How Slot Bonus Features Work

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Bonus features are among the most exciting elements of a good slot. In fact, bonus features can be huge draws to certain slots in the first place. There’s a reason why many slot games have their bonus features in their actual names: ever seen slots with Hold & Win in the title, for example?

In this guide, we’ll look at casino slots’ most common bonus features, such as free spins, bonus rounds, and more. We’ll also explain how these features are triggered and which bonus feature styles might suit your gaming preferences.

Experience Slots Bonus First-Hand

We have a whole catalog of buy feature slots that you can play for free, no signup or download required. But we also put a few here to make it easy for our readers to see a bonus feature on a slot first-hand. Simply play the game and click “buy feature” (or the game’s equivalent) to see it in action.

Silverback Gold - Buy Feature

Silverback Gold - Buy Feature

Gimme Gold Megaways - Bonus Buy

Gimme Gold Megaways - Bonus Buy

Montezuma Megaways Buy Pass

Montezuma Megaways Buy Pass

What Are Bonus Features and Games?

Bonus features and bonus games are additional gameplay features often found in modern online slots. These can range from simple wilds and multipliers all the way up to in-depth wheel spin or pick ‘em bonus games. Bonus features are triggered randomly and can directly impact your hit frequency and payout while adding more excitement and fun to the playing experience.

Online vs. Land

Bonus features for online slots versus land-based slots are, for the most part, the same. In fact, you’ll find every bonus feature we list below both online and at land-based casinos. This is a good thing, as it allows players to become familiar with common bonus features and what they do. You can then carry that familiarity into your slot play—whether you’re logging on to a casino app or walking into a casino lobby.

Types of Bonus Features

Cascading Reels on Gonzo's QuestThe cascading reels feature, also sometimes known as falling or collapsing reels, is a feature that makes winning symbols disappear to create space for new symbols to fall into place. This feature gives the player another chance to win without making another spin. Cascading reels can continue indefinitely if wins keep landing, making it a bonus feature with high win potential.

Expanding symbols do exactly what you’d guess: they expand to take up more space on the reel. This expansion creates more win potential by essentially taking up more spaces with a single symbol, making it more likely that there will be a winning pattern on a payline. The triggers for expanding symbols vary by game.

Free Spins on Rakin' BaconNot to be confused with free spins casino bonuses, free spins as a slot feature are one of the most popular and common bonus features on slots. Free spins are usually awarded when you land three or more bonus symbols in a slot’s base game. Depending on the slot, you’ll receive a certain number of free spins. Oftentimes, free spins bonus games also feature other benefits to add more win potential to the reels, such as multipliers and locking symbols, which we’ll cover below.

Instant Win on Fortune CoinAn instant win bonus feature is simply a feature that pays out immediately upon appearance. This may be triggered by landing three or more special symbols or in a variety of other ways. The results can be big wins, such as jackpots.

Item Selection on Blood SuckersItem selection bonus features allow the player to select various items (coins, envelopes, etc.) in the hopes of uncovering a bonus. Item selection bonus rounds may operate in a variety of ways. Some allow the player to pick until they find three matching items (win amounts, multipliers, or both). Others allow the player to pick just one item. Even further, some item selection bonus features allow the player to pick all of the items and add up the uncovered prizes.

Locking symbols come in many formats. They may be referred to as “Links” or “Hold & Win,” but they all essentially operate in the same way. Land a certain number of special symbols, and the reels will automatically respin, locking them in place and locking any new special symbols in place that appear during the respins. This creates large win potential, as the entire screen could eventually end up filled with winning symbols. Slots that feature locking symbols, like Lightning Link, are some of the most popular titles—for good reason.

Multiplier on Drive Multiplier MayhemMultipliers are a relatively simple bonus feature that literally multiplies your win by a designated amount. For example, if you land three symbols on a payline with a 5x multiplier symbol, your win will be multiplied by five.

Progress bar in Wheel of Fortune On TourProgress bars allow players to progress through a game with the result of previous spins kept in mind. Progress bars work in a variety of ways, but perhaps most commonly, they provide leveling systems where new symbols and features are unlocked at each stage of the game.

Respins are a bonus feature that quite literally re-spins the reels. This feature can be triggered on its own, or it can be part of a larger feature, such as locking symbols or free spins. All in all, consider this feature as essentially a redo and another chance to win without wagering on another spin yourself.

Wheel spin bonus features are some of the most popular and exciting out there and can be found in games such as Wheel of Fortune. When triggered, this bonus feature allows the player to spin a wheel that may contain a variety of prizes or perks, such as instant win bonuses or multipliers. The wheel might also trigger other bonus features, such as free spins.

Wilds on Mercy of the GodsWilds can be found on almost any modern video slot. These special symbols replace all other symbols, making it more likely for a player to land a win on a payline. Some games utilize wilds that expand, lock, multiply, shift, and more intriguing functions.

Our Favorite Bonus Features

Favorite Bonus FeatureWhat It DoesGames That Feature It
Cascading ReelsSymbols disappear to make room for new symbols/potential wins.Bonanza Megaways, Secrets of the Phoenix, Gonzo's Quest
Free SpinsGives players more spins without an additional wager.Cleopatra slot, Rakin' Bacon, Fortune Coin
Locking SymbolsLocks symbols in place and triggers a respin.Jade Dragon, Money Train 3, Big Bass Hold & Spinner
Wheel SpinGives players a chance to spin a wheel with prizes and perks on it.Bankin' Bacon, Rising Rewards, Wheel of Fortune Triple Extreme Spin
WildsCreates more payline win opportunities by counting as any symbol.Most Online Slots

Popular Slots with Bonus Features

88 Fortunes Online SlotThe 88 Fortunes slot features four fixed jackpots, wilds, and free spins. This is an example of a typical video slot’s bonus feature set, perhaps minus the jackpots, which aren’t as common as wilds and free spins. This set of features provides a perfect balance between base game excitement and big bonus win potential.

Cleopatra Slot Machine Screenshot Cleopatra is one of the original popular online slots, and it provides a glimpse into the bonus feature sets of earlier video slots before a plethora of new features were added. Cleopatra’s bonus features include free spins that can be retriggered, scatters, and a multiplier of 3x on the aforementioned free spins bonus game.

Divine Fortune SlotThe always popular Divine Fortune is perhaps best known for its progressive jackpot bonus feature, but there’s more to be had from this excellent game. Beyond the progressive jackpot, which can be categorized as an instant win bonus feature, Divine Fortune also has wild symbols with multiple additional features, including falling wilds and respins, as well as a free spins bonus game.

Starburst Cash Money Online Slot at BetMGM CasinoStarburst is a popular option for players who enjoy low-volatility games. However, we’ve included this example to show that some games, especially those with low volatility, focus more on the base game than bonus features. In the case of Starburst, the only bonus feature is wilds, plus respins when those wilds appear. Beyond that, all gameplay takes place in the base game.

Responsible Gambling

As always, you should practice responsible gambling every time you play a slot. This is especially important when considering slot bonus features, as the hope of landing these features can push players to wager outside their budgets and comfort zones. You should never chase bonus features or losses, and you should always set a budget before you begin play to avoid wagering above your means. If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, call or text 1-800-GAMBLER for confidential support. Visit SAMHSA’s National Helpline website for resources that include a treatment center locator, anonymous chat, and more.

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About the Author

Craig Corbeels

Craig Corbeels

Craig Corbeels is a lead writer and gambling expert for Bonus.com. He has been involved in the online gambling industry since 2013. Previously, he worked for Gamesys and Bally's Interactive as a copywriter and social media strategist for multiple North American online casinos.
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