There are several ways in which you can categorise slots machines when online gaming: depending on the number of reels, of paylines, of style, of the device they are on, the types of bets they allow and the payouts they offer. Consequently, we’ve decided to tell you all about the types of slots machines you can play online for free or for real money. They span many different categorisations, so there’s definitely something here for everyone who loves online gambling.
Understanding the different types of slots machines is crucial in making the most of your online gambling sessions. Whether you’re a new player or an experienced one, there are only benefits to knowing more about the ten different slot machines types.
Three-Reel Classic Slots
Also called classic slots, three-reel slots machines are the very first type of slot machines we got to play. Classic slot machines first appeared back in 1899, and since then they remain a staple at any offline or online casino. The reason why they are still so popular today is that they offer simplicity, the colourful, old-school fun we’ve come to expect in “the Vegas experience”. They are very easy to understand and play, even by players who have never tried any online casino games.
Three-reel slots have, as their name suggests, just three reels instead of five or more as we see in modern video slots machines. They also only feature a single payline or up to five, and a handful of symbols. Usually, there aren’t any wilds, scatters or intricate bonus features. You just need three identical symbols to line up, and you will get a payout as described in the paytable.
The main types of slots machines with three reels are fruit slots (think cherries, melons, lemons, oranges, grapes etc) and 777 slots which are both pure, timeless classics you will find anywhere. While they no longer have the lever in online slots machines (the reason why they were called “one-armed bandits”), the button serves the same purpose, and the control board is still basic and easy to use.
While the classic fruit symbols, 7s, BARs, and bells, are the norm for slots with three reels, in the meantime the repertoire has expanded to include more themes such as jewels and gems, Egypt, underwater and more.
If you want even more versatility and abundance of different themes, more reels, more paylines, more symbols and just generally more of everything you should look into 5-reel slots. But if you want classic, straight-forward fun then 3-reel slots are your best bet.
Multi-Reel and Multi-Payline Slots
As we’ve discussed earlier, the first type of slots machines only had three reels and one single payline. That meant that your three identical symbols needed to be on that one payline or they wouldn’t payout. But nowadays you have many more chances of landing a winning combination thanks to the fact that there are many more paylines that run across the whole reel grid. You can have between 5 and even 100 paylines on a video slot, or you can even have ways to win, megaways or make combinations in clusters.
It’s pretty common to find a five-reel slot game that has multiple paylines, and you can wager on as many lines as you want. The more of them you have covered, the more chances of winning you will have because you are covering more ground and not missing out on any possible combination.
Sure, it will cost more to bet on all the paylines, but you will not have to go through that dreaded moment when you’ve wagered on just a few paylines, and you keep making combinations on the others and thus not getting any wins.
The Megaways concept is pretty new in the online gambling world. It was only recently launched by the software provider Big Time Gaming and then adopted by many other top casino providers.
Megaways is a random reel modifier which will change the number of symbols that appear on each reel during a spin. So each spin will have a different number of symbols on each reel which will create tens of thousands or even more ways to win. As a result, you will get more than you’ve ever thought possible.
Megaways slots usually have 6 reels and up to 7 symbols on each reel. The process is simple, the Megaways mechanic will randomly decide the number of symbols on each spin. So, on the given example with 6 reels and 7 symbols, you can get up to 117,649 megaways to win (7 x 7 x 7 x 7 x 7 x 7 = 117,695).
Newer slot games like White Rabbit have even gone up to 248,832, and Holy Diver has 586,971. Thus there is no way of knowing how many more megaways to win we’ll see in the future.
There was a shift, and an evolution took place in the 70s when electronics moved into the video age. That’s when we were no longer dependent on physical mechanics and the new technology led to digital spinning reels on a screen.
Video slots machines have many more reels and paylines, different betting options, improved graphics and, overall, all the things that were before then beyond the capacity of a traditional mechanical slots machine.
The new video slots also introduced bonus features with different types of special symbols such as wilds and scatters, as well as free spins, pick-em games, multipliers and even progressive jackpots. While we can all agree that bonus features are an improvement, it’s important to understand that even wilds were a huge innovation as they bring many more possible winning combinations on every spin, and “ancestral” slot games didn’t have this added benefit.
We’ve also seen the introduction of elaborate themes and graphics and so the existence of Zeus-themed slots, for example, was no longer a dream but reality. Video slots came with such novelty that there was a massive boom in popularity that’s still maintained today as slots are the number 1 online casino game in the world.
Not long after video slots appeared, the progressive slots made their way into our lives. As opposed to the regular slots machines, progressive slots don’t have a fixed jackpot as stated in the paytable, but rather a jackpot that grows, the more people play it. For every bet made on a progressive jackpot, a percentage of it would go into this shared pot, and the player who managed to land the jackpot got the entirety of it, and then the jackpot would reset.
At first, we had standalone machines, acting independently and not linked to others, with big jackpots, but smaller in comparison to future developments.
Then, it was time for local progressives where jackpots are linked through a specific casino. There could be dozens or even hundreds of linked local progressives depending on the online casino offering them.
Last but not least, the most modern type is the wide-area network progressive jackpot which links slot machines from several casinos all around the world. This one allows the pot to grow to gigantic proportions and reach millions (multi-millions).
The most famous UK progressive jackpot slot win that even made the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest online slot jackpot of all time was won by an English soldier who won £13.2 Million on a £0.25 spin on Mega Moolah.
An interesting thing about the online gambling world is that it evolves right alongside technology. So as soon as something new and amazing is launched in the tech world, we see an instant improvement in slot games as well. This was the case with 3D slots.
Things that seemed impossible 10 years ago are now the norm, and you can play slot games that feature incredibly realistic graphics, three dimensional characters and detailed storylines.
Not only is there a massive improvement in graphics and animations and the overall look of the game, but also when it comes to the bonus features. Since the games look impeccable now and also have a more elaborate storyline, the bonus features need to match everything. This means that the games are also more interesting and exciting and some are even interactive.
Check out some of our favourite 3D slots:
As we were saying before, technology is strongly connected to the evolution of online slot games. If the shift (mentally, physically, technologically, etc.) was gigantic when going from the offline brick and mortar casinos to the online world, the change to the mobile universe was a lot more seamless.
Mobile slots can include most of the previously discussed slot games because theoretically, it is possible to modify the games to make them available across all devices. In fact, almost all online casino games have been transformed into mobile slot machines so that players can enjoy them any time, anywhere.
Mobile slots work generally using HTML5 or Flash technology. HTML5 is much newer and, in contrast to Flash, works on all major operating systems (Flash does not run on Apple devices) and does not require that you install any plug-in in your browser. The team behind Flash recently announced that it will no longer work from 2021 so we might see all games transition to HTML5 soon enough.
If decades ago you had to go to a land-based casino and a couple of years back you could play your favourite games online on a laptop or desktop system, now you can play them even on the go.
You don’t have to go to a casino; you don’t have to be stuck to your computer all day. You just need a phone or a tablet, and you’re good to go. The graphics, the gameplay, the bonus features and everything else is the same when playing on mobile devices; just the screen size will be different.
You can categorise the types of slot machines by bet sizes as well. When playing for real money, this is obviously a critical criterion. The two main divisions are playing for low limits and high limits, but the low limit is further divided into penny slots, nickel slots, quarter slots and pound slots.
Penny slots are the most popular type as everyone can play them since they are so cheap. Consequently, you won’t put a big dent in your budget and you’ll be able to fit many spins and fun into your budget.
Sure, the payouts might not be astronomical, but sometimes a smaller risk is better than a big reward. And at just a penny a spin a couple of pounds is a pretty good win that will surely help you out in the long run.
High Limit Slots
On the other side of the scale, as opposed to the penny slots, we will find high limit slots. These are the ones that are sought after by high rollers. They work great for the high risk, high reward type of players who can afford to bet big. It’s not just poker, baccarat and other casino card games that work well for high rollers, but also slots machines.
While a lot of perks can come out of betting big, it’s important to remember that you should always bet as big as you can afford. So if you’ve set your budget for the month and see that a max bet on a slot game will cost you half your budget, then you should try smaller bets because you probably don’t want to risk everything on just two spins.
If you can afford to play high limit slots with no worries, then you should look into playing high limit slots at online casinos that have an excellent VIP program so that you also get some extra perks. Some more bang for your buck, if you will.
Real Money Slots vs Free Slots
We’ve arrived at the end and the most important categorisation of them all. Should you play slots for real money or slots for free in demo mode? It all depends on your purpose, your level of slots knowledge and your budget.
Let us break this down for you. Both real money slots and free slots have a lot of benefits, but depending on what each player is looking for, one might be a better option than the other.
If you’re a beginner, for example, you’re better off playing slots for free first to understand the rules and how they work and to prepare yourself for the real deal. The same thing applies to experienced players who want to try a new slot game that they’ve never played before. Or to players who have finished their monthly budget and are practising responsible gambling and not going over it.
If you’re thoroughly prepared, have room in your budget and want to keep what you win and even take advantage of a bonus, then real money play is what you’re looking for. The good news is that you can always go from one to the other. We recommend you start with free slots (especially since you can find all these 10+ types of slot machines for free) and work your way to real money games for the best possible outcome! Have you tried all the best casino slots machines types?