Online slots are unquestionably the most frequently played games at our recommended online casinos, and are hugely popular with players from all around the world. There are several reasons behind this: they’re easy to play; you don’t need to get a table of players together before a game can begin; there’s no complicated rules or terminology; and, unlike most other casino games where you can grind away, making a bit of profit here and there, with online slots your entire life can change with one spin.
They’re fun games to play, too, and there is enormous variety in the gaming action and themes, and with new games being released all the time, this freshness and choice is also a large part of their attraction.
The online casinos that we recommend all feature a huge range of the best online slots from the world’s top producers, so check our list of featured online slots casinos below:
Online slots software
Online casinos generally don’t design and produce slots and other casino games. They provide the platform on which games are played, but they are created by specialist games developers. And while the number of games producers is growing all the time, the market is still dominated by three key brands — Playtech, NetEnt and Microgaming.
Playtech was founded in 1999 and has held a dominant share of the global gaming market for many years. With more than 500 games in its catalogue, there are over 130 different Playtech casinos operating globally, and they also provide sports book, mobile casino and social gaming sites as well. Playtech is particularly noted for its themed progressive slots networks — for a number of years, these were based on heroes from Marvel Comics, such as X-Men and Captain America, but more recently they have ventured into the world of DC Comics as well, with their range of Batman and Spider-Man themed progressive jackpot games.
The award-winning Scandinavian developer NetEnt, founded in 1996, is another of the major players in online gaming today, and now has more than 200 games to its credit, featured in over 100 international online casinos. They have led way in innovation in the last couple of years, both in terms of gameplay and in the new themes they have introduced. NetEnt is also noted for the higher than average payout of its games, as well as for producing the best mobile slots, and these now feature in a growing number of mobile sites.
The third of the ‘big 3’ is Microgaming, a name long associated with online gaming and one of the industry’s pioneers. It has a huge catalogue of games that can be found in more than 400 different online casinos, and introduced many of the innovations that are now considered as standard. While all of the major producers have their own progressive jackpot networks, Microgaming’s is by far the biggest and most successful, and is creator of the world record holder for online casino payouts — Mega Moolah, which to date has paid out well over USD$800 million in prize money.
3-reel online slots
Despite all the changes that online gaming has delivered, and the rapid way in which slots technology has evolved, there is still a place for the classic, Vegas-style 3-reel slot machine of the popular imagination. Admittedly, they are nowhere near as common as they once were, but you will still find examples in most of our recommended online casinos.
The standard 3-reel slot has three rotating reels, and most games will feature either 1, 3 or 5 paylines. In most cases, these games have only one screen, which contains both the reels and the paytable, and they offer straightforward, uncomplicated gameplay without the distraction of bonus rounds, animated symbols and the like. 3-reel slots also tend to have relatively small coin sizes and few options as to wagering, and so the payouts they offer aren’t huge, especially in comparison with later versions of the game.
5-reel online slots
Most of the games played in our listed online casinos are 5-reel slots — however, within this broad category title there is enormous variety, and 5-reel slots come in all manner of styles.
Known also as video slots, these games have multiple paylines (anywhere from 15 to 100), let you play multiple coins per line, and also generally have a good range of coin sizes, and so this means they are accessible to just about anybody — video slot games can be played for a few pence or hundred of pounds per spin.
Likewise, no matter what your taste or interests, you’ll be able to find a slots game with a theme and design that appeals; there are literally thousands of different games, some with detailed and engaging back stories and ‘plots’, others which are just downright crazy, but there really is a game out there for everyone.
However, it’s the advanced gameplay that most captures the imagination with video slots. There have been so many innovations in the way games are played, that it’s hard to keep track of them all — whether it’s wild and scatter symbols, falling, rolling and sticky reels, multi-directional paylines, or specially-composed soundtracks and scores, all of these factors combine to make playing modern video slots a treat for all the senses.
243 and 1024 ways-to-win slots
In the search to further enhance the playing experience, another type of slot has been developed where there are no conventional paylines at all — instead of symbols needing to line up in a pre-determined pattern for a winning spin, any 3 or more symbols landing left to right on the reels in any combination pays out (however, in most games for wagering purposes 30 ‘lines’ are automatically in play on each spin).
Both 243 and 1024 ways-to-win slots have five reels, but the former has three rows of symbols, while the latter has four.
Themed video slots
The use of familiar characters, stories and music from films, TV shows, video games and pop culture lies behind the huge popularity of video themed slots (sometimes referred to as branded games).
Whether it’s characters from video games like Tomb Raider and Hitman, cult classic films like Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, animated TV series like South Park, international comedy favourites like Little Britain, or globe-conquering mega TV series like Game of Thrones, the range of themed slots is enormous and growing all the time.
These games work so well because they’re not ‘knock offs’, but rather fully licensed by the studios and producers who created them, which means game developers can freely use video clips, soundtracks, images of the characters, and the storylines that that made the original so popular in the first place.
Progressive jackpot slots
A progressive jackpot slots win can be a genuinely life-changing moment, as big payouts on these games are regularly worth tens of millions of dollars.
This is because games are networked across every online casino where they’re played all over the world, and a percentage of every single losing spin goes into the central jackpot pool. This is why they grow so quickly and reach such epic proportions. Most progressive jackpots have a minimum starting point (with the biggest beginning at USD$1,000,000), but they have no upper limit, and so continue to grow and grow until they are won.
All the major game producers have their own progressive networks, and the way the jackpot is won will vary from game to game —in some games, it involves a payline win, as in a conventional slots game, in others you get to play for the progressive jackpot in a special bonus round, which is usually randomly triggered (although your chances of this happening are greatly improved if you’re betting the max).
Play free slots
As most of the online casinos that we feature enable you to play games in web-based versions in Instant Play, this also means that a large proportion of their slots can be played in practice mode —which essentially means playing for free. At some sites, it’s possible to do this even if you don’t have an account there.
To enjoy these free slots, go to the game you want to play, and if it’s available you will have a option marked ‘Play for Free’, or ‘Practice Mode’ (or something similar). Clicking on this takes you to the game and you’ll see that you’ve been given a sum of demo cash to play with. There’s no need to limit your coin size or the number of lines you play here — if you run out of cash, simply refresh and start again!
Online slots tips
Online slots are games of chance. There is no pattern as to how the reels fall, no way to predict what is coming next, and no such as thing as a payout being ‘due’ — every spin takes place with the same probability of hitting a winning combination as every other spin, and is not affected by what has gone before. So is there any point to having a slots strategy? There is if you want to maximize your enjoyment.
Slots strategies are not about how you play the game, but rather about how you manage your bankroll. Key to this is making sure you’re wagering an amount that’s right for you by choosing the right coin size and playing for the right number of coins per line. Your aim should always be to bet the maximum number of coins and lines, so choosing the appropriate size of coin is essential.
To do this, first select how much you want to play for per spin e.g., £2.50. If you’re playing a 25 payline game where you can play between 1-10 coins per line, to bet the max (i.e., 10 coins on all 25 lines), then you should opt for a coin size of 1p i.e., 1p x 10 = 10p x 25 paylines = £2.50.
In most slots, and especially in progressive jackpot games, you should always aim to bet the maximum number of coins and paylines, so if you have to choose between reducing these or reducing your coin size, always choose the latter.
Online slots odds
As well as everything we’ve described above, another reason for the popularity of online slots is the relatively high return to player percentage, or RTP.
In land-based casinos, regardless of where in the world you play, you can expect a RTP of anywhere between 70% – 87%. The RTP with online slots, however, is significantly higher. The average is around 95%, although it’s not uncommon to find games with a RTP as high as 98%.
At the casinos we recommend, you can easily check a site’s slots RTP, as certified by an independent auditor, and at some you can find the RTPs for each individual game as well.
Although they are relatively straightforward to play, there’s a lot more to online slots than meets the eye. There’s a huge range of game types and styles, while the enormous number of vastly different themes means there’s a slot game designed to meet just about every taste.
To find the best online slots in all categories, visit our recommended casinos as they feature the most diverse and engaging collections of slots to be found anywhere.