What have been the best Microgaming slot releases each year - Part One

Microgaming are one of the names synonymous with online slot gaming in the UK and around the globe. The company was one of the first to develop a trustworthy, reliable and workable online casino and across almost 20 years, it has been responsible for some of the biggest and best slot games you will find anywhere online.

In this historical review, we are going to take a look back across the years at Microgaming's hugely impressive back catalogue of games and we are going to pick the one game release from each year which we feel best exemplifies the top quality and unparalleled gaming you will find on Microgaming's top ranking slot games.

With 20 years of games to look back on, we are going to split this article into two parts, the first of which will look at the first ten years of Microgaming operations from 1998, through to 2007. The second part of the article, released later this week, will focus on 2008 through to 2018.

Our story begins way back in 1998, when France had just become the first-time winners of the World Cup, the Good Friday accord was reached in Northern Ireland and European's agreed on the Euro as their new currency across the Eurozone.

Also, in that year, Microgaming released its first batch of online slot games.

1998 Top Release - Pharoah's Fortune

Other 1998 releases - Trick or Treat, Martian Money, Pirates Paradise, Golden Dragon

Along with Trick or Treat and Martian Money, Pharoah's Fortune was one of three January releases for the new Microgaming company and of these the 3-reel, single pay line Pharoah's Fortune slot was the one that really caught the eye. Offering a jackpot of 2,500 coins and playable from 0.25 per spin, the simple design of the slot and the fact that you could win smaller amounts more often, made it an instant hit with the new generation of online slot players.

1999 Top Release - Genie's Gems

Other 1999 releases - Sand Storm, Heavy Metal, Flo's Diner, Jester's Jackpot, Island Style, Gladiator's Gold, Red Dog, Baccarat, Sultan's Sevens, Jurassic Jackpot, Cosmic Cat, Winning Wizards, Vegas Craps, Jackpot Express, Crazy Crocodiles, Fruit Slots, Fantastic 7, Reels Royce, Double Magic, Cyberstud Poker, River Belle Riches, Big 5

After the success of their first few slots in 1998, Microgaming ramped up their output in 1999 producing many more games in what was a bumper year of strong slot releases. The threat of the "millennium bug" didn't put off many players as a high quality crop of games including Cosmic Cat, Heavy Metal and Jurassic Jackpot hit slots casinos, while the company also released its first casino game offerings in Red Dog, Baccarat, Vegas Craps and Cyberstud Poker. Genie's Gems however takes the title this year as it was one of Microgaming's first ever 5-reel slots and while still a relatively simple game, it was eminently playable and laid the foundation for the more complex games to follow.

2000 Top Release - 3-Reel Lots A Loot Progressive

Other 2000 releases - Thousand Islands, Roman Riches, 7 Oceans, Nashville Sevens, WOW! Pot (progressive), Lucky Charmer, Fruit Fiesta (progressive), Supajax (progressive), Lions Share, Blackjack Bonanza, Chief Fortune, Zany Zebra, Floridita Fandango, Diamond Deal, Ruby Reels, Monkeys Money, Grand 777, Goblin's Gold, Chief's Magic

The year 2000 was a landmark year for Microgaming. They continued to output games at a prodigious rate and some of their best early years slots were developed this year including Goblin's Gold, Chief Fortune and Zany Zebra. However, this was also the year the company developed its first progressive offering in the 3-reel version of the Lots A Loot slot. A game which is still popular to this very day. Other progressives, WOW Pot and Fruit Fiesta slots, plus the SupaJax Video Poker progressive followed, but it was the first progressive release in April 2000 that gets my vote.

2001 Top Release - Bellissimo!

Other 2001 releases - Fun House, Party Time, Captain Cash, Flower Power, Fortune Cookie, Crazy Chameleons, Cracker Jack, Razzmatazz, Flying Ace, Peek A Boo, Cash Crazy, Poker Pursuit, Sizzling Scorpions, Gold Coast.

In truth, 2001 was something of a poorer year in terms of releases from Microgaming. There were just 15 this year and the tried and trusted formula 3-reel slots, plus the occasional 5-reel game with jackpots of around 6,000 coins, was still very much the focal design. While Peek A Boo and Fortune Cookie were solid releases, the fact that the Bellissimo! Slot had Wild symbols on the reels, which was a novelty in these early days, made it an entertaining and enjoyable slot today and to this very day, I still feel it is one of the more underestimated and undervalued of Microgaming's early releases.

2002 - Top Release - 5-Reel Drive

Other 2002 releases - Gopher Gold, Royal 777, Rings and Roses, Diamond 777, Atlantis, Triple Sevens Progressive Blackjack, Don Deal, Astro-Nomical, 1 Arm Bandit, Living in Luxury, Fortuna, Fruit Salad, Froot Loot, Silver Scarab, Double Whammy, High 5, Double Dose, Roulette Royale, Mocha Orange, Monster Mania, Big Top, Reel Thunder, Jack in the Box, Sun Quest, City of Gold, Cherry Red

If 2001 disappointed slightly with the number and quality of releases, 2002 was one of Microgaming's best years for games. There were a number of landmark releases including the company's first ever Roulette game and there was a far greater mix of 5-reel slots in with the 3-reel releases and the games were now starting to see both Scatter and Wild symbols included. Although Sun Quest is perhaps a better looking slot and the more fun to play, the fact that 5-Reel Drive preceded it and had the same bonus features, plus went on to become part of the Mega Moolah network in future years, marks this down as the key release from Microgaming this year, especially with its bumper 10,000 coin jackpot prize.

2003 - Top Release - Thunderstruck

Other 2003 releases - Mummy Mummy, European Blackjack, Truck Stop, Triple Magic, Spectacular, Oranges and Lemons, Jewel Thief, Cutesy Pie, Rock the Boat, Rapid Reels, Vegas Strip Blackjack, American Roulette, Atlantic City Blackjack, Baccarat, Spanish Baccarat, SWAT Team, Samurai 777, Couch Potato, Spring Break, High 5, Mega Spin, Double Magic Megaspin, Break Da Bank, Bonus Pai Gow Poker, Super Fun 21, Double Exposure

How can a year that boasts release such as Break Da Bank or Jewel Thief not see these slots picked for the best release of the year? Well, 2003 was another fantastic year for Microgaming with a host of top releases including some of their best-ever slot games and a slew of casino game releases, some of which remain in play to this very day. While Break Da Bank is without doubt one of the companies greatest ever games, it is hard to overlook the October release of the Thunderstruck slot which was one of the first to offer Free Spins as part of the game, as well as a Gamble Feature, which allowed you to double or even quadruple the size of your win.

2004 - Top Release - Lara Croft Tomb Raider

Other 2004 releases - Bonus Blackjack, Big Kahuna, 3 Card Poker, Vinyl Countdown, Skull Duggery, Secret Admirer, What a Hoot, French Roulette, Tunzamunni, Tally Ho, Adventure Palace, Treasure Palace, Good to Go, Poker Ride, Reel Strike, Ladies Nite.

Although 2004 was a quiet year in terms of the number of releases, what was notable here was that the quality of the slots was improving. We were slowly moving away from 3-reel games and into five reel games and the best example of that this year was without doubt the Lara Croft Tomb Raider slot. The game not only featured Free Spins and Wild symbols, but also a Tomb Bonus, which added an extra dimension to the game and started to hint at the different bonus features that were possible within the 5-reel format. This was also Microgaming's first licensed offering, based on the popular films and computer game franchise.

2005 - Top Release - Agent Jane Blonde

Other 2005 releases - Frost Bite, Vegas Craps, Pub Fruity, Off the Hook, Casino War, Golden Goose Totem Treasure, Sonic Boom, Golden Goose Genie Gems, Spellbound, Wasabi Sun, European Roulette Gold Series, Fairy Ring, Mardi Gras, Harveys, Muchos Grande, Vegas Strip Multi Hand Blackjack, Dino Might, Atlantic City Multi Hand Blackjack.

This was another strong year for Microgaming with some quality releases including arguably the first 'retro' styled slot in Pub Fruity, a couple of multi-hand blackjack games which built on their single hand releases of a few years back, plus some very playable slot games including Frost Bite, Sonic Boom and Off the Hook, but for me, the clear winner this year was the James Bond-inspired Agent Jane Blonde, a hugely playable, comic-styled five reel slot that offered Free Spins, a 2x multiplier on any Wild win and the chance to earn a top prize of 10,000 coins. So popular is the Agent Jane Blonde slot that Stormcraft Studios (for Microgaming) have a sequel planned for release, most likely some time in 2019.

2006 - Top Release - Mega Moolah

Other 2006 - releases - Multi Hand Bonus Blackjack, Sahara's Secret, Kathmandu, Multi Hand Vegas Downtown, Isis, Free Spirit, Multi Hand Classic Blackjack, Avalon, Major Millions Progressive, 3 Card Poker Multi Hand, Mad Hatters, Atlantic City Blackjack Gold Series, Vegas Strip Gold Series, Vegas Downtown Gold Series, Supe It Up, The Nutty Squirrel, Bars and Stripes, Multi Hand Spanish Blackjack, European Blackjack Gold Series, Classic Blackjack Gold Series, Witch Dr, Vegas Single Deck Blackjack Gold Series, Dolphin Tale, Age of Discovery, Big Five Blackjack Gold Series, Jungle 777, Chocolate Factory, Super Fun 21 Gold Series, Double Exposure Gold Series, Phaoroah's Tomb, Multi Hand Double Exposure, Flying Circus, Twin Samurai, Summertime, Glory of Rome, Vegas Strip Multi Hand Gold Series, Multi Hand Vegas Downtown Gold Series, Classic Blackjack Gold Series, Lady of the Orient, Jingle Bells, Inca Gold, Crazy 80s, Vegas Single Deck Blackjack.

By 2006, Microgaming had earned a reputation as a top-quality provider of online slots and casino games and in that year, the company enhanced that reputation with arguably the strongest ever release of slot games and casino games in a single calendar year. It was not just the sheer number of releases in 2006 that was impressive, but the quality of the games. Releases such as Kathmandu, Mad Hatters, Age of Discovery, Major Millions, Bars and Stripes and Summertime would all have been contenders for the Top Release in any previous year, but the fact that the company released the Mega Moolah slot, with its guaranteed £1,000,000 minimum progressive jackpot prize, a game that shaped the landscape of slot gaming for years to follow and which remains to this day a record breaker, is the obvious pick as the game of 2006 and perhaps Microgaming's greatest ever slot game release. It is certainly, the company's most popular game so far.

2007 - Top Release - Hitman

Other 2007 releases - Magic Spell, The High Life, Porky Payout, Life's a Beach, Jellyfish Jaunt, Lucky Stars, Grand Circus, Hunky Heroes, Doctor Doctor, Win Spinner, Franken Cash, Dragon's Loot, Boogie Monsters, Path of the Penguin, No Worries, Snow Honeys, Gladiator, Curry Hurry.

After the sheer myriad of top releases in 2006, it is perhaps unsurprising that 2007 was a quieter year for Microgaming releases but the quality of the games released in 2007 remained exceptionally high. Win Spinner, Lucky Stars and Life's a Beach were all great games, but the Hitman slot, based on the popular computer game at that time saw players able to win up to 270,000 coins in a non-progressive slot, and it boasted some of the most detailed and impressive graphics ever seen on a slot game. Add to that the cinematic levels of presentation and it is clear that Hitman was the big hit of 2007.

Remember to check back later this week for Part Two of this article, where we will delve into the releases from 2008 on wards, right up to the present day.

Byline: This article was published by Mega Moolah expert Henry. Media and other enquiries.

Next article: Switch Studios to produce a series of casino table games for Microgaming