Year in review: My top 21 slots of 2020
All right, let’s face it. The year 2020 was not exactly the best year in the history of the world. This is largely due to the terrible affliction referred to as COVID-19. At the start of the year, this was just a bunch of capitalised letters thrown together with a random number, but I can assure you that by now we will all forever remember this “code.”
Despite the world being ravaged by a pesky and oftentimes deadly pandemic, I guess it’s healthy to acknowledge that the year itself was not all bad. For me, for instance, the start of the year saw the birth of my lovely daughter, which is definitely something that shone a light on this horrible time period. Even outside of this, I bet most of us had at least some bright spots here and there… The world of online casinos, for instance, gave us some positives in the form of incredibly entertaining new slots to pass our time with. They helped us forget about the ills of our daily lives and quarantines for at least a little bit!
In this article, I will do my best to honour what I think was my favourite 21 slots in 2020. The reason why I went with 21 instead of the more common 20 is that I actually forgot one slot and had to make a late addition…
Before we get into it, I should mention that by no means did I play every single one of the hundreds upon hundreds of online slots released in 2020! This is but a list of my favourites out of the ones that I did get a chance to invest some of my entertainment budget on!
For the sake of maximum entertainment value, I tried to put these top 21 slots in a rising order from my least liked to my best liked. What is more, I also tried to base my opinions more on how great the games are instead of whether I won a lot of money from them…
(Post scriptum: Forgive me for Finnish in-game texts… This is how I take in my slots!)
(Post post scriptum: Please note that although the pictures displayed here were taken from free to play versions of the games, I did play each of these games with real money throughout the year.)
#21: Hot Shots 2
In 2020, we were supposed to have the UEFA European Championship tournament where, for the first time in history, my native country of Finland was also supposed to compete. This was going to be massive, but unfortunately, the pandemic robbed us of that as well. Still, this did not mean that iSoftBet was going to refrain from releasing Hot Shots 2; a sequel to their hot 2018 footie slot.
Much like the previous edition, Hot Shots 2 features a bunch of colourful and vibrant animal characters who are obviously crazy for the number one sport in the world. Extra features include wilds that spread to form a cross around them and free spins where each wild will raise the multiplier! Land even just one wild on your reels in this 243-ways slots and you are bound to win a bunch of cash!
#20: Noble Sky
Provider: Neon Valley Studios
Have you ever heard of Neon Valley Studios before? Neither had I, but thanks to the help of Microgaming, this smaller game studio was able to release its intriguing game Noble Sky to the world! This slot is all about amazing flying airships and perhaps some of the most grandiloquent music that I have heard from a slot machine in a while.
Noble Sky has two main bonus features. The first one sees you collecting coins on the reels, which can sometimes trigger the jackpot feature. I managed to trigger it once myself but was unsuccessful in winning more than the mini jackpot. The other random feature sees an airship flying through the screen and landing on one of the reels. This stacked wild then keeps moving to the left, one reel at a time, increasing the multiplier as it goes!
#19: Riddle Reels: A Case of Riches
Provider: Play’n GO
These days, more and more people are turning to retro things for some much-needed nostalgia and classic feels. This means that even easily accessible three-reel slots such as Riddle Reels can get surprisingly popular. And hey, who doesn’t love a good murder mystery—especially when it’s been created by none other than Play’n GO!
Although the base game in Riddle Reels might be quite simple indeed, no one can dispute the excitement of the slot’s unique bonus game (pictured above). Here you are essentially throwing a die, solving puzzles, and hopefully walking away with some extra wins in the process. Rather than me explaining it to you, though, why don’t you go and familiarise yourself with the core concepts yourself?
Provider: ELK Studios
ELK Studios has made some terrific slots over the years and remains one of my favourite game providers today—as evidenced by their 4 games in this top 21! If you want to go and have a look at some of my past favourites from this Swedish company, I suggest you try games like Wild Toro, Taco Brothers, Win-Win, Ho Ho Tower, and Kaiju. Nonetheless, Visitors is a wacky space-themed slot with ridiculously great sounds!
Visitors has two pretty distinctive bonus features. If you land a respin symbol on both your 1st and your 5th reel, you will get to see some extra multipliers, large symbols, or extra wilds on your screen. The bonus game, on the other hand, triggers when you get bonus symbols on your 1st, 3rd and 5th reel. This will begin the bonus game where you hope to get as many rocket ships on your reels as possible. This is quite a unique spin on traditional respin bonuses found in, for example, many Pragmatic Play games!
Provider: Red Tiger
First of three Red Tiger games on my top 20 list, 4Squad has clearly been inspired by the somewhat recent surge of superhero movies and video games. This game has got some great heroic music and cool jingly sounds effects to keep you company during those fun and long sessions!
Just like the name implies, 4Squad hosts 4 different heroes—each represented with their own two colour-coded symbols. Instead of paylines, though, here you have 7 avalanche reels and are hoping to form clusters with said symbols. Collect 8 of the same symbol and you will be graced with the presence of one of your heroes! Or, collect all of them during one spin and you will see all the heroes joining forces to create new wilds, get rid of low-valued symbols, and more!
#16: Yucatan’s Mystery
Provider: Red Tiger
Do you like Gonzo’s Quest? If you do, you might like Yucatan’s Mystery as well since it has a similar theme. Here, too, you find you yourself in the jungle searching for Mayan treasures… Warrior princesses, strange statues and obscure stone heads are all included amongst the symbols!
Yucatan’s Mystery’s base game might be nothing to write home about, but there are still some definite redeeming qualities included in this volatile slot. One cool thing is the inclusion of the mystery symbol that can reveal any normal symbol. And while you probably won’t be seeing the free spins mode too often, the huge growing mystery symbol in that mode (pictured above) can sometimes do some major damage! I once won big on Yucatan’s Mystery, instantly cashed in on my chips, and never looked back!
(I also actually had to play a total of 873 spins on free play mode to hit the free spins for the above picture!)
#15: Aloha! Christmas
By now, most online casino fans are probably familiar with the classic NetEnt game called “Aloha! Cluster Pays.” For one reason or another, however, this game has always been left in the shadows of other NetEnt classics from that era, including Starburst, Gonzo’s Quest, and Twin Spin. Perhaps it is the cluster system or the somewhat high volatility that has made Aloha less popular than its contemporaries…
To be honest, I did not find “Aloha! Christmas” a lot different from the original one, except for on the bonus side of things. Unlike in the original, here you have two different bonuses to choose from, both with their own number of free spins and extra multipliers. To be honest with you, I found myself spending quite a bit of time with this slot during the holiday season!
#14: Neon Rush Splitz
Yggdrasil, too, has created many magnificent slots over the years. My ultimate favourite from them has to be Seasons, which, in my mind, is one of the best and most beautiful casino games ever created. Neon Rush Splitz is another good one with nostalgic visuals and sounds aplenty!
When I first discovered Neon Rush Splitz, I was instantly hooked by the theme and the phenomenal mystery symbols. Depending on which reel the mystery symbols land, you can get from a maximum of 1 to 5 symbols to help you win more. One of my highlights with this game, though, was when I managed to win the third-largest jackpot available! The sizes of said jackpots change depending on your bet level. The free spins mode, on the other hand, only features wild symbols and jackpot prizes under the mystery symbols.
Provider: Nolimit City
Many say that the year 2020 was the coming out year for Nolimit City. Personally, I love many of their games like Pixies vs. Pirates, Owls, Ice Ice Yeti, and Coins of Fortune, but the release of Deadwood really did hit me too. This western slot has a lot to give with its several bonus features, random stacked wilds, and 576-ways pay structure.
If you land a sheriff star on your 1st and 5th reel, all your low-paying symbols in between turn into wilds. And, if you land three scatters, you will get to choose from three different free spins bonuses called Gunslinger Spins, Hunter Spins, and Shootout Spins. Furthermore, if you land both the sheriff stars and the three scatters on your screen, that is when things really get going! This happened to me once and suffice to say that it was magical! (I cannot remember just how much I won, but I think I went to meet with the virtual cashier straight after!)
#12: Katmandu Gold
Provider: ELK Studios
Have you ever been to Nepal? Unless you have, you might not know that Katmandu is the capital of the said country that also hosts the highest mountain in the world in Mount Everest! Some of this mountain is perhaps visible in the ELK Studios slot Katmandu Gold, which is another addition in a long line of ELK’s Gold series games. I somewhat like them all but found myself spending the most time with titles Katmandu Gold and Black River Gold. Despite their sky-high volatility, that is!
Each Gold-series title has their own extra features. With Katmandu Gold, you have so-called expanding win-tiles that can grow either downwards or upwards in order to create some nice wins in conjunction with the entertaining ways system. Another cool addition is the ice climber feature where two special symbols can grace you with extra wilds and premium symbols. To cap it all off, Katmandu Gold also has a free drops bonus game with increasing multipliers. Talk about high volatility indeed!
#11: Esqueleto Explosivo 2
Being that Thunderkick is not as well-known as some of the game providers out there, not everyone might be familiar with the first Esqueleto Explosivo title either. Personally, I always loved the funny singing mariachi skeletons of the original, and this second game is much of the same—with some additional perks included, of course. Even the base game is a lot of fun with exploding wilds (the golden skull in the picture) and increasing multipliers that can go all the way up to x32 if you’re lucky!
The biggest difference between Esqueleto 1 and 2 is the sequel’s inclusion of a free spins mode. Although I could only trigger it once or twice, I very much loved how crazy things got with it! During free spins, your multipliers will be even higher, and lesser multipliers will even be removed as things progress. What is more, you will also be getting new free spins here and there by landing enough scatters or wild symbols on your screen!
#10: Hotline 2
NetEnt sure seems to love sequels—and for good reason. Hotline is just another one of this major provider’s great slots that received a second take in 2020. And to NetEnt’s credit, they actually made this likewise Miami Vice-inspired sequel quite different. The amazing soundtrack and visuals are still there, but Hotline 2 is ways-based and has removed the respins that the original Hotline was famous for.
Thanks to the 243 ways, respins are not even needed as wins will get high regardless. The best thing here, however, might very well the randomly triggered feature where the player is given one to three stacked wilds for free! I actually didn’t even care about the free spins mode all that much as the growing columns (and the number of ways) made things a bit too convoluted and volatile for me.
#9: Clash of the Beasts
Provider: Red Tiger
Here comes Red Tiger’s third and final slot on my top 21 list! To be honest, Clash of the Beasts is such a highly volatile slot that I almost removed it from my list during a gaming session that I had a few days ago. Before I could do that, however, I managed to hit the free spins mode with a few extra scatters and got a win of over x570 for my bet! This meant that the game would definitely have to remain on this list!
Clash of the Beasts is a simple slot with an absolutely tremendous free spins mode. If you manage to land two or more beast scatters on your reels, you will be taken to a free spins mode where said beasts (there are two different ones; tiger and dragon) will be featured. You can land either only tigers, only dragons, or both. If you land both tigers and dragons on your reels, things can get extra juicy with up to two extra features per spin being added to the reels at the same time. This is when true magic happens!
Provider: ELK Studios
Since I was a little kid, I have always been extremely fascinated by dreams and especially lucid dreams where you get to control what happens. Look it up! Because of this lasting fascination, I was also excited to try ELK Studio’s new Dreamzone slot, and I was not disappointed! Audiovisually speaking, everything here works well, all the way from the crispy graphics to the Avicii-style catchy techno soundtrack!
The game mechanics of Dreamzone are pretty spectacular as well. As you land combos, you will receive extra features that hopefully let you empty your screen from symbols. When this happens, you will receive free drops with extra multipliers. Empty the field once again and your multipliers will rise even higher!
#7: Twin Spin Megaways
The legendary original Twin Spin is arguably still one of NetEnt’s best games ever. Thus, Twin Spin Megaways was undoubtedly one of the biggest slot releases in 2020. (I never really cared for Twin Spin Deluxe, though, and I don’t think many did as the game’s now been completely done away with.) Twin Spin Megaways combines the phenomenal visuals and jazzy music of the original with the ultra-popular megaways system of Big Time Gaming slots.
As you would expect, Twin Spin Megaways retains the synchronised double reels from the original and even still sometimes goes into overdrive with extra synched reels. Furthermore, there is now a free spins mode where the two synched reels will always come with the highest number of symbols on them.
Provider: Big Time Gaming
Speaking of Big Time Gaming and Megaways, I remember spending quite a bit of time with BTG’s Survivor. Based on the reality hit series, which I am a huuuge fan of, the Survivor video slot even features music from the popular show. Additionally, the screen is split between two tribes whose symbols serve as wilds with multipliers. While the system might sound a tad confusing, you will soon get the hang of things and grow to appreciate it!
Things in Survivor can get pretty hectic when you manage to hit a few scatters on your screen and access the free spins mode. During free spins, your wild multipliers will not lose their value between spins, which means you could stumble upon some phenomenal wins here!
#5: Cash Noire
Everyone loves a great crime thriller. NetEnt’s Cash Noire is a rather rare slot in that it captures the feel of such shows and books perfectly. There is even a cool narrative voice in the background giving details and clues about certain symbols seen in the game. Instead of trying to be all serious, however, there is a sense of parody involved.
In addition to the dark atmosphere and the exhilarating music, Cash Noire also offers stellar game mechanics. Winning symbols are replaced by new ones, and each consequent win gives the player new clues on their way to free spins and a fitting car chase. This game is simply fun to play!
#4: Ghost Glyph
Quickspin has become known for its games’ cartoonish style and simple yet effective features. I could have probably included more Quickspin games on a top 50 list, but it was Ghost Glyph that really stole my heart this year, making it to my top 4. I have never really liked Reactoonz but Ghost Glyph is at least somewhat similar with its falling symbols and cluster-type winning combinations. So, if you like Reactoonz and Reactoonz 2 (the latter of which was released this year and failed to make my list), you should give this wacky game a try! And hey, apparently even if you didn’t like Reactoonz, you should still give Ghost Glyph a whirl!
The goal in Ghost Glyph is to form winning clusters and feed the ghosts resulting in from these consequent wins. Don’t take my word for it, though—go play this game yourself! If you feed the ghosts enough times, you get extra features and can even access the volatile free spins mode. Just be prepared to see some bad bonuses as well!
#3: Miami Glow
Provider: Snowborn Games
We have now made it to the top 3 slots on my list! This last trio is just awesome… Take Snowborn’s (presented by Microgaming) Miami Glow, for instance. This slot must be one of the most beautiful works of art that I have ever laid my eyes on. Both the nostalgic sounds and the flashing lights in this game are pure bliss for my eyes and my ears!
The bonus features in Miami Glow are pretty cool, too. Players will sometimes randomly receive extra multipliers on their spins, and these multipliers are carried to both randomly triggered sticky wild spins and the so-called Glow bonus spin. The Glow bonus spin is basically a spin where you can expect to see a ton of wilds on your screen. Still, it is the potential multiplier given to you at the start of each spin—as well as the audiovisual flair—that really make this game a joy to play!
#2: Aurora Beast Hunter
My #2 slot of the year 2020 must have been Aurora Beast Hunter from JustForTheWin. This was the first time I had ever really paid attention to a product from this company that’s been around since 2016, and boy was I in for a treat! This incredible game bedazzled me with its anime-type style and incredible rock ‘n roll tunes. Never had I ever witnessed a slot this cool. There I said it: Aurora Beast Hunter is the coolest slot that I have ever seen! That is something to be celebrated and deserving of a number two spot on my list!
While it is, again, the audiovisual qualities that draw me to Aurora Beast Hunter the most, I do have to give it up to the rather unique reel structure where reels covered by just one symbol are always replaced with stacked wilds instead. Oh, and I should not forget that landing two scatters on your screen will always give you a respin and that three scatters allow you to pick from three different free spins modes!
Provider: ELK Studios
Here it finally is—my number one slot of 2020! It was not easy to rank all of these awesome slots based on how good I think they are, but I don’t think I could have placed any other slot than Nitropolis on the top of the heap. As the narrator in this game says, citizens of Nitropolis are smart and beautiful—and so is this game!
I guess Nitropolis could be referred to as a weird steampunk world, but I don’t know if this description would do it justice. This game is just so unique that you would think that it was based on a TV series, a movie, or a video game. I would certainly like to hear the backstory behind this game and its endearing animal characters!
Nitropolis has everything that I would want in an online slot. Obscure theme music, colourful graphics, and superb gaming mechanics. Every single winning spin brings about a respin that increases your chances of winning, which, in turn, makes even the smallest of wins potentially glorious. This is taken even further with symbol stacks that can increase your number of ways to win to ridiculous heights. The free spins mode, too, is something to behold…
Do me a favour and just go and play this game already!
There you have it. I put my heart and soul into this list, so I hope you were entertained and perhaps even found something new to play…
Here’s hoping that, in terms of slots, 2021 will be as good a year as 2020 was!
Oh, and if you liked this article, check out my blog post about good and bad casino bonuses.