Online slot gaming has come an awfully long way from the vintage lever-pull fruit machine-style slots most commonly found on casino floors and bars. In fact, you could go as far as to say that online slots tend to look and play like video games, with their high-definition (HD) quality visuals and audio bringing new layers of immersive gameplay.
That immersion is also created by themed slots, based on pop culture themes like leading Hollywood movie franchises and hit music icons.
The issue with a growing number of bells and whistles on our slot screens is that slot gameplay has becoming increasingly complex, particularly for beginners to online slots.
That’s why we’ve put together a definitive guide on the dynamics and features you can expect to find from today’s best-loved online slot titles, saving you time (and money) to load up your favourite games and get spinning.
Although old-school slot machines only had three strict paylines across all three rows, today’s slot offerings are vastly different. In fact, many of today’s online slot games have 243 ways to win or more. Some even have ‘Megaways’ paylines which can increase and decrease in volume before every spin.
Most slots these days will have a ‘Help’ button in the top right-hand corner that you can press to get information on the number of active paylines and their pattern on the reels.
Wild symbols are one of the most in-demand symbols that can land during any base game spin. Wilds are typically your golden ticket to landing the maximum jackpot of your chosen slot, generated by landing a wild on every reel of a payline.
Whenever a wild symbol appears, it can substitute any other base game symbol to help enhance the size of payouts from winning paylines. In some cases, wilds become ‘sticky’ and remain in place for a predetermined number of spins. Alternatively, they can also expand to fill entire reels to try and increase your winnings.
If your chosen online slot contains one or multiple bonus games, it’s highly likely that these will be activated by landing scatter symbols.
Usually, you’ll need to land between two or three scatters anywhere on the reels to enter a bonus feature. These bonuses include free spins modes and pick-me bonus screens that require you to select on-screen objects to reveal instant prizes.
A growing number of online slots operate with the Cascading Reels feature. This gives players the opportunity to land multiple symbol combinations from a single spin of the reels. That’s because any symbols involved in a winning payline are automatically removed from the reels, with the gaps filled in by new symbols from the rows above.
Depending on how the symbols fall, it is possible for replacement symbols to create continuous winning combinations, hence the ‘cascading’ description for the reels.
Some online slots will also have a progressive jackpot that can be unlocked during any random spin. This jackpot is usually a life-changing sum of money – often a six or even seven-figure payout. You’ll find them available to win in land-based casinos as well as online sites.
A progressive jackpot continues to steadily rise the more a slot is played, with a small percentage of a player’s stake contributing to the overall prize pot all the time. There is no secret to winning a progressive jackpot, just luck.
A slot will often have a dedicated symbol for the progressive jackpot, which you’ll need to lock in a set number of times on the reels to enter the jackpot bonus screen.
If you are a casual slot player and you are strapped for time, a slot’s autoplay function can come in very handy. Using just a single click, you can activate the software to play through a set number of spins to speed things up. You can also use the feature to pause the autoplay if you hit a predefined win or loss figure.
Some slots will also carry multiplier symbols on their reels. Whenever these land, they can multiply your potential winnings by the amount displayed on the symbol.
For instance, if you land a 4x multiplier symbol and it forms part of a winning payline, your original payout is quadrupled. It’s easy to see why online slots with multiplier symbols are popular with players.
Once you get to grips with the contemporary game dynamics of online slots, you’ll soon realise they aren’t as confusing as you think. If they were too hard to play, why would people in all four corners of the globe enjoy them?
There are plenty of secure, reputable iGaming operators offering encrypted connections for players that don’t require you to have to use private web browsing to safeguard your sensitive data and enhance your enjoyment.
In fact, it’s always best to choose an online casino to play slots that is regulated licensed by stringent jurisdictions like the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) which stipulates that all sites must be periodically audited by third parties like eCOGRA to monitor the fairness and transparency of their slot and table games.