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.

Nowadays, these special features are not just confined within physical slot machines – even online slot games have incorporated such features within their in-game mechanics as part of their games’ unique elements.

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.

What are Free Spins?

Legend of the High Seas free spin feature

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, game developers 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.

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What is the Wheel of Fortune feature?

Kong Fu Bonus Wheel feature

The “Wheel of Fortune” is a bright, spinning wheel which first appeared on the Bally slot machine by the same name. Imagine a dart board 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.

For online slot games, titles like Kong Fu from RealTime Gaming take the Wheel of Fortune feature and tweaks it to keep with its theme while also providing players with a lot of enticing options they can potentially win, should the wheel lands in their favor.

What is the Pick a Box feature?

Mega Monster online casino game Free Game bonsu feature

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.

A lot of online slot games use this as part of their special features. This includes titles like Mega Monster which, when activated, grants players even more opportunities to increase their potential payouts.

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What are Wild Multipliers?

Goldbeard Free Games special feature

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 in Australia 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.

Online slot games like the pirate-themed Goldbeard also utilize the Wild Multiplier feature. Though landing this feature is rather challenging since the Wild symbols only appear on the first and fifth reels. However, whenever this is triggered, the number of Free Games players can get can reach up to 24, and any winning paylines they get will add to their total earnings until the Free Games are all used up.

What are Symbol Cascade Features?

T-Rex Wild Attack online casino game 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.

Online slot games utilize this cascading feature to make each spin more dynamic and entertaining. Whenever a payline is landed and the symbols start falling down, it is similar to Tetris, and taking the place of a straight line would be more potential winning paylines. Online slot games like T-Rex Wild Attack have this feature, alongside other in-game elements

What is the Expanding Wild Symbols feature?

Fortunes of Olympus main features

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 such as Fortunes of Olympus.

What is the Symbol Slide feature?

Mega Monster online casino game Sliding Reels special feature

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.

More recent online slot games like Mega Monster also utilize this slot game feature to give players even more chances to lang winning paylines and rake in bigger payouts.

What is the Pick until Pop feature?

Jackpot Saloon Pick Bonus special feature

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.

Online slot games utilize this slot game feature and usually incorporate them into whatever theme their game is using. For example, Jackpot Saloon is a Western-themed online slot game, and its version of Pick-until-Pop has players choosing from a number of barrels.

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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 higher level. Multi-level bonus games work in much the same way.

What is the Random Instant Win feature?

Big Cat Links online casino game review Oversized Symbols

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.

Speaking of Progressive Jackpots, most slot machines that offer this special feature


Apart from eye-catching themes and their payouts, online slot games keep the players’ attention by having a myriad of features as part of their in-game mechanics. In most cases, players tend to stick to slot games that offer fun and clever in-game features since it makes winning paylines that much more fulfilling and exciting.

If you’re still on the fence when picking which online slot game speaks to you, check out what special features they have, and if one or a couple of them piques your interest, you should try them out. Chances are, you just found your favorite slot game, and you’re in it for the long haul and the big payouts!

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