Slot Machine Features – Scatters, Wilds, Multipliers, Cascading Reels

Manufacturers list the slot machine bonus features to advertise how great their machines are. A big list of terms sounds impressive, but those new to the gaming industry might not have the first clue what half of the terminology means. Even the technical phrases a gambler might understand in context might have aspects to it that a beginner wouldn’t know. And experienced player might forget the difference in an expanding wild and a cascading wild.

With that in mind, I wanted to list the most common bonus features on slot machines these days. Bookmark this page as a handy reference tool, if you tend to jumble the terms. I’ll arrange my guide as a glossary of technical words associated with slot machines, so it should read almost like a dictionary of slots terms.

Free Spins

Often called “Free Games”, the free spin mode acts as a bonus game-within-a-game. The normal flow of the game is set aside briefly and the player is given the opportunity to win coins without risking credits. The phrase “playing with house money” comes to mind, as you only stand to gain when getting free spins.

The free spin mode often is activated when scatter symbols appear on the screen. Scatters are symbols which do not need to be on a payline to trigger an advantage. Usually, the designer requires 2 or 3 scatters to appear on the screen at the same time. The more scatter symbols, the more free spins a player receives. An alternative is to receive the same number of free spins on a game, but the size of a bonus multiplier determined by the scatters. Common free game amounts include 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, or 40. On some machines, you can re-trigger free spins during the bonus game.

Wheel of Fortune

The “Wheel of Fortune” is a bright, spinning wheel which first appeared on the Bally slot machine by the same name. Imagine a dartboard if the various pie slices were light up with bright colors and they spun around at high speeds. This game feature has different coin payouts on each slice of the pie, ranging from 50 to 100 coins up to 10000 coins at a time. Exciting music plays when this mode is activated.

Since its first appearance on a Bally Technologies slot machine, this feature has appeared on many other game boxes. Slots titles which offer the spinning wheel game include Arabian Treasures, Beat the Heat, Lucky Ducky, and Money Talks Slots. Among licensed Bally slot machines, you’ll find the Wheel of Fortune on Grease Slots and the Magic of David Copperfield Slots. This feature is also sometimes called the “Winning Wheel” feature.

Pick a Box

Pick a box is a straightforward bonus feature. You’re given three or more boxes and told to select one of them. Whatever is inside the box is what you win. This is like the old “Let’s Make a Deal” game show, with a person being given a choice of Curtain 1, Curtain 2, or Curtain 3.

Wild Multipliers

Wild multipliers show up on games like the amazing “Choy Sun Doa” pokies title (based on Cai Shen, the Chinese God of Prosperity). Choy Sun Pokies is marketed by Aristocrat Leisure and Bally Technologies in America. A wild multiplier is a complicated feature, but it’s also one of the coolest game elements you’ll ever find.

I’ll use Choy Sun Doa as an example. On that game, when the wild icon appears with enough frequency, you receive the option to have 5, 8, 10, 15, or 20 free spins. This would seem to be a no-brainer, but the more spins you receive, the lower the multiplier. On each of the free game modes, you’ll have the chance to receive one of a range of three multipliers. On a 20-spin game, the range of multipliers is low. On a 5-spin game, the range is high.

Symbol Cascade Features

Cascading symbols sometimes get confused with expanding wilds. A cascading wild usually stays on the screen for multiple payline hits–three is the most common number. The cascading wild symbol stays in place as other winning combinations drop off the screen, creating a cascade effect. This increases your chances of winning by multiples because it stays on the screen even after a win.

Expanding Wild Symbols

Expanding wild symbols expand up-and-down the reel, often covering the entire reel. These usually expand only when they create a payline. This feature increases your chances of hitting a payline, so it’s nice to see a game has expanding wild icons.

Symbol Slide

Also known as “shifting wilds”, the sliding symbol expands left-and-right across the reels, instead of up-and-down. Once again, this is a good way to increase your winning combinations. These wilds often fill out the more straightforward payline combinations.

Pick until Pop

Pick-until-pop or “Pick a Pop” means you get to keep selecting one icon from a group of several until you select the wrong symbol. Imagine you have a bonus game with 5 treasure chests. Four of the five treasure chests have a coin amount in them (10, 20, 50, 100), but the fifth treasure chest has a “Pop” or “Game Over” icon. As long as you keep picking a coin amount, you continue playing. Most games have a maximum coin amount or number of picks, but probability suggests someone would go 5 picks before busting.

Multi-Level Pick a Box

Multi-level looks a lot like pick-a-pop. The game mechanic is like “pick a box”, but the player gets to advance to higher levels like you would in a video game. The main difference in pick-a-pop and the multi-level pick-a-box is the jackpots increase exponentially in the multi-level games. Imagine a video game in which the point values increase as you attain a higher level. Multi-level bonus games work in much the same way.

Random Instant Win

A “Random Instant Win” is as random as a scatter or a wild symbol, but it is simply a bonus coin symbol which wins any time it appears on the screen. It doesn’t matter where it hits or when during the game, you win if it appears on the screen. These can be very lucrative because some machines tie them to progressive jackpots.