Chances are that you’re familiar with what a video slot machine is. Maybe you’ve even played on one before. They’re different from your traditional slot machine in that the reels aren’t mechanical, but instead are operated by software. They’re more like a video game.

You’ll notice that they’ve overtaken these archaic 3-reel machines in most casinos. My guess as to why that is, is because they’re more fun to play. There are storylines, mini-bonus rounds and several ways to win. You get more bang for your buck.

I’m only scratching the surface in regards to the types of features there are, and most machines aren’t very good at explaining what types of features they have or how to hit them. So I thought it would be helpful to you if I explained what some of the features you’ll come across are, what makes them unique and how they’ll hopefully make you more money.

Many of those new slots involve novel themes. Still others involve different game mechanics, which allow players to experience new ways to win. Still others increase the size of the jackpot, or provides innovative new bonus games. In the space below, Best Online Casinos has decided to describe the most popular types of slot machines in casinos these days. When you encounter types of slots which interest you, feel free to click on the description to learn more about that particular slots feature and see a list of slot games you can play online that have that particular feature enabled.


Types of Video Slots & Features

There are many kinds of features. What you’ll find below, though, are the features that will arguably have the biggest impact to how much you win.

Random Wilds – Random wilds are a popular new creation of the past 15 years. A random wild symbol which does not act the way a standard wild icon does. For the most part, this means that the wild symbol appears after the reels stop spinning. The random wild appears as a pleasant surprise after the fact.

Otherwise, a random wild symbol works just like a traditional wild symbol: it substitutes for any other symbol on the reel except scatter symbols. When the random wild symbol appears, it can complete winning combinations and thus gives players more chances to win. Look at this symbol like one last chance to win the jackpot.

TV Show Slots – TV show slots were some of the first licensed slot machines in casinos. International Game Technology (IGT) had a lot of success with television franchises like Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy, and I Love Lucy. A number of other slots manufacturers naturally followed suit, hoping to cash in on the nostalgia and entertainment factor of TV-themed slots. Over the years, IGT continued to buy new licenses, so that television productions old and new now have their own slot machines.

Among the classic TV shows, series like The Beverly Hillbillies and I Dream of Jeannie are quite popular. Newer franchises like Sex in the City, Orange Is the New Black, and House of Cards have their own franchises. Game shows remain popular, as The Price Is Right, Let’s Make a Deal, and Deal Or No Deal each have their own slot machine license. Any television show of the past or present is a candidate for a licensed slot, so if you have any favorites, check to see if that show has its own slots counterpart.

Movie Themed Slots – Movie themed slots are popular these days, much like those based on television. Several companies distribute Lord of the Rings slots, but that is just the tip of the mountain. Jurassic Park, Scarface, Hellboy, Gladiator, Rocky, and The Mummy are just a few of the licensed movie slots on the market. Playtech, Microgaming, IGT, and Bally Technologies are leaders in this arena. The combination of familiar themes and movie clips make these entertaining gaming machines.

Popular licensed slots like The Dark Knight Rises and Terminator 2 are a couple of the most popular film-themed slot machines at the moment. Players don’t have to be satisfied with action movie themes, though. Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Dirty Dancing each have met tremendous receptions from the gambling public. Beyond the direct licenses, those looking for slots based on movie characters can look at the many Marvel Comics and DC Comics themed slot machines. While most of these are based on the comic book characters, some are based upon earlier movies of the same name.

Asian Themed Slots – Asian themed slots are becoming more prevalent all the time, because the Asian gaming market is the most rapidly expanding demographic in the world. China’s Macau is now the biggest gaming destination in the world, generating 3 or 4 times the gaming revenues of Las Vegas. Singapore is the #3 revenue generator, a distinction likely to be surpassed by Japan in a few years. Beyond Asia, many gamblers enjoy the mystery and allure of the Far East.

One of the most popular Asian themed slots is “Choy Sun Doa” Slots from Aristocrat Leisure. Based on Caishen, the Chinese god of fortune, Choy Sun Doa was one of the first 243-Ways-to-Win slots on the market. In the online casino industry, Zhanshi Slots from Real Time Gaming was released in 2016, while Lucky 8 is an old time favorite. Microgaming has more than its share, with titles like “Win Sum Dim Sum” and “Gun Pow” slots. Fucanglong Online Slot was released by RTG in January 2017, while Huangdi The Yellow Emperor Online Slot was released by Microgaming just days earlier in January 2014.

Retro Themed Slots – Retro themed slots are throwbacks to the early days of slot machines, when the games results were determined by mechanical machines. Because of design limitations required by a mechanical slot machines, the game was limited to 3 reels. Before electronics gaming machines, graphics were limited to the physical reel symbols, so designers used several common symbols: fruit, bars, and sevens. Thus, most retro themed slot machines are 3-reel classics with a variety of 7s, bars, double-bars, triple-bars, cherries, bananas, and their like.

Microgaming is a top developer of retro themed slots, with games like Retro Reels and Retro Reels Extreme Heat. NetEnt is an innovator in the field of retro slots, because it combines an old-style look with 21st Century game features. For instance, NetEnt’s Twin Spin Slots contains the 243-Ways-to-Win feature, which does away with paylines altogether. Click on the link to learn about more retro themed slot machines.

Cascading Wilds – With these slots certain symbols will disappear after the reels stop spinning. New symbols will ‘cascade’ or fall from the top to fill in the gaps. If they happen to make a new (winning) combination with the surrounding symbols, then you’ll receive (another payout), multiplier or bonus round. The best way to think of cascading wilds is like the games, Bejeweled or Tetris. The winning symbols will disappear, making room for new symbols to take it’s place. This can create a snowball effect where your winnings will compound if you get lucky and hit the right combination of symbols.

Stackable Wilds – Instead of having one wild per reel, giving you the opportunity to maybe win on 10 or 15 lines, stackable or stacked wilds will give you the opportunity to receive multiple wilds on any given real. They sit or are ‘stacked’ on top of each other. This means you can win 2-3x as much, possibly even trigger other types of bonus rounds or games. Additionally, you can receive stacked wilds on more than one reel, creating a block of wilds that will hit multiple, if not all of the paylines.

Bonus Rounds – Think of bonus rounds like a side bet at the blackjack table or, if you’re a fan of video games, little mini-rounds where you compete against another player in addition to the main game. The best example I can come up with is Mario Party (and Mario game, really). In the case of slots, you’ll win additional (free) spins, have the opportunity to participate in an interactive game or something to that effect. The general idea is that bonus rounds will prolong the amount of spins or opportunities you have to win more money, while still playing on your original wager.

‘Ways Win’ Slots – Ways win slots are commonly seen/marketed as 243, 1024 or 3125 ways to win. Instead of using paylines, where you’re limited to 20, 50, 100, e tc paylines, combinations are created on a left to right basis, regardless of where a particular symbol is on a reel. So on the first reel you can have a symbol on the very top that will combine with a symbol on the very bottom of the next reel. It doesn’t matter if it’s inline with your traditional payline or not, so long as it completes a winning combination while moving left to right.

Nudge and HoldSlot machines with a nudge and hold feature give you the feeling of having more control. The premise to these features is simple. With the nudge feature you’re randomly given the opportunity to move a particular reel 1 position up or down. With the hold feature (also given at random), you’re able to ‘hold’ an entire reel while re-spinning the remaining reels. Either feature gives you a second opportunity to win (more).

Games with the nudge feature include Secrets of Atlantis and Super Nudge 6000 from NetEnt, Untamed Wolf Pack Slot from Microgaming, and Zeus III Slot from Williams Interactive (WMS Gaming). Examples of slots with the hold feature are Aloha Cluster Pays and Stickers Slot from NetEnt, Wild Gambler Slots and Wild Gamblers: Arctic Adventure Slots from Playtech, and Hot as Hades from Microgaming. NextGen Gaming’s Gorilla Go Wild Slot is another excellent example of a game with the hold option.

Free Spins – Free spins are just what they sound like. You’re given additional spins that don’t cost you anything extra. For your original wager you’ll be given the chance to compound your winnings.

Again, this is a very shortlist of video slot features. You’ll come across features like progressives, interactive games, scatter symbols, multipliers and wild symbols, too.

Multipliers – Gamblers love multipliers. Of all features on a slot machine, nothing besides the jackpot boosts winnings as quick as the multiplier feature. When multipliers are in effect, winnings are multiplied by a set amount. If a 2x multiplier is being used, then the payouts are doubled. If the 3x multiplier is being used, then the payouts are tripled. Most slot machines max out multipliers in the 5x to 10x range, but slots are known to offer 50x and 100x multipliers — or even higher. When multiplier slots are being used, they payouts can be bigger than many flat-top jackpots. For instance, a player in Illinois won over $100,000 on a bonus game with multipliers in 2015.

Monopoly Multiplier from IGT is an example of a slot machine with a multiplier. Other examples include Magic Multiplier from Microgaming, Fruit Machine Multiplier from Electracade, Mr. Multiplier from OpenBet/Big Time Gaming, and Supawildz from Microgaming and Genesis Gaming. Hundreds upon hundreds of slots offer multiplier action.

Tumbling Reels – Tumbling reels are quite similar to the cascading reels described below. In most slots games, the spin either produces a winning combination or it doesn’t. Either way, another spin happens in rapid succession. With tumbling reels, more winning chances happen. The winning symbols tumble off the bottom of the screen and next symbols appear from the top of the screen to replace them. Be warned that tumbling reels usually come on slot machines with more paylines, which need to be played in order to trigger the maximum jackpot, so the chances of losing a lot of money are greater.

Several famous slot machines use the tumbling reels feature. IGT is the leader among the bunch, because it offers tumbling reels in their multi-spin games. Da Vinci Diamonds, Da Vinci Diamonds Dual-Play, and Dungeons & Dragons Online Slot from IGT all use the tumbling reels feature. The famous Gonzo’s Quest from Net Entertainment also uses tumbling reels. Avalon II from Microgaming is another good example of the tumbling reels feature.

Slots with Scatters – Scatter symbols can appear anywhere on a slots reel. The randomness of these icons allows game designers to do a variety of things, including scatter pays and bonus game triggers. Of the two, scatter pays are simpler. If a certain number of scatter symbols appear on the reels in any place, the player is paid a certain amount. This is a good way to offer bonus money with no strings attached.

Many scatter icons trigger a bonus game. In many cases, three scatter symbols appearing on the reels at once activate a bonus game mode. In many cases, the more scatters appear (3,4,5), the bigger the multipliers on the bonus game mode.

Cascading Reels – If you’re ever played games like Tetris or Gemix, then you are familiar with how cascading reels work. With the cascade effect, symbols that complete a winning combination “drop out” of the game screen and are replaced with new symbols. This, in turn, creates a new set of reel combinations. If the new alignment produces a winning combination, then the winning symbols drop off the screen and are replaced by new symbols. This continues until you no longer have a winning combination.

Cascading reels is popular with players, because it creates the “make-it, take-it” effect: players can string many wins together at once. NetEnt slots like Cosmic Fortune and Pyramid: Quest for Immortality are examples of slots with cascading reels. Cricket Star and Jungle Jim El Dorado Slot from Microgaming are other good examples. Gemix Slots from Play’n GO is another excellent example.

Final Thoughts on Features

In fact, that’s why someone like myself will even bother to sit down to play one. I usually prefer to play games like poker or blackjack, because of the better house edge, dynamic situations and the (limited) control I have over the outcomes.

But I find video slots to be entertaining. They remind me of playing videos games. When the wife and I go to the casino I enjoy playing the Dark Knight (Batman) machines. At it’s simplest, it plays scenes from the movie, and all the symbols are characters or props. That’s enough to keep my attention for a little while.

But what makes this game, and all video slots more fun, are the features. In the case of the Dark Knight machine, one bonus round would be racing the Joker in your Tumbler. In another round you’d play a scratch ticket type game, where you’d choose a bat symbol from a pile of them. They’d award you with multipliers, extra credits or spins. These rounds would sometimes pop up at random, and at other times they’d be triggered by hitting a combination of symbols, usually with wild cards.

So that’s why video slot machines are so much better.