Updated on: February 1, 2023
Short on time? Here’s the best gaming antivirus in 2023:
- 🥇 Norton: Excellent antivirus with a game booster that significantly improves CPU performance. It has 100% perfect malware detection rates, comes with a wide range of extras, including advanced web protection and parental controls, and backs all purchases with a generous 60-day money-back guarantee.
I tested all of the popular antiviruses for security, performance, and pricing — I wanted to find the ones that provide excellent anti-malware protection, don’t slow down a PC during high-performance gaming, and offer a good value for all types of gamers.
I ran the tests on my budget gaming rig, which includes a 1 TB Intel SSD, Ryzen 3 3300X CPU, and Nvidia GTX 1660 Super GPU. I’m mostly playing Apex Legends and Destiny 2: Beyond Light these days, so I tested each product by using low, medium, and high graphics settings with each game.
Most of the top-tier antivirus programs have some kind of gaming mode in their internet security packages, but typical gaming modes only suspend virus scans and notifications so your gaming experience isn’t interrupted by notifications and CPU-intensive scanning. This is pretty useful, but there are some additional tools that the best antiviruses use to improve performance for PC gamers, such as:
- Cloud-based scanning — Runs scans from “the cloud” to keep your CPU free for games. Keeps an antivirus from hogging the CPU during scans.
- Game boosters — Reallocates background processes so that your CPU can focus on running games. Actually makes your computer run faster.
- Device cleaning — Removes junk files, cached files, and background processes to free up space. Frees up RAM and memory to improve system performance.
I only found a few good gaming antiviruses that provide some combination of these performance-optimizing features. Whether you’re looking for a full security suite for your family, a performance-boosting beast without additional security features, or a super-lightweight cloud-based antivirus package, you’ll find what you’re looking for on this list.
Quick summary of the best antiviruses for PC gaming in 2023:
- 1.🥇 Norton — Best gaming antivirus with a game booster that improves CPU performance.
- 2.🥈 Bitdefender — Lightweight malware scanner with an automatic gaming mode.
- 3.🥉 TotalAV — Fast antivirus with system clean-up tools and a really good VPN.
- 4. McAfee — Advanced antivirus protection with parental controls and a smart firewall.
- 5. Avira — Cloud-based malware scanner with a good free plan.
- #6-10 of 2023’s best gaming antiviruses.
- Comparison of the Best Antiviruses for PC Gaming.
🥇1. Norton — Best Overall Antivirus for PC Gaming
Norton 360 for Gamers is by far the best PC gaming antivirus I’ve tested. It provides one of the best anti-malware engines on the market, comprehensive web protections, and some really cool perks for gamers. It flagged down 100% of the malware that I threw at it (Norton is ranked #1 for best antivirus in 2023), and it didn’t have any effect on my frame rate, load times, or RAM usage during gaming.
I was also really impressed with Norton’s game booster and performance optimizer (Norton GO) that’s only offered with Norton 360 for Gamers. Norton GO suspends background processes, delays virus scans, and optimizes processing power during gaming. And it works exactly as promised — while playing Destiny 2 and Apex Legends, I was able to increase my graphics settings without experiencing any slowdown whatsoever!
I’m also a huge fan of Norton’s dark web monitoring feature — it scans breach databases and dark web forums to make sure your financial information, passwords, emails, and even your gamertag haven’t been leaked to hackers.
If your kids are into gaming, Norton’s parental controls are some of the best on the market — they let you monitor and schedule usage, set limits on devices or even specific apps, and block sensitive online content to help keep your kids safe. I used Norton to ensure that my daughter was working during school hours, unlocking all of her games only after dinner on school nights.
Overall, Norton 360 for Gamers is a great choice for gamers who want to keep their devices as secure as possible without diminishing CPU performance — and at $44.99 / year, it’s a pretty good value. Norton 360 Deluxe is also an excellent option for gaming. It includes all of the same features as Norton 360 for Gamers except the ability to suppress notifications and monitor the dark web for gamer tags, but it provides coverage for up to 5 devices instead of just 3 for the exact same price.
Norton 360 for Gamers is the best internet security suite for PC gaming on the market — its antivirus engine detected all of my test malware and its game booster feature noticeably improved my system performance during gameplay. And with great family protections, dark web monitoring, and a lot of other useful features, Norton is one of the most full-featured programs on this list. All of Norton’s plans come with a 60-day money-back guarantee.
🥈2. Bitdefender — Lightweight Scanner With an Automatic Gaming Mode
Bitdefender is also an excellent choice for PC gaming. It doesn’t provide a game booster, but it has a cloud-based malware engine and useful system tune-up tools. It offers one of the most powerful anti-malware scanners on the market, returning 100% malware detection rates in my testing. The scanner uses a combination of signature-based scanning, advanced heuristics, and machine learning to detect virtually all threats — and because all the scanning is performed in the cloud, Bitdefender will barely slow your system down, even during full system scans.
Bitdefender also includes an automatic gaming mode that detects when your device enters full screen mode and automatically suspends scans and notifications. While Bitdefender’s gaming mode is good, I really wish it also included a game booster, like Norton does.
I also really like Bitdefender’s device optimization tools, which can remove junk files, detect out-of-date software, and get a slower device running significantly faster. Streamers (or really anyone who uses voice chat) will also appreciate Bitdefender’s microphone and webcam protections, which offer real-time detection and removal of any unknown applications that attempt to access your device — Bitdefender was successful at blocking several popular eavesdropping malware files during my testing.
Starting at just $23.99 / year, all of Bitdefender’s plans are affordable, but parents will want to check out Bitdefender Internet Security ($32.99 / year) or Bitdefender Total Security ($35.99 / year), which also includes Bitdefender’s excellent parental controls. Users who also want a really good antivirus-bundled VPN should take a look at Bitdefender Premium Security ($59.99 / year).
Bitdefender provides lightweight antivirus protection that won’t slow down a gaming computer. In my testing, Bitdefender automatically suspended scans and notifications whenever I was gaming, and its powerful real-time malware detection kept my device safe without affecting my framerate at all. All of Bitdefender’s plans are feature-rich, affordable, and backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee.
🥉3. TotalAV — Fast Scanner & Best System Tune-Up Tools for Gamers
TotalAV provides a number of features that are really helpful for PC and Mac gamers. Like Bitdefender, TotalAV’s lightweight scanner offloads computation to the cloud to provide a 99.5% malware detection rating without slowing down your device during scans.
TotalAV also offers an excellent suite of system tune-up tools, including junk file removal, startup booster, browser file cleanup, and a handy application uninstaller. In my testing, TotalAV was able to find and remove more junk files than any other system tune-up tool.
Unfortunately, TotalAV doesn’t have a game booster like Norton and Avira, or the ability to suspend scans and block notifications while gaming in full screen like Bitdefender. That said, during my testing, I was able to play AAA games like Elden Ring on the highest graphics settings with zero slowdown thanks to TotalAV’s cloud-based scanner.
It’s also my favorite antivirus with a VPN in 2023, providing encrypted browsing on dozens of servers around the globe, a kill switch for secure torrenting, and fast connection speeds.
Gamers can pick up TotalAV at a really low cost with the new Antivirus for Gamers bundle, which offers all of TotalAV’s features on up to 3 Windows, macOS, Android, or iOS devices for just $19.00 / year.
TotalAV is a lightweight antivirus with near-perfect malware detection ratings and an excellent system tune-up suite. It detected 99% of the malware in my testing, and its system tune-up features helped me optimize my startup, get rid of junk files, and clean up my cached browser files. I’m also a big fan of TotalAV’s fast VPN, which is comparable to some standalone VPN apps. TotalAV offers a 30-day money-back guarantee with all of its plans.
4. McAfee — Best Parental Controls for Gamers
McAfee Total Protection is a full-featured internet security suite with comprehensive parental controls. The controls provide content filtering, device usage limits, and even device tracking for mobile users. During testing, I was able to easily set time limits on my test PC’s internet time and block specific apps.
McAfee also has an advanced antivirus scanner. Its anti-malware engine performed really well in my standard series of tests, catching 100% of the malware files I placed on my gaming PC.
Its secure firewall is also really good for gamers — it was able to detect a wide variety of network attacks during my testing, and I could also set rules that allowed the games on my device and friends on my network to connect online.
But unlike Norton, McAfee doesn’t have a gaming mode or a game booster. While this isn’t ideal, the good news is that you can easily schedule scans to avoid having gaming interrupted.
Starting at $39.99 / year, McAfee’s Total Protection plans offer a really good value — there are several plans to choose from, including plans for individuals and families. Both options allow you to cover either 5 or an unlimited number of devices and include features such as web protection, a firewall, a secure VPN, and identity monitoring.
McAfee Total Protection has excellent extra features, including parental controls and a smart firewall. It’s easy to schedule scans with McAfee’s intuitive interface, and parents will appreciate the ability to monitor, block, and schedule app usage, internet access, and device activity. McAfee is really reasonably priced, and there’s a 30-day money-back guarantee on all plans.
5. Avira — Cloud-Based With a Good Free Plan
Avira is a secure, cloud-based antivirus with perfect malware detection and a good free plan. It also has a gamer booster, which improved my CPU’s performance by closing background apps and optimizing network settings. But I still think Norton has a better gaming booster because it also allowed me to increase my graphical settings without suffering any framerate drops.
Avira’s free plan doesn’t come with gamer-specific features, but it’s still one of the best free antivirus plans for PCs. It provides tons of customization options, includes ransomware protection, and comes with other features like:
- Safe browsing and shopping extension.
- System tune-up tools.
- VPN (500 MB monthly limit).
- Password manager.
I was really impressed with Avira’s safe browsing and shopping extension — it blocked annoying ads from YouTube, eliminated web trackers, and even recommended deals for products I was shopping for — including games and gaming accessories.
That said, I still recommend most gamers check out Avira Prime, which adds a really good game booster, a VPN with unlimited data, multi-device coverage, and password and online account breach monitoring for $59.99 / year.
Avira’s cloud-based malware scanner is great for PC gaming — it barely takes up any CPU power while still providing 100% malware protection for your devices. It also comes with a really good game booster that increases CPU performance. Avira’s free plan doesn’t include gaming features, but it still comes with an excellent ad-blocking web extension and good system tune-up tools. Users looking for a VPN with unlimited data, multi-device coverage, and a game booster should upgrade to Avira Prime, which also comes with a 60-day money-back guarantee.
6. Kaspersky — Most Extra Features for Gaming
Kaspersky has everything I expect to see in a premium antivirus suite for gamers — it has a good anti-malware scanner, an automatic game mode, and a variety of internet security protections.
I like that Kaspersky’s gaming mode turns on automatically in full-screen mode, suspending notifications and scans. However, Kaspersky’s gaming mode doesn’t offer the same level of customization and performance optimization as Norton.
Kaspersky also comes with additional features like:
- Online shopping and banking protection.
- Password manager.
- PC clean-up tools.
Priced at $21.99 / year, Kaspersky Standard is a decent choice for gamers, but if you’re after a VPN, password manager, and parental controls, it’s worth considering Kaspersky Premium. It covers up to 20 devices for $30.99 / year and, like all Kaspersky plans, it comes with a risk-free 30-day money-back guarantee.
Kaspersky is a comprehensive antivirus suite with a built-in gaming mode. Kaspersky’s gaming mode doesn’t have a lot of features, but it gets the job done. Kaspersky also has a variety of useful extra features, including online shopping and banking protection, a password manager, a VPN, and system clean-up tools. Plus, all Kaspersky purchases have a risk-free 30-day money-back guarantee.
7. Malwarebytes — Minimal Antivirus for PC Gamers on a Budget
Malwarebytes provides advanced anti-malware protection, good web protections, and an optional VPN for a low price. But it lacks a lot of the additional features that the other programs on this list have — it doesn’t have a game booster, parental controls, or a firewall. However, for users who are looking for a decent antivirus program that won’t take up too much CPU space, Malwarebytes is an ok option.
In my tests, Malwarebytes scored a 95% malware detection rating (Norton and Bitdefender scored 100%), and it also blocked most of the unsafe and phishing websites I tried opening. Malwarebytes also automatically recognizes when your system is in full screen mode, delaying all scans and notifications while you’re gaming or watching videos.
Malwarebytes Premium ($44.99 / year) is a good low-budget option for gamers, but users who also want a fast VPN for secure web browsing should take a look at Malwarebytes Premium + Privacy ($99.99 / year).
Malwarebytes offers a low-impact anti-malware program with good malware detection rates and affordable pricing. During my tests, Malwarebytes detected 95% of my test malware and blocked nearly all phishing websites. Malwarebytes also comes with an automatic gaming mode, and users can upgrade to get a fast VPN as well. All of Malwarebytes’s plans include a generous 60-day money-back guarantee.
8. Panda — Good for Ease of Use
Panda is an intuitive and easy-to-use antivirus with a solid gaming mode and good web security protections. Its cloud-based virus scanner turned up every piece of malware I tested, including tricky rootkits and ransomware files, and it didn’t slow me down too much during a heated bout of Apex Legends.
Panda’s gaming mode activated whenever I entered full screen, suspending scans and notifications to avoid slowing down my CPU. However, I was a bit disappointed to learn that Panda’s gaming mode didn’t improve PC performance during gaming (Norton has a game booster that does that).
Panda has several plans to choose from, and they’re all affordable. Panda Essential ($23.99 / year) has an antivirus scanner and a VPN, Panda Advanced ($28.49 / year) also includes ransomware protection and parental controls, and Panda Complete ($42.99 / year) adds system clean-up tools and a password manager.
Panda has cloud-based scanning that won’t slow down gameplay and an automatic gaming mode that starts running when a game starts running. It’s a decent choice for non-technical users looking for a simple antivirus, coming with extras like a VPN, a password manager, and parental controls. You can try out Panda with a risk-free 30-day money-back guarantee.
9. Webroot — Simple & Lightweight Antivirus
Webroot is a good product for gamers looking to economize disk space. It’s significantly smaller than any other antivirus on the market — you only install about 4 MB of data on your computer, and the rest of the program is hosted on the cloud.
I was impressed with Webroot’s antivirus engine, which scanned all of my files in a manner of minutes — most competitors take as long as a couple of hours to perform a full system scan.
Webroot is super lightweight. The program barely affected my CPU and RAM usage while I was playing Destiny 2. I also like that it has an advanced setting that reduces the amount of resources it uses if it detects that you’re gaming, watching videos, or using other intensive applications. But for improving gaming performance, I still prefer Norton.
Priced at $23.99 / year, Webroot’s plan for gamers also comes with a range of useful extras — it protects your webcam from malware hijacking, has good network protections, and comes with a system optimizer that automatically clears up your background files to free up RAM.
Webroot is a simple and lightweight antivirus that hardly takes up any disk space. It won’t directly improve your computer’s performance when gaming, but it’s designed to stay in the background, so it won’t slow down your gaming sessions either. You can try out Webroot with a generous 70-day money-back guarantee.
10. Trend Micro — Decent Virus Protection With a Manual Mute Mode
Trend Micro Trend Micro detected the majority of malware samples I downloaded to my PC, but its detection rates weren’t as good as premium competitors like Norton and Bitdefender. On the other hand, Trend Micro’s anti-phishing protections are on par with the best antiviruses — these protections detected scam sites and exploit attacks more accurately than Chrome or Firefox in all of my tests.
I also like Trend Micro’s Mute Mode, but I found it frustrating that I had to click through a few different sub-menus to access and activate this mode — most of the competitors on this list automatically detect when you’re gaming and immediately activate their gaming modes.
While Trend Micro isn’t my top choice for gamers, I still think its internet security suites are a good value for both individuals and families — and they’re cheaper than most other products, with prices starting at just $19.95 / year.
Trend Micro is a good antivirus program with helpful extra features, including a Mute Mode that pauses scans and notifications. Trend Micro’s malware scanner detected the vast majority of malware samples during my testing, and its Mute Mode worked well during gameplay — but the Mute Mode needs to be manually activated. All of Trend Micro’s plans have a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Comparison of the Best Antiviruses for PC Gaming
|Antivirus||Starting Price||Gaming Mode||Increases CPU Speed During Gaming||System Cleanup Tools||Cloud-Based Scanner||Parental Controls|
|1.🥇Norton||$44.99 / year||✅ (with game booster)||✅||✅||❌||✅|
|2.🥈Bitdefender||$23.99 / year||✅||❌||✅||✅||✅|
|3.🥉TotalAV||$19.00 / year||❌||❌||✅||✅||✅|
|4. McAfee||$39.99 / year||❌||❌||✅||❌||✅|
|5. Avira||$59.99 / year||✅ (with game booster)||✅||✅||✅||❌|
|6. Kaspersky||$21.99 / year||✅||❌||✅||✅||✅|
|7. Malwarebytes||$44.99 / year||✅||❌||❌||❌||❌|
|8. Panda||$23.99 / year||✅||❌||✅||✅||✅|
|9. Webroot||$23.99 / year||❌||❌||✅||✅||❌|
|10. Trend Micro||$39.95 / year||✅||❌||✅||❌||✅|
Why Do I Need an Antivirus for Gaming?
There are numerous ways in which gamers might be targeted by threat actors. For example, phishing links are often sent to gamers through in-game messaging systems or through email by hackers pretending to be game admins, aiming to steal your login credentials or payment information. Keyloggers or other malware might be buried in mods or game files that you download off of websites. And security flaws in legitimate games or data breaches on gaming sites might sometimes be exploited by third parties to malicious effect.
But protecting yourself from malware is not the only reason why you might want an antivirus for gaming. Good gaming antiviruses (like Norton) can even boost your device performance through features like game boosters and system tune-up tools — all while minimizing their impact on your gameplay by suspending scans and notifications when you’re in game or by using cloud-based scanners. Just make sure you pick the right antivirus, since not all gaming antiviruses include all of these features.
How to Choose the Best Antivirus for Gaming in 2023
- Malware detection. It goes without saying that a good gaming antivirus should have close to 100% malware detection rates. Ideally, it should use heuristic detection and machine learning (like Norton and Bitdefender) to catch malware that doesn’t yet exist in any malware database.
- Web protection. Hackers will often target gamers through fake links designed to trick you into revealing your account or payment information. That’s why an antivirus with good anti-phishing protection and a secure browser is essential.
- Lightweight. While it’s important to have an antivirus in order to protect your device, you don’t want your antivirus to negatively impact your gaming performance. All of the antiviruses on this list have low RAM and CPU usage, and many of them (like Bitdefender and TotalAV) also have cloud-based scanners and therefore won’t cause any slowdowns even during full system scans.
- Gamer-specific features. A good gaming antivirus should include specific features to enhance your device’s performance while gaming and/or minimize interruptions. Norton has both a game booster, which increases your CPU’s speed while gaming by suspending unnecessary background processes and optimizing processing power, and a gamer mode, which suspends scans and notifications, so you’re never taken out of the game at a crucial moment.
- Ease of Use. All the antiviruses on this list are easy to use (even for users who aren’t too tech-savvy) — they come with intuitive layouts, helpful submenus, and responsive and helpful tech support.
- Good value. You want an antivirus that offers a good balance between cost and value, covering multiple devices with a single subscription and including extra features like webcam protection, system tune-up tools, dark web monitoring, password managers, VPNs, and parental controls. Also look for antiviruses that have money-back guarantees, which let you try the product risk-free and get a full refund if you aren’t happy with the results.
Top Brands That Didn’t Make The Cut:
- Sophos. Sophos offers a good internet security suite, which has high malware detection rates, doesn’t cause slowdown during scans, and is very easy to use. However, Sophos doesn’t have a gaming mode or game booster, so it’s not a good choice for gamers.
- Intego. Intego’s antivirus for Macs is one of the best in 2023, and it even has excellent system tune-up tools for Mac gamers. However, I’m not a big fan of Intego’s antivirus for Windows, and the vast majority of gamers are on Windows in 2023.
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the best antivirus for PC gaming?
Norton 360 for Gamers is the best antivirus for gaming. It has perfect malware detection rates, good anti-phishing protection, and includes tons of gamer-specific features like a game booster, which optimizes your computer’s performance for gaming, and a gaming mode, which suspends virus scans and suppresses notifications while you’re gaming. Norton can even scan the dark web for your gamertag to see if your account or personal information has been leaked.
But all of the antiviruses on this list are great for gaming and have their own unique strengths. For example, Bitdefender uses cloud-based scanning to minimize the impact its scans have on your device’s performance, TotalAV is one of my favorite antiviruses with a VPN, and McAfee comes with excellent parental controls.
Will an antivirus affect my gaming?
Most antiviruses affect gameplay, yes. Virus scans are notorious for their high CPU load, and pop-up notifications may jump on screen at bad moments. This can cause noticeable lag and other performance glitches.
But the best gaming antiviruses won’t affect gameplay at all. These antiviruses have one or more features that keep your antivirus software and games running smoothly together, including:
- Gaming mode. Suspends virus scans and notifications while you’re gaming.
- Game booster. Reallocates background processes to free up CPU processor for gaming.
- Cloud-based scanner. Doesn’t use your CPU to run scans, limiting system strain during routine scans.
- System optimization. Cleans out junk files, speeds up bootup, and increases RAM and memory availability.
Antiviruses like Norton and Avira will actually increase your CPU performance with their game booster features. Other products on my list have automatic gaming modes and cloud-based scanners, so you won’t have to worry about a headshot being interrupted by a security notification!
Can I just turn off my antivirus while my games are open?
You can, but hackers are expecting you to do this — gamers are a huge target for cyber attacks because of their reputation for connecting to the internet without protection.
However, there are many gaming-optimized antivirus options on the market today, so there’s no reason why you should ever turn off your antivirus, even during intense gameplay.
All of the products on this list have excellent malware scanners and game modes, so you can stay protected while gaming without any interruptions. And some antiviruses like Norton 360 for Gamers even provide specialized game boosters that actually improve your PC performance during gameplay.
Are all gaming modes in antivirus software the same?
No, not really. Many of the top-tier antivirus programs now include a “game mode” which will suspend notifications and scans while you’re in full screen mode. But then there are some — like Norton and Avira — which will boost your PC’s performance and actually increase your frame rate and CPU processing power.
Is there a free antivirus that offers a gaming mode?
No, I wasn’t able to find a good free antivirus with a gaming mode. While some free antiviruses like Avira are pretty good, I still recommend getting an affordable paid antivirus that comes with a gaming mode or game booster — like Norton or Bitdefender.