Slots With Features (Scatter, Cascading Wilds, Free Spins, Sticky Wilds)

  • Features

Slots with features are so common these days that it's hard to imagine a time when slot machine didn't have them. Unless you're talking about the classic 3-reels, almost every online slot machine has one feature or another: scatter symbols, wild symbols, cascading wilds, sticky wilds, free spins, and bonus games. Many online slots players choose virtual machines by which special features they have, but if you're new to gambling online, these can be awfully confusing at first. With the proliferation of casino software development companies and the fact these firms design a dozen or more new games a year, it's become hard to keep track of all the new bells and whistles you can find in the slots industry.

This article discusses the common features you'll find on the fruit machines you're likely to play these days. When you're finished reading, you'll know why these various features exist and have a pretty good idea which features should appeal to you. I'll start with the simplest features and move on to the less common ones.

Wild Symbols - Wild symbols are a common feature on slots, because they create many different ways to activate a winning combination. On most games, the wilds substitute for any other symbol (except scatters and bonuses) on the machine to trigger a winning combination. Since scatter symbols often trigger bonus games, this would be overkill, so the wilds seldom trigger bonus games. Most wild symbols are found on 5-reel slots, but you'll find them in different sections of these games. Many only appear on selected reels. Wild symbols on reels 2, 3, and 4 are common, though you'll also find machines with wilds on reels 2 and 4 only. Some slots devices have wild symbols on all their reels, so you'll need to read about each new machine you play to make sure you know how often you can expect them. I'll discuss a few exotic wild symbols later, but I want to continue with the most basic, common slots features you'll find.

Multipliers - Some slot machines have multipliers attached to their wild symbols. If a wild symbol completes a winning combo, you might win twice as much (2x) or five times as much (5x) the standard amount. Anytime you see symbols like 10x or "10 times", this is likely to signal a multiplier is in place. Some multipliers stack, so if you get a 2x multiplier and a second 2x multiplier, you might win 4x the amount you normally would.

Occasionally, whole bonus games or other scenarios have multipliers. This is particularly good, since the bonus games tend to involve multiple spins. If you see a bonus game that offers 10 free spins and a 3x multiplier, that's getting 10 multipliers spins in a row, so it's a big deal. 

Scatter Symbols - Scatter symbols are another important feature on a slot machine. Often called simply "scatters", they are referred as such because it doesn't matter where they appear on the screen. Usually, scatters activate a particular bonus or phase of the game. For instance, many scatter symbols activate the bonus mode on interactive slots and video slots.

Having one of these symbols appear usually doesn't do the trick, though. Most of the time, it takes 2 or more scatters appearing anywhere on the screen at the same time to trigger some game mode. Almost as often, you'll need 3 or more scatter icons appearing at once to activate the bonus game. Whatever the case, when scatters trigger an event, you'll usually not have to wonder about it, because the music, sound effects, and graphics usually herald a big event has just happened.

Bonus Games - Bonus games can happen at any time during the game, on any spin. Most of the time, scatters are what activate video slots. I've seen games where wild card symbols and scatters are the same, or wild symbols activate the bonus.

Free Spins - What's important about the bonus mode is you don't have to pay for spins. Everything you win is done without costing you a penny. In some cases, you win 5, 10, 20, or 25 free spins. In other cases, an interactive game begins that's entirely different from the regular flow of the game. The interactive games are found on i-slots, which are designed to be more like the computer games or video games that are so popular right now.

Interactive Bonus Games - Playing interactive bonus games gives you choices that affect the outcome. When you start the bonus game, you're given choices to make. You might pick a certain number of genie's bottles, or choose between the hot blonde, the hot brunette, or the hot redhead. Each game has its own mechanism. Usually in these bonus games, you keep choosing until one of the choices craps out and forces you to return to the regular spin mode of the game. At that point, all your bonus coins are counted up and added to your overall coin total. For the really lucky, bonus games tend to have an upward bonus limit, at which point you end the bonus session.

Cascading Wild - When activated, cascading wild symbols disappear from the screen and allow new reel symbols to cascade from the top of the screen. Cascading wilds therefore allow a gambler to win multiple times on the same spin. Often, the cascading wilds come with bonus multipliers. Tenacious wilds are cascading symbols which offer repeating bonuses. One game offers a 3x multiplier, then cascades into a 2x multiplier, then cascades once again into a 1x bonus.

Stacked Wild Symbols - Expanding Wilds - As stacked wilds appear on a screen, the wild symbol expands to include several spaces on that reel. Expanding wilds are similar, but they expand to include every symbol on the reel. This gives you the maximum chance of filling out winning combination on multiple paylines.

Sticky Wilds - Clumped Wild Symbols - When you have sticky wilds, this feature expands like an expanded wild symbol, but they remain behind for as long as you have free spins. The sticky wild feature thus offers a huge advantage throughout a bonus game feature.

Special Features on Slots

Those are just some of the most common slot machine features you'll find. Many websites list the progressive jackpots as bonus features, so I would be remiss if I forgot to mention the progressive jackpot prize as a special feature to look at. As you can tell, slot designers have a lot of options to lure players into playing their games. In each case, trade-offs may apply, where you have to give up better bonuses to get more multipliers, and so on. To me, bonus features are like spice on food. A healthy amount of slots feature enhance the whole game, but they can be overdone if you mix in too many together. With all the options available these days, most gamblers prefer to play slots games with a few features, so you should try them all out at least once and see whether you agree.