For each month that goes by, slots get more exciting, as different developers try to one-up one another with better graphics, audio, game design and features. Despite continually advancing, the area that has developed very little involves the symbols themselves. The positive side of this is that learning a game is quite straightforward since the symbols between different games are often similar in terms of their function.
The goal of this article is to introduce you to the types of standard and special symbols that you can come across when playing a slot game. We do our best to explain what the main types are. For example, wilds are special symbols that substitute for most other standard symbols. Standard symbols are non-feature symbols, usually divided into high-paying and low-paying. Finally, scatters are a class of special symbols that can be used to activate bonuses such as free spins or bonus games. These can be the best places to win the most considerable amounts.
You can’t get any more basic than the standard symbol, found in every online slot. Standard symbols combine on active paylines, or sometimes clusters in minimum quantities to award wins. It is very common for slots to divide symbols into the lower-paying and higher-paying ends.
Royal flush symbols often represent lower-paying symbols: nine (9), ten (10), jack (J), queen (Q), king (K) and ace (A). Alternatively, a slot might use card suits: Clubs, Spades, Hearts and Diamonds.
Older slots or slots going for a classic or nostalgic look might instead choose to use fruit symbols, which might include some of the following: oranges, lemons, grapes, plums, cherries, or watermelons.
The higher-paying symbols have higher payouts than the lower-paying symbols. Older slots or slots going for a classic or nostalgic look might choose to use symbols such as a Bell, Diamond, Bar, Double Bar or Triple Bar.
The symbols are, of course, not limited to the ones we’ve mentioned, as they can differ depending on the slot game. Case in point, if you’re playing a slot based on an Ancient Egyptian theme, then you are likely to find symbols such as an Ankh, scarab beetle, pyramid, Eye of Horus, hieroglyphs or others.
The background might be a giant pyramid or the inside of a treasure chamber. Even the lower-paying card suit or royal flush symbols might be carefully crafted to reinforce the Ancient Egyptian theme.
Standard symbols have no special features or abilities outside of rewarding you with a combination win on an active payline or cluster. In some cases, you just need two symbols, but usually, you’ll need a combination of three or more.
Often, these symbols need to appear from left to right, but some slots allow you to also win starting from right to left. There are even slots such as the very popular Starburst that lets you win in both directions. Some slots have done away with reels and pay-lines altogether and reward combinations appearing adjacently in clusters.
Wild symbols are the most widely available symbol in slots, aside from standard symbols, of course. While this is not to say they are in every slot, it is increasingly unusual not to find them in the newer ones. This symbol can substitute for any of the standard symbols to help create winning paylines.
If we look at an example, Kings (K) on the same payline of the first and third reels in combination with a wild on the same payline will complete a combination equivalent to three Kings (K), which awards a payout.
More often than not, wilds can only replace standard symbols, so they cannot act like a scatter or bonus symbol as examples.
Over the years, wilds have evolved in line with slots, and so the basic wild is sometimes replaced by special wilds: multiplier wilds, expanding wilds or walking wilds.
A walking wild has the same ability to substitute for standard symbols, but can also change its position after a spin. This ability could mean that it continues to shift horizontally (left or right) until it drops off of the first or last reels, or it can move vertically (up or down) until it drops off the first or last row.
Expanding wilds typically grow to occupy all of the spaces of the same reel, forming wins that would otherwise be impossible. Multiplier wilds are another variation of the standard wild, which applies a multiple to winning paylines for which it participates. For example, an x5 multiplier wild will multiply a winning combination by five when it is used in the win. Some slots use a combination of all or some of these wilds.
Slots containing bonus games or free spins may also provide other wilds besides the ones that we’ve just discussed.
The scatter symbol serves a dual purpose, which is why players welcome them whenever they surface. First, by collecting enough of them, you may win much higher amounts than the average stand-ard symbol payouts. These symbols often do not need to form an exclusive payline to win, which means that where they appear on the reels is not as important as how many appear.
The second purpose of this symbol is to act as a trigger, which gains you access to one of the special slot features. The most common type of special feature is the free spins. Sometimes the number of free spins awarded depends on the number of scatter symbols used to trigger them. For example, a slot might award 10, 12 or 15 free spins with three, four or five scatter symbols respectively.
Scatters symbols may trigger an alternative bonus feature instead of free spins, although in this case there is usually a specific bonus symbol. We’ve got some information on bonus symbols next.
You could say that the bonus symbol is another highly anticipated symbol welcomed by players whenever they surface. This excitement is because they are used to unlock a special bonus game where massive wins might be waiting.
Bonus symbols are a relatively recent phenomenon, so you won’t find them in older or classic slots all that often. As times have changed, and slots have evolved, more and more slots have incorporated them into the design because of their high entertainment value. They blend in perfectly with the theme of the slot.
Where bonus symbols differ from scatter symbols is that they ordinarily don’t pay out any winnings, and they only appear in the required quantities to trigger the bonus feature.
The rule is not hard and fast, as you’ll see in slots like the wildly popular Mega Fortune. In this game, a bonus symbol can appear on all five of the reels, even though you only really need three to get into the bonus game. Triggering them with three, four or five doesn’t get you anything more.
Bonus symbols may appear on every reel or specific reels, depending on the slot. For example, a bonus game may only be triggered with bonus symbols on the odd-numbered reels. Other slots allow the symbols to appear on any reel. A few slots need them to appear from left to right on an active payline before the bonus game can be triggered.
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While surprises can be a good thing, it’s usually not so good when it comes to the rules of the game. That’s why it is always better to familiarize yourself with them before you play a slot game. Not all games have special symbols that appear on every reel, and even then, these symbols may or may not have special abilities.
For example, a wild might come with a multiplier or expanding ability. Since these features are critical to the entertainment of the slot, the onus is on you to make sure you understand what you’re getting. This will make the game more fun and avoid disappointment.
Since all games provide a paytable that includes standard symbols and other feature symbols like wilds, scatters and bonus symbols, we strongly suggest you view it first!