows only
Network protection Yes, Wi-Fi Security Advisor for Windows
Parental controls Yes, Windows only
Extras File shredder for Windows, VPN
Learn more Get Bitdefender
Read Bitdefender Review

McAfee: Best for family protection

5.0
Save $105 on your first year of McAfee+ Premium
Learn More
On McAfee's website

McAfee
  • All-in-one protection for your personal info and privacy
  • Excellent antivirus protection
  • Additional features like a file shredder and parental controls
  • Multiple pop-ups for text notifications can be annoying

Who it’s best for

McAfee is premium software that protects up to an unlimited number of devices and comes with parental controls for family protection. There is no free version, but the good news with McAfee is that you can customize your plan to fit your needs. Do you only need one device covered? The McAfee Basic plan does that at a low cost.

What if you have multiple devices to protect? Then one of three McAfee+ plans might do the trick. While Essential and Premium focus on anti-malware protection, McAfee+ Advanced comes with bank and credit card transaction monitoring.

If you think you don’t need identity theft protection for gaming, you might recall how you pay for your games. Do you know if all of your online games are secure and reputable? Does your child have their own accounts?

What we liked

Right off the bat, we liked how quickly McAfee’s full scan searched through files. The firewall makes online browsing safer, and the real-time scanning in the background makes us feel more secure. There were no noticeable performance issues when we tested the software, and if you game you’ll love that.

Plus, you can use the WebAdvisor feature to block suspicious websites or ones you don’t want to chance. The interface is easy to use and simplistic — we like that you can see the green notification with the checkmark to let you know all is well.

Curious if McAfee’s identity protection is worth the cost? Check out our McAfee Identity Theft Protection review where we put all of its features to the test.

What we didn’t like

One of the only sticking points we had with this software was that the identity features were a bit shaky when we tested them on our Macbook. To remedy this, we contacted customer support and were instructed to open a different web browser, which worked. It was still a nagging issue, though.

The other issue we had was that McAfee didn’t have any third-party test results for macOS. It did have results for Android and Windows, and both of these were reported in the first quarter of 2023. We know antivirus companies must pay for testing, but we aren’t sure why macOS was the one left out. It doesn’t mean there are any security problems when using the antivirus with macOS, but we’d like to see for ourselves.

McAfee specs

Starting price $39.99/first yr
Free version No
Firewall Yes
Phishing protection Yes
Ransomware protection Yes
Webcam protection No
Network protection No
Parental controls Yes
Extras Identity features, privacy options, VPN, file shredder, password manager
Learn more Get McAfee
Read McAfee Review

Avast: Best free gaming antivirus

4.8
Learn More
On Avast's website

Avast
  • High antivirus test scores
  • Ransomware protection
  • No parental controls

Who it’s best for

Since it has a free plan, Avast may be the best antivirus software for gamers who want security protection without paying for it.

There is an Avast Premium plan, too. As you’d expect, it comes with more features like a firewall, remote access attack prevention, and webcam protection. If you have browser-stored passwords, you may also want to invest in the Premium plan for additional password security.

What we liked

When we tested Avast, we had an overall positive experience. Avast is great for beginners because there’s no tricky setup with this program. The options are turned on by default.

Granted, some features only come with the Premium plan, like the advanced firewall and webcam protection, but the free option includes ransomware protection and alerts you if your email account passwords have been hacked.

When you spend the majority of your time playing your favorite online game and don’t need antivirus with tons of features, the Avast free version may be your perfect plan.

One caveat we’d mention is if you like to take your device with you and play video games in different settings, the Premium version comes with the Network Inspector, which allows you to scan new networks for vulnerabilities.

Also, a plus was that there was no performance hiccup when running scans while numerous browser tabs were open.

What we didn’t like

Avast has the option of a Stay Safe Guarantee, but you must be enrolled in auto-renew to get that coverage. The Stay Safe Guarantee covers your device if you get infected with a virus Avast is unable to remove or fix. If the software can’t fix the problem, you get your money back.

We think it would be nice to include that with the product even for users who don’t wish to auto-renew. That seems more like a marketing ploy than faith in the product’s ability.

We also felt left out again when using our Mac because the firewall is only available for Windows users. Apple fans won’t have this feature.

Avast specs

Starting price $69.48/first yr
Free version Yes
Firewall Yes, Windows only
Phishing protection Yes
Ransomware protection Yes
Webcam protection Yes
Network protection Yes
Parental controls No
Extras Hack alerts, web shield
Learn more Get Avast
Read Avast Review

Honorable mentions

If you’re looking for alternatives to these antivirus programs, there are others that you might like more. We’ll list a few of our recommendations so you can have additional options when gaming.

  • Surfshark Antivirus: Developed by the makers of Surfshark VPN, this software includes malware and antivirus protection with an intuitive interface at reasonable prices. It comes as part of Surfshark’s well-rounded cybersecurity bundle, Surfshark One, which includes the VPN, an ad blocker, and a private search engine.

    Get Surfshark Antivirus | Read Our Surfshark Antivirus Review
  • Norton 360: Norton is a popular antivirus product, and with good reason. Along with excellent malware detection rates, this antivirus provides excellent protection against online threats. It also comes with webcam protection, parental controls, a password manager, and Norton Secure VPN.

    Get Norton | Read Our Norton Review
  • TotalAV: TotalAV offers affordable antivirus protection with a user-friendly interface and high third-party protection scores. Its simple, budget-minded approach makes it great for beginners and anyone who’d rather “set and forget” about their antivirus protection.

    Get TotalAV | Read Our TotalAV Review

Best antivirus for PC gamers FAQs


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What’s the best antivirus for gamers?

The best antivirus for gamers could be different depending on your unique needs. If you need free software, Avast has a good plan at no cost. We also recommend Bitdefender for strong security and extra features for both Microsoft Windows PCs and Android devices. Also at the top of our list, McAfee comes with parental controls to ensure your child’s gaming PC is safe from spyware, Trojans, and other types of malware.


+

Do gamers need antivirus?

Gamers can come in contact with malware threats that cause system performance issues, device crashes, and other more worrisome problems. This means they need an antivirus suite as much as anyone else.


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Does antivirus affect gaming performance?

While we can’t speak for every situation, the antivirus products we’ve tested in this article did not cause issues with system resources — even with numerous websites and apps running,

However, some antivirus solutions are known to cause FPS drops or inhibit your PCs performance, making it difficult to game while they’re running. This is why it’s important to either try an antivirus out before you commit or check third-party test results to analyze system performance.


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How does antivirus protect against DDoS attacks?

A distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack is geared at getting you to give hackers remote access to your machine. Antivirus can help identify these threats before they become an issue, as can a good gaming VPN.

Bottom line: The best antivirus programs for PC gamers

We recommend Bitdefender, McAfee, or Avast as the best antivirus for PC gamers. Bitdefender works great with a Windows PC and offers affordable plans and features like ransomware remediation and a firewall. McAfee has family protection that covers unlimited devices with a suite of antivirus features, like a VPN, parental controls, and a password manager. Avast offers a free antivirus version for those who aren’t ready to pay.

If you’re a gamer, you can’t afford to go around unprotected, so if our three recommended antivirus suites don’t cut it, TotalAV, Norton 360, and Surfshark Antivirus are also solid antivirus programs that offer protection against malware threats.

3 best gaming antivirus programs

Starting price Best for Learn more

Bitdefender
$29.99/first yr Best value for Android and PC gamers Get Bitdefender
Read Bitdefender Review

McAfee
$39.99/first yr Best for family protection Get McAfee
Read McAfee Review

Avast
Free or $69.48/first yr Best free gaming antivirus Get Avast
Read Avast Review

How we tested the best antivirus software for PC gamers

When choosing the best antivirus software for PC gamers, we looked at a variety of products that might meet different needs. Not every gamer wants the same thing.

We wanted to include a free option for those who need protection without paying for a plan. We also looked for an antivirus that works for families with children who like to game. And since a majority of gamers play on PC, we included an option that has more features for Windows and Android users.

We also noted features for macOS since some gamers log into their Apple products for some game time. It also helps to have an antivirus that works on any device, so we checked those out, too.

All in all, here are the main features we looked for when testing the best gaming antivirus programs:

  • Family protection: Parental controls can help parents monitor how much time kids spend gaming and also block not-so-savory download and mod sites.
  • Budget-friendly: Not everyone can or wants to pay for antivirus coverage, but even free protection is better than none.
  • Ransomware protection: Hackers may try to trick gamers into downloading malware that gives them remote access, so ransomware protection ensures you won’t lose any files.
  • Firewall: A firewall shields your network or device from malicious traffic.
4.8
Learn More
On Bitdefender's website

Bitdefender
  • Antivirus software offering reliable security
  • Simple yet powerful interface tools
  • Perfect protection score in third-party tests
  • Premium features incur additional subscription fees
Author Details
Patti Croft is a seasoned writer who specializes in all things technology. She holds a B.S. in Computer Science and carries a wealth of hands-on experience thanks to her background as a technical analyst and security specialist.