Explore the Most Popular Slot Themes of 2023

Dive into popular slot themes at Paddy Power. From classic to unique slot machine themes, read about what they are and how they might change.

Slot games are the most popular titles in online casinos, no matter the platform. Whether players engage from desktops, laptops, tablets, or smartphones, slot games continue to draw fans, becoming the backbone of the digital casino environment.

Playing a key part in the success that slot games now enjoy are the themes on which these titles are based.

From simple reflections of physical machines to detailed and stylised visuals embracing adventure and fantasy, slot games cover every theme imaginable. In this article, we want to look at why themes play such an important part, how these themes can be categorised, and which themes are the most popular. There’s a lot to explore in the wide world of online slots, so let’s get started.

What Are Themed Slots?

Themed slots are slot games with audio/visual design that is based on central ideas or concepts. Every online slot has a theme since they’re built entirely on software.

The most basic type of slot theme is seen in slots which mirror the traditional hardware systems. These basic slot themes are usually applied to simple slots which are made for new players, or players who want a streamlined appearance and gameplay system. More advanced slot themes can then dip into the world of history, animal life, fantasy, science fiction,  licensed titles, and much more.

The sky is the limit, and developer imagination is constantly producing new themes, modifications of existing themes, and experimental themes to test the waters for the future.

Why Do Slots Use Themes?

The very first slot games were hardware machines developed in the late 1800s. These mechanical devices needed a way to demonstrate to players how the game worked at a glance. They achieved this feat by using playing cards as symbols, where the five-reel design would generate results like what you’d see in a poker hand.

At the time, poker was already extremely popular and had been for years. The use of cards as a theme didn’t just simplify newcomer understanding of the game’s structure, it also drew a parallel to existing public interests and passions. These themes put a familiar edge on something that had never been seen before, helping to set a precedent that’s followed to this day.

While card-based themes in early slots were great introductions to how slots worked, they also produced an issue of mechanical overcomplexity. Long before computer chips, the number of card combinations in five reels was too complex for physical slot machines to manage automatically. This drove the creation of a simplified version of early slot machines, called the Liberty Bell.

Launched in 1894, the Liberty Bell reduced the number of reels to three and replaced the full deck of cards with simple suit symbols. Alongside the addition of a star symbol, horseshoe symbol, and the eponymous Liberty Bell symbol, this new machine was simple enough that payouts could be automated.

For its theme, the Liberty Bell took its name from the famed iconic symbol of American independence. This machine leaned on American history and patriotism as a backbone of its design, while also leveraging the card symbols already made popular in earlier versions of slot machines.

These early examples are important because they illustrate both sides of why integrating themes into slots is important. Slot machine themes are used because they make the games more appealing than they would be otherwise. Slots games with themes can draw inspiration from other games or the outside world, helping them become more than just the sum of their mechanical parts.

How Do We Categorise Slot Themes?

With so many thousands of slot games on the market, it’s only natural that patterns would begin to appear. Over time, these have consolidated into several main groups, some of which are even developed as part of a series of titles. While the below aren’t the only themes out there, they do illustrate some of the most popular slot themes in the digital marketplace.


Following the card symbols used in the earliest slot games, fruit became the next most common staple. Cherry symbols were the most popular, followed by the other fruit like apples, bananas, and oranges. Machines built on fruit continued to be popular all through the hardware age and found themselves common inclusions in popular online slot themes.

While not always the case, the slots that use fruit as a theme tend to be among the simpler games to play and understand. This ties into the legacy of the slot theme and its origins within older and simpler hardware slots. Fruit slot theme games are thus a great place for beginners to start.

Slots using this theme include:

  • Bonus Fruits
  • Fruit Stack
  • Opal Fruits


Slots with adventure themes are some of the most popular thanks to the focus on exploring the unknown. Adventure is in our blood, so it’s natural that we tend to seek out unexplored frontiers. Slot games using this theme can provide a sense of the unknown, often combined with the potential of uncovering some type of hidden prize.

Slots using this theme include:

  • Slingo Inca Trail
  • Temple Tumble
  • El Dorado City of Gold


Horror is a popular theme in many forms of media for its ability to scare our socks off while we watch or play. Slot games that embrace this theme can focus on terrifying elements, or they can cross over into more comedic, cartoonish, or romantic takes on classic horror tropes.

Slots using this theme include:

  • Fear of the Dark
  • Blood Suckers Megaways
  • Vampire Princess of Darkness


Animals can be targets of affection, fear, sport or food. The variations of animals and what they do in our lives mean they form a fantastically flexible set of themes for slot games. Sometimes these games can focus on the cute and cuddly aspects, while other times centre on sport, safari, or even fear. Animal-themed slots are some of the most popular out there and with good reason.

Slots using this theme include:

  • Epic Ape
  • Mammoth
  • Lion’s Hoard


History is an important part of who we are, and on learning so much about where humanity came from, it’s impossible to not feel some kind of connection to some elements of our past. Whether it’s the age of industry or the possibilities of ancient honour, there are infinite examples to draw from, both from real examples and fictionalised versions of areas and events.

Slots using this theme include:

  • Spartacus
  • Egyptian Emeralds
  • Last Chance Saloon


Few activities bring us together more than sports. Whether playing a local game or cheering on a national team, sports illustrate the highest level of performance that humanity can acquire. Victories and disappointments hit close to home, and the camaraderie around these games can build lifelong friendships or bitter rivalries. So much passion and potential make them great fits for slot games, and it’s here they’ve found considerable success.

Slots using this theme include:

  • Big Racing
  • Catch of the Day: Reeling ‘Em In
  • Ascot: Sporting Legends

Licensed/Pop Culture

Media crossovers are an effective way to both build on existing popularity and introduce newcomers to IPs they might otherwise have missed. Slots embrace this idea openly with licensed crossovers into many contemporary and nostalgic pop culture trends. Every new successful show, movie, or band provides the possibility for exploration, so there’s always an influx of new potential themes to explore.

Slots using this theme include:

  • Gordon Ramsay Hell’s Kitchen
  • Sausage Party
  • Terminator Genisys


Holidays are a time for celebration and revelry. This makes them a perfect fit for slots and many holiday seasons and events. From end-of-year celebrations to Valentine’s or St. Patrick’s Day, iconography from holidays make great companions to slot games, which is why holiday slot themes are always popular.

Slots using this theme include:

  • Christmas Krampus
  • New Year’s Bonanza
  • Luck O’ The Irish

Fairy-Tales and Legends

Fairy tales and legends are important parts of every culture, with stories that have been internalised, modified, and repeated for generations. They’re also royalty-free, making them a great starting position for a slot theme design. These slot themes can run the gambit from lovely recreations to frightening reimaginations, but either way, the result is instant recognition from millions of players.

Slots using this theme include:

  • Arthur and the Round Table
  • Gods of Troy
  • Asgardian Stones

Which Slot Themes Are the Most Popular?

Of all the different slot themes available, the most popular tend to be those related to animals or those about uncovering lost treasure.

Animals as a theme works so well thanks to the fascination and love we have for so many different forms of animal life. Whether looking at them in the zoo, sharing our homes with them as pets, or catching and eating them, animals make up an important part of our lives that fit perfectly as slot themes.

Treasure provides imagery whose connection with slots is easy to understand. One of the best parts of slots is the possibility of winning, and this idea is shared across all nations and cultures. We love exploration and treasure hunting, and whether consciously realised or not, this can also affect the slot themes we enjoy. Whether looking at diamond mines or ancient Egyptian riches, these themes always stay close to our hearts.

It’s also important to note that the popularity of slots can vary a lot depending on the time of year, and the culture where a slot is played. Games with holiday slot themes tend to involve a lot of snow and Christmas iconography, so they’ll see more players in the Northern Hemisphere.

Slots with sports game themes can vary enormously depending on the country and the sports played within. Football slots in the UK or Spain will tend to do quite well all year around, for example, while they’ll underperform in places like America where football isn’t as popular a sport. This is doubly the case when the theme involves an actual sporting personality, where somebody unfamiliar with both a sport and its players is unlikely to see the appeal in such a targeted theme.

Where Could the Future of Slot Themes Lead?

Tastes in media change and popular slot themes are just one example of the effect changing tastes has on an industry. Slot game themes in the future will continue to evolve, and they’re likely to follow successful patterns and experiments from other types of media. This also makes them difficult to predict on an individual scale.

Slot themes in the future will follow the next generation of contemporary nostalgic and pop trends. If a genre of movies begins to dominate, more slot themes mirroring this trend will develop. If something popular today dips out of popularity only to see a resurgence, then slot themes could similarly mirror this development.

There’s also a possibility that some next-generation slot games could allow players to modify their own slot games to support a customised theme. This could be achieved manually, or through AI-driven assistants.

If the manual approach is adopted, some slot games could let players choose their backgrounds, their symbols, and their art/music style. This level of customisation would allow for eclectic combinations and themes too esoteric for other players, but they might also be perfect fits for those with specific tastes.


What are slot themes?

Slot themes are the imagery and story on which slot games are based. These range from simple casino themes to more abstract representations of fantasy, sci-fi, and adventure. Themes include graphics and sound effects and often affect the user interface and bonus games too.

What are the most popular slot themes?

The most popular slot themes revolve around animals and mythology. These are extremely flexible themes, so they result in a lot of interesting and unique themed titles.

What were the first slot themes?

The first themed items to be included were playing cards and fruit, but the big first overall theme was the Liberty Bell. Based on the American historical artefact, the basis of this slot still exists in Philadelphia today!

Do slot themes affect gameplay?

Slots will usually play the same no matter the theme, at least in the base gameplay. Slot themes often shine the most in bonus games, which is where changes in design and ideas can best come out to play.


What do you think?