Best Online Slots 2023
Slots are by far the most popular game in online casinos across the country. They represent the largest proportion of games at every casino and have done for years. But what makes online slots so popular?
There are a few key factors:
- Ease of play – The truth is that slots are simple. All you do is click a button to spin the reels, and even that can be automated. It’s the simplest type of game with the biggest potential payout—who wouldn’t love that combination?
- Profit potential – Video slots are the only game that can pay out as little as $0.50 for a winning spin, to as much as $20 million or more. Players love slots because of the potentially life-changing rewards.
- Cost to play – Slots can be played for free, but even the real-money versions start from as little as $0.02 per spin. This way you can play for hours and your balance only changes by a few dollars.
- Countless variety – New video slots are released constantly. The latest pop culture hits, technology and gaming preferences all influence new releases.
- Enjoyment – Spinning the reels and hitting winning combos (and particularly triggering bonus rounds) is just really enjoyable. It’s easy to spend hours lost in the reels.
Best sites to play slots online
If you want access to the biggest variety of the best online slots, here is our pick of the crop:
How to play slots?
Online slots are the evolution of those basic, pull-a-lever slots you find in land-based casinos – they’re more like video games by comparison!
Whereas the classic slots would occasionally pay out coins after lining up 3 matching symbols, online slots offer so much more: they pay out higher (and more often), they’re fun with immersive animations, they have crazy bonus rounds and the variety is endless.
The basic structure of slot machines
The image below is of one the world’s most popular video slots – Gonzo’s Quest, by NetEnt.
We’ve numbered all the key features of the game (and you’ll find similar features on the vast majority of online slot games) and explained exactly what they mean:
- The first reel. These columns contain symbols which rotate with every “spin” – if you can get 3+ matching symbols across reels 1-5, you win a cash payout. Some symbols are rarer than others, and therefore more valuable.
- The second reel.
- The information button. Click here to get full explanations of how the game works, the different symbols and their values, and all the different paylines.
- Paylines. For this slot, there are 20 different ways that matching symbols can “line up” (called paylines) to generate a payout. It’s not just across the middle row! The white line connected to the number 7 shows that this winning spin is on the 7th payline. (Click the information button to see all 20 paylines)
- Win amount. This is the total number of coins you’ve won on your most recent spin. See the next section to understand how “coins” translate into real dollars.
- Balance. This is your current balance, denoted in coins.
- Coin value. You control the dollar value of every “coin” wagered. By making this value larger or smaller, you control your overall bet size.
- Bet level. This is the number of coins you’re wagering: level 1 is 20 coins, level 2 is 40 coins, etc. The maximum is level 5, with 100 coins wagered per spin. This, combined with the coin value (point 7) determines the value of every wager.
- Max bet. This button is a shortcut that automatically programs the largest bet possible.
- Spin button. Hit this button to spin the reels and place your bet.
- Autoplay. Tell the game to automatically spin the reels up to 1,000 times without you pressing another button. There are usually advanced settings so you can add rules – for example, stop autoplay after winning $1,000.
- Number of coins. This displays the number of coins wagered on every spin.
Slots Features explained
Here’s a quick rundown of the main “features” of all slots games.
There are 3 types of symbols which are present in the vast majority of online slots: the Wild, the Scatter, and the basic “payout” symbols.
The Wild symbol (example below) is a special symbol that has no monetary value on its own. Instead, it takes the form of any other symbol in order to complete a winning payout. For example, if you had 4 matching symbols and a Wild on a payline, the Wild would turn this into a 5-symbol payout. These are incredibly valuable because they can only increase the value of your wins!
The Scatter symbol (example below) is a bit different. It has no dollar value at all—instead, players generally need to land 3 or more of this symbol in a single spin. This will unlock some kind of bonus round, which is the most lucrative aspect of any online slot. The bonus round can take many forms (multipliers, free spins, new symbols, picking-and-choosing symbols, lotteries etc) but are always highly profitable.
Finally there are the Basic symbols. These fill the majority of your reels. In the example below, the leftmost symbol is the most valuable, paying out 50 coins for 3-on-a-payline, and 2,500 coins for 5-on-a-payline.
All video slots have a range of symbols, with the lowest-value symbols appearing most often.
Free spins, bonus rounds and multipliers
As we said, there are various kinds of “bonuses” you can unlock with your Scatter symbols. In each case, some kind of message will flash up to catch your attention, which is great if you’re autoplaying – you don’t want to miss a bonus round.
Let’s quickly run through the 3 main ones and how they work:
- Free spins – You can be awarded anywhere from 10 to 50+ free spins, depending on the game. The amount you wagered to trigger the bonus is what you’ll wager during your free spins; in other words, you can’t activate free spins then ramp up the bet amount for more profits!
Free Spins rounds often include extra multipliers, Wilds or Scatters, all designed to increase your winning chances. Your winnings from all spins will accumulate and be paid out in a lump sum at the end of the round.
- Bonus rounds – These come in endless shapes and sizes. However, what generally happens is that you’ll do something (free spins, selecting boxes, watching cool animations, getting respins) that results in an enormous payout. Bonus rounds regularly pay out 10, 50, or even 100x your stake—that’s why slots players love them so much.
- Multipliers – Many games include multipliers which, when triggered, increase your winnings. For example, if your spin wins $50 and triggers a 5x multiplier, this sum automatically jumps to $250.
Some multipliers build and grow exponentially, while others stay the same but hang around for a long time.
RTP (Return to Player percentage)
Every game comes with an independently-verified RTP. This number, out of 100, signifies how much money a video slot pays back to players. For example, an RTP of 99% means that, on average, for every $100 wagered on the game, the player will win $99.
This is generally used to assess games; if the RTP is really low, players are less likely to play it!
Volatility is slightly different: it’s a measure of how much the game actually pays out.
- Low volatility slots pay out very regularly but in small amounts
- These are best-suited to players looking to extend their playing time and avoid risks
- High volatility games pay out sparingly, but generously
- These are best for those looking to win the largest possible sums of money
All jackpot games are inherently highly volatile. For every wager in jackpot games, a tiny percentage is taken by the game and added to the jackpot. Since this happens with every spin, for every player at dozens or hundreds of casinos, the top prizes can be stratospheric.
Major jackpot games pay out millions of dollars (occasionally tens of millions) and most can be triggered with a bet as small as $0.50.
Choose how you want to play slots
In the majority of online casinos, you can actually play online slot games for free. In “demo mode”, all of the game’s mechanics work as normal, but you’re given a wallet of virtual cash. Players use this to familiarize themselves with new games, or sometimes to get their fix of online slot play if they’ve run out of budget.
If you want to make a profit, however, you need to switch over to “real money” gaming. And don’t worry, the game will make it very clear which version you’re playing.
How to play slots for free
There’s no magic track or hack required – you don’t even need to create an account! Simply navigate to the online slots catalog on the casino’s website, find the game you want to play, and look for a “demo mode” or “free play mode” option. Usually this pops up if you hover over the game’s thumbnail.
Where to play slots
You can play physical slot machines at any land-based casino in the world – despite their inferiority to digital games, they remain one of the most popular and iconic games in the world of gambling. However, for the best possible slots experience, you should definitely visit online casinos.
The vast, vast majority of online casinos will stock video slots. However, they won’t always have a great collection or necessarily any jackpot games. The list of contributing developers will also vary by casino, so it’s worth investigating each casino’s games lists before becoming a member.
Online slots in different US states
Unfortunately, not every state currently allows online gaming. At present, the only states where you might find online slots are:
- New Jersey
- West Virginia
In our experience, New Jersey usually has the best selection. Michigan, Pennsylvania and West Virginia are also very good, while the remaining states still need to find their feet. You might notice that some casinos have different game offerings depending on if you’re in NJ or MI, for example. Your online slots NJ might be more substantial, or possibly by entirely different developers. This is due to legalities and won’t, hopefully, mean you’re ever short of high-quality games.
Type of Slots
Generally speaking there are 4 different “types” of online slots you’re likely to see.
These represent the vast majority of online slot games today. Typically bursting with animations, bonuses, Wilds, Scatters, characters and scene transitions, video slots can feature anywhere from 20 to 60+ symbol tiles. Traditional reels are most common, but Cluster Pays and other cutting-edge techniques are becoming common.
Example – Gonzo’s Quest by NetEnt
Gonzo’s Quest uses clustered blocks as opposed to traditional reels. Whenever a winning combination lands, the blocks disappear and new ones fall to replace them: if these create a win, a multiplier is added. This continues (with increasing multipliers) until a win is no longer generated. There is also a lucrative bonus round and very immersive animations throughout.
Even in the online world, classic slots remain surprisingly popular. These have a simple 3×3 grid and one single payline across the middle row. There are not usually any bonus rounds or “extras”, just simple spins and modest payouts.
Example – Total Overdrive by Betsoft
Famed for its neon theme and vintage styling, this game features all the classic symbols (like bars, sevens, cherries, and playing card numbers) and has an appropriately basic user interface. Players can, unusually, benefit from a Wild symbol and occasional multipliers which makes Total Overdrive one of the more exciting classic slots on the market.
Progressive slots, as we described earlier, have shared jackpots. A percentage of every wager from every player across the world is put into the jackpot, meaning that some games can gather millions of dollars in bonus funds in just a few weeks. These are typically won by triggering a bonus round.
Example – Mega Moolah by Microgaming
Famous for repeated jackpot payouts of over $20,000,000, this African safari-themed game is all about the bonus rounds. The base game pays out pretty poorly, but once you land 3+ of the lion Scatter symbol, you’ll enter a bonus round of gigantic proportions. There are 4 jackpots in total, so you’re always guaranteed a good payday.
Invented by Big Time Gaming over in Australia, Megaways slots offer significantly more chances to win on every spin than regular video slots. Where typical online slots have 40 paylines, Megaways games might have as many as 100,000+ ways to win.
Example – Divine Fortune Megaways, by NetEnt
With 6 reels and 117,649 ways to win, this is one of the world’s most popular Megaways slots. Players can turn entire reels Wild, trigger free spins rounds with expanding Wilds, and earn a maximum payout of 38,000x stake! The game has an ancient Greek theme and an RTP of 96.09%, about average for a Megaways game.
How to choose the right slot
When sizing up an online slot, there are several key criteria you need to assess to see if it’s right for you. No two players are the same, so make sure you understand what you want from your gaming to make sure you aren’t disappointed.
- Payout rate and amounts – What is your goal when playing video slots? If it’s to make your balance last as long as possible and enjoy the games, you’ll want low volatility games only – you’re unlikely to strike it rich, but you’ll be able to play for hours.
If your goal is to make as much profit as possible, we recommend high-volatility games or progressive jackpots. While you can quickly lose your budget, this is your best bet for winning truly-life changing sums. Research any games you’re considering playing (or try them in free mode) before committing your cash.
- Bonus rounds – Not all bonus rounds are created equal. Some developers (like NetEnt and Microgaming) are famous for their lucrative bonus rounds. Immortal Romance and Thunderstruck II are now old, essentially outdated games, but their bonuses are unrivaled.
It’s worth reading game reviews to understand just how good a bonus round is before you play.
- Jackpots – Pro tip: when playing progressive jackpots, try to time it well. For example, if Mega Moolah has just been won (and is now reset to $1m) history shows us that it’s unlikely to be won again straight away.
Let the jackpot build up and then start to play: you’re more likely to win and the jackpot will be bigger!
- Graphics quality & immersiveness – New games are battling for your attention beyond bonus rounds and payouts: they want you to love the game. New online slots have video game-quality graphics, charming characters and stunning designs.
Many games follow this new format, while others are extremely basic with no animations and basic graphics. You’ll probably be playing for hours at a time, so make sure it’s a game you like being part of.
- Theme – The majority of online slots fall into distinct themes such as: Ancient Greece or Egypt, Vikings, Horror, Movies, Music, TV Shows, Asian, Fantasy, Westerns and several others. If you have a particular theme that you enjoy, some online casinos allow you to filter by theme to help you narrow your choices.
If that’s not possible, try looking up the best games within your favorite theme, then searching for those at any new casinos.
- Reputation of developer – If you’re thinking about playing a new game, understanding the nature of developers can be useful. For example, if Yggdrasil or Quickspin releases a new game, you know it’s going to be artistic and beautiful, but probably average in terms of payouts. With Microgaming you know it’s going to be average to poor in terms of gameplay, but huge in payouts. With IGT it’s probably going to be a fun pop culture-focused game. Any new NetEnt game is likely to contain innovative features you haven’t seen before.
Knowing the developer like this can help you screen games before you’ve even tried them.