The difference between 5 reels slots and 3 reels slots

As a slot fan, like us, you have already probably stumbled upon various games. The variety you find today, both in online casinos and offered by software developers, can be quite overwhelming. And can make you decide to leave the casino and not try out new online slots.

We understand that you do not want to scroll through hundreds and hundreds of online slots, not knowing which to choose, when you just want to have some good time. This is the reason why we have decided to make things easier for you, by categorising online slots according to one of the main differences today: their structure.

The most popular slots out there have either 5 reels or 3 reels. Some indeed have more complex structures, but they are developed from these 2. So, if you know everything about 5 reels and 3 reels online slots, you can have good judgements about the more complex ones as well. But which one is better for you? That’s only for you to decide after you go through our list of pros and cons.

Stop wasting your time combing the internet to find the most suited online slot for you. We will take you through the basic differences between these 2 most common slot structures, revealing what benefits you can enjoy.

As a gambler of today, you are probably most familiar with 5 reels video slots. But 3 reels slots are also quite popular, not only among veteran seasoned players. This was actually the first structure to take on the slots, as we can see from the old Vegas movies, showing the classic one-armed bandits. The days of land-based 3 reels slots are gone, as today you can only find them in establishments which are found of the retro culture. However, 3 reels slots are all the same popular but have taken the form of online slots. In fact, online slots have taken the place of land-based one in general, as playing online brings up multiple benefits compared to having a trip to the brick and mortar casino.

5 reels slots, however, feature more complex structures and gameplays, oriented towards the demands of the gamblers of today. They also come with interesting themes to approach historical, cultural or any other theme you can imagine.

Let’s see the main differences between 5 reels slots and 3 reels slots, so you can decide which one can better suit your needs.

Number of pay lines

The first and main difference between 3 reels slots and 5 reels slots is the number of pay lines they develop. Online slots which have only 3 reels develop a smaller number of pay lines, usually between 1 and 5. The reason behind this is the fact that you cannot create more lines on the reels to increase the pay lines.

Even though it might sound boring, 1 pay line slots are still interesting for players today. They have the simplest game plays, but they are easy to control or predict and gamblers with a flair for retro are crazy about them. Besides, they are easier to understand by new players.

Low versus high volatility

The higher the risk, the larger the reward is an expression which applies to a game’s volatility as well. Volatility in an online slot represents the win versus loss frequency of the game.

When it comes to online slots, low volatility will provide you with wins more often than not. But the amount given will be less than in a high volatility game. Generally speaking, 3 reels online slots have rather low volatility.

On the other hand, 5 reels online slots are characterized by high volatility. This is particularly the case with online slots which feature progressive jackpots. In this case, the progressive jackpots pack a lot of money, and they need to pay less often to do so. Otherwise, the amount of money would be split every time someone hit the jackpot, and the prize wouldn’t worth the time spent.

The progressive jackpots compress larger payouts, even though they pay less often. In comparison, 3 reels online slots spread the payout amounts evenly.

However, these rules are not set in stone with each and every 3 or 5 reels online slots. There are some out there which have their own particularities.

In other words, the 5 reels slots with higher volatility are more appropriate for risk-takers, gamblers who have deeper pockets, for they are prepared to risk a large amount of money in the search for the grand jackpot. On the other hand, 3 reels slots might seem more appealing for penny players and those who don’t generally like to take risks.


When it comes to looks, 3 reels online slots tend to cut down on high-end graphics and sound, or any kind of special effects that is. This has something to do with their classic touch, first of all. When these were first launched, the technology available wasn’t enough to create the incredible visuals we see today. But this does not bother retro fans, as it is part of the slots’ charm.

However, things get interesting when we speak about the 5 reels online slots. These are more modern and pack lots of action, graphics to immerse us in the games for hours, 3D animations, some of the most creative themes you can think of and even replicas of your favourite movies or TV shows. Here, possibilities are endless.

You will find high-quality graphics in the 5 reels online slots, a great deal of attention to details, even meet your favourite TV or movie characters. Some of these themes also have the voices of famous actors, singers and you name it.


The top payouts in 3 reels online slots tend to be lower than the ones in 5 reels online slots. This is usually widely accepted by the fans of classic slots, keeping things simpler and completing the overall experience of these games. Therefore, jackpots can reach a few thousands of dollars.

In the 5 reels online slots, however, jackpots tend to be generally higher. And those which feature progressive jackpots can offer top payouts of even millions of dollars.

Another aspect of the slots which is related to the payout amounts that can be given is the return to the player percentage or RTP. This represents the per cent that comes back to the players, calculated from the amount of money played. RTP is usually quite similar between these 2 online slots, meaning that it comes down to the number of potential winning combos to determine your rewards.


As mentioned above, 3 reels online slots have straightforward gameplay, which is easier to grasp and simpler to play. And it completes their charm. They are fun because there are not so many things to be set in order to start playing. You just set up your coin denomination, sit back and relax.

On the other hand, more complex gameplays are involved in 5 reels online slots, which are created through high-end technology and designs. When it comes to their gameplay, it involves more elaborated feature to help you create wins, such as scatter and wild symbols, multipliers, expanding symbols and other special symbols. These not only create more sophisticated gameplay but also present the need for understanding how the game works. Moreover, these features generally involve bonus games or rounds with the possibility to either add to your wins or offer free spins with no deposits.

Advantages and disadvantages of 3 reels online slots

The best thing about 3 reels online slots is the fact that things are much simpler and relaxed. They offer minimalistic interfaced, with the same amount of graphics, making things easier to understand for a new player and being the perfect choice for the times when you just want to play a game with not so much fuss.

Also, the 3 reels online slots offer players rewards more often and are thus more fulfilling to play.

However, the advantages of these games are closely related to their disadvantages. Because they are relaxed and laid back, they cut down the complex features that some gamblers look for. And even though they pay more often than not, they do so in smaller amounts of money or coins. So, usually, they do not offer the thrill of chasing a progressive jackpot that can turn your life around in just one spin.

Advantages and disadvantages of 5 reels online slots

Software developers have found that the 5 reels online slots are the soft spot of these games. They feature enough room to include sophisticated features to result in complex gameplay, without making things overcomplicated. They can support special symbols and overall make things more challenging for the gambler.

A higher number of reels than in the 3 reels online slots also means you will benefit from more ways to win. Some 5 reels online slots can develop as much as 243 pay lines, and even more, offering you the chance to personalise your game by choosing the number of pay lines to wager on. You can also adjust things along the way.

In the 5 reels online slots disadvantages category we can include the fact that, for some players, they might be too complex and overwhelming. This might be the case with new players in particular. There are a lot of aspects to take into consideration, from the wager to the number of pay lines, from the potential symbol combinations to the special features involved.

5 reels online slots are more entertaining, but this might get in the way if you just want to relax, with as less effort as you can. Moreover, the 5 reels slots tend to pay less often as their 3 reels cousins, even though they pay larger amounts, and it might get some players frustrated.

In conclusion

In the end, choosing between 3 reels online slots and 5 reels online slots might be just a matter of taste. Both online slots have their advantages and disadvantages, and in the end, they get chosen through individual preferences. It is important to play both of them before you decide and take into consideration all their features in order to do so. You might actually prefer both types of online slots, each with its particular moment or mindset. Whatever you decide, we recommend you always gamble responsibly!