Complete Overview of Slot Games

Our guide to slot games offers detailed reviews of popular online and land-based slot machines and their manufacturers and designers. Each review covers important details like number of reels and pay lines, jackpot amounts, reel symbols, and special features. We also try to delve deeper into the story behind the game and its designer to offer an additional perspective that we find lacking at other slot review sites.

Our game guides also cover the free-play slot market. We see more and more posts by fans of recreational slot machine gambling, people who would no more put real money into a slot machine than they would jump out the window. In many cases, these players are drawn to free-play versions of the same real-money slot machines we cover in other reviews, so the details on these games are useful to both the pay-to-play and free slot markets.

We’ve tried to go out of our way to focus on both the land-based and Web-based slot gambling markets. We’ve done so because the two markets are so vastly different from one another. Where other slot review sites focus entirely on Web-based slots, we’ve included some coverage of land-based machine games. In many cases, the two markets inform and inspire one another, so where possible we’ve tried to highlight the interaction between the two.

Our notes on slot machine strategy are wide-ranging and based on decades of experience playing in traditional and online casinos. The strategy posts on our site cover everything from slot myths to thoughts on budgeting and bankroll management. Included is a guide to game selection that we think is the most comprehensive and thorough of its kind.

The goal of the site is simple – we want to answer every possible question that a person might have about slot machines, slot games, and the slot industry in general. Where possible, we’ve included free versions of the games we review, and links to free versions of real games in our designer reviews and other materials. We include these free games because there’s no substitute for time spent trying out the real thing, even if you’re using play money.

What Makes a Good Slot Game?

Slots players look for a number of different features when they’re searching for a game to play. These features can broadly be described as anything that separates one game from another, or makes a game stand out from the crowded field of Web-based or traditional slot machines.

Some of the most popular slot features in the modern gambling industry are:

Scatter Symbols

Traditional reel symbols have to appear in a specific combination on an active pay line in order to trigger a pay out or other reward. Scatter symbols trigger bonus rounds or pay out jackpots or other prizes regardless of where they land on the game’s pay lines. Modern online slots often use scatter symbols to trigger progressive prizes or bonus or side games.

Wild Symbols

Wild symbols substitute for most or all other reel symbols to form winning combinations. Modern wild symbols often perform other roles as well – many will pay off big jackpots for spinning them in combinations of 3, 4, or 5 on a pay line. Still other wild symbols may trigger bonus or side games, or act as scatter symbols. The wild symbol isn’t a new innovation, though the ways bonus symbols behave are changing along with the online gaming industry. So-called “expanding wilds” will literally expand and make other symbols wild when they appear in certain combinations, while “stacked wilds” make entire reels wild at once, ideally leading to more frequent and larger pay outs.

Bonus Games

A bonus game can be any game that takes place outside the standard spinning-reel action of a slot machine. The earliest bonus games were simple gamble features, allowing players a shot at doubling a payout by guessing the color of a virtual card drawn from a virtual deck. These days, online slot bonus games range from simple pick-em games to more complex skill-based shoot-em-up action.

Types of Slot Games

Many different types of slot machines exist in today’s market. The variety of slot machine styles rivals the variety found in markets like computer and console gaming. Modern slot machine designers have to capture the attention of people raised on top-of-the-line gaming and film entertainment. On the following page is an entire section dedicated to the different types of slots games.

Here’s a quick overview of some of the varieties of slots we cover on that page.

Mechanical Slots

This phrase refers to any slot machine game that runs without the aid of electricity, computers, or any other fancy gadgets. As far as we know, no casinos are operating mechanical slots as anything except a novelty or lobby display. The earliest slot machines were totally mechanical – they had to be, since they were first played in a part of America that wouldn’t have access to electricity for another half-century. Authentic antique mechanical slot machines are collector’s items these days, gorgeous gambling props from a time long since passed.

Classic Slots

Any slot machine that has three reels and a single pay line is technically a classic slot. The phrase can be a little confusing, since vintage slot games from the classic era can also be described this way. Some gamblers enjoy playing classic slots, either because that’s the kind of game they’re used to playing, or because these games are a kind of mindless entertainment. Another reason some slots fans prefer classic slots is that their simplicity means they accept small wagers and have relatively-high payback percentages.

Fruit Machines

You won’t hear this phrase much outside of Australia and the UK, but in those parts of the world it’s common slang for the phrase “slot machines.” The name comes from the fact that the earliest slot games used symbols styled after fruit – cherries, bananas, lemons, etc. Though the fruit symbol phenomenon has long since died out, the name stuck. In the UK, you’ll hardly ever hear the word slot, though everyone knows what a fruit machine is.


A typical fruit machine from the United Kingdom

Another common world slang for the games we call slots – poker machines. This name is popular in Australia and New Zealand, though most people use the shortened form “pokies.”

Video Slots

Modern slot machines that use video screens instead of real mechanical reels. If you walk into a modern casino, the vast majority of games are video slots. Unless the casino has a few old mechanical games on display for kicks, it’s likely that every slot on your average American casino floor is a video slot. This phrase is used mainly to distinguish classic slots from the more modern titles that don’t depend on mechanical reels.

3D Slots

Modern slot designers rely on all sorts of bells and whistles to give their games replay value and to make their titles stand out from the crowd. Games that incorporate 3D graphics are becoming commonplace, as 3D technology becomes more available to game designers. Audiences are becoming used to 3D technology, thanks to a spate of 3D movies, and the wide release of 3D televisions. In short – 3D is a buzzword again, and it’s no surprise that slot designers would try to cash in on it. You’ll find a few 3D slots in land-based casinos, though the phenomenon is mainly Web-based.


Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde is a popular 3D slot from Betsoft

Slots Manufacturers and Providers

Just as there are a number of different types of slot machine games available, those games are produced by a variety of different manufacturers and designers. Many of these companies started out as designers of land-based slot games before moving into the online market. Others were born as online game design firms and have recently moved into the land-based market. They all have interesting background stories that can teach us plenty about the business of producing slot machine games.

The following section is dedicated to the various manufacturers and providers of online and land-based slot gaming.

Each of the providers shown below are covered in the above section.