What makes a truly great slot stand out from the crowd?
Over the years I have probably reviewed hundreds, if not thousands of slot games and yet despite that, there are still the ones that I can remember now that when I played for the first time, you just knew they were an instant classic and going to have massive appeal.
However, it should be known that these slots are generally quite rare. While there are any number of good slots, a fair few very good games and a handful of excellent slots, there are just a small, select group that I would label as the best of the best. The truly great slots that are ones you will keep coming back to play time and time again.
Looking at Microgaming's output, which is of a very high quality it must be said, I would suggest that there are a relatively small number of slots which go beyond being merely excellent and into the realms of legendary. The progressive jackpot inspired Mega Moolah slot being one example, Break Da Bank being another and the Thunderstruck II slot is a third and added to that, I would add the Game of Thrones slot, which I feel ticks all the right boxes.
These games are ones I don't just review and forget, these are the ones that if I have a few spare moments to play a game of my choice using my own money, then these are the games I will load up before any other and ones that I keep coming back to play time and time again.
So what is it about games like Mega Moolah or Game of Thrones hat makes them so special? What do they have that other high-quality slots just don't seem quite be able to capture? After all, if you break down any slot into its combined parts, you will find that many are very much alike (Immortal Romance, for example, is almost a carbon copy of Thunderstruck II and offers a higher jackpot prize, yet I still rate Thunderstruck II as the better game).
In this article, we are going to try and figure out what it is that turns a great slot, into a legendary one and the first thing that we are going to put down on our list is perhaps the key criteria for any slot.
- An attractive jackpot
I'm not going to say that all the best games have to have a huge jackpot as that is not the case. Clearly Mega Moolah has a massive progressive jackpot and you can win over a million coins on Thunderstruck II, but the prizes available on other games such as Game of Thrones are smaller.
In terms of the jackpot, I find that it isn't the size of it that matters first and foremost, but the value of the jackpot compared to your bet. If you are betting, say £0.15 per spin on a 15 pay line slot, and have a jackpot of 1000x your coin bet, then that amounts to a potential top prize of £150. That's OK, but if it is 10,000x your bet, that is £1,500 and that is a sizeable jackpot compared to your bet.
On games like Thunderstruck II, the potential win compared to your bet size is huge and that is true on the likes of Break Da Bank and Game of Thrones too. Mega Moolah of course is the game which showcases this the most where you could win a prize of many millions for a bet as small as £0.25 per spin.
So while big jackpots do help a slot gain popularity, it is not the defining factor of a great game. It certainly helps if there's a sizeable jackpot to win, but in truth the jackpot size compared to your bet size is more a factor than the actual amount. A jackpot of £500,000 for example is not as attractive to many players if every spin costs £5. A £50,000 jackpot for spins costing £0.50 is far more enticing to the majority of slot players.
- A clever exploration of the theme
I don't think a slot needs to be on any given theme in order to be massively popular. I do feel some themes are more instantly appealing than others (Film and TV slots tend to be in this category) but what I think matters more is when a slot game has been designed to explore different aspects of the theme, rather than simply being 'about' a certain topic.
A great example of this can be found in any of the TV and Film slots Microgaming have produced. Two of my favourites being Jurassic Park, which has an absolute bundle of bonus games and features all of which explore the dinosaur theme superbly and the Bridesmaids slot, which uses the themes from the film, snippets of action and dialogue to produce a fantastic 5x4 reel game.
I find that slots which are just based on a theme, but which don't explore it in more detail with their main and bonus features are not as appealing. It is very easy to simply change the livery of a slot from say being about dogs to being about cats, but if you don't expound on this, you essentially end up with the same slot on two different themes.
There are examples of this (Too Many Monsters, Too Much Sushi, Too Much Candy for example) and these games are fine to play, but I think to be a classic a game has to have its own identity and that comes from a careful, considered and thoughtful approach to exploring the theme and utilising aspects of that theme in the different parts of the slots, such as the bonus features, Free Spins and similar.
- Perceived value for money
I think one of the fundamentals for any outstanding slot is that when a player finishes playing the game, they should feel that they have enjoyed themselves and that on occasion, they should finish with a bit more cash than when they started.
Of course, the volatility of a slot can be such that this happens more for some games than others and that is fine, there are a mix of slots I'd class as the very best when it comes to how volatile they are for players. It's not a case of saying the best slots are more or less volatile.
What is true is that the best slots may see you have sessions in which you end up losing a bit of cash, but they will also have sessions when you end up with a profit. The very best games get the balance between these spot on. They offer players a mix of wins, some smaller, some larger, some in the mid-range and they ensure that the balance between sessions where players end up with a profit, or end up losing out, are nicely balanced.
Of course, when I say that, I don't mean that the slot actively ensures this, it is simply down to chance, but having that balance between risk and reward for slot development companies when producing a slot, is a key element. Make a slot too difficult to win cash on and its popularity will plummet, make it too easy and the casinos won't want to offer the game as it could end up costing them cash.
What all the best slots have is this balance bang on the money. The perfect amount of times you win on spins and a fair amount of time that you lose.
- Brilliant bonus features
There's no doubt that when it comes to the very best slots, they all do have fantastic bonus features. The choice of bonus features on the Thunderstruck II or Game of Thrones slot for example is without doubt one of the most appealing aspects of the game. Mega Moolah's Jackpot Bonus Wheel may be the slots best known bonus feature as it is the key to winning the Mega Jackpot of over a million, but it's Free Spins bonus game triggers far more often and is far more lucrative for the vast majority of punters.
In terms of bonus features, it doesn't really matter what the bonus features are, if they have been created to fit in perfectly with the slot and its theme. Sure Rolling Reels, Sticky Wilds, Expanding Wilds, Freezing Wilds, Stacked Symbols and the like are all great bonuses, but so long as the bonus fits in with the slot and offers the player a chance at a generous reward, then that is what is key.
I would add though that I think slots that offer generous multiplier bonuses, especially those for wins including a Wild symbol, are attractive, especially those games where the wins can be combined if you land multiple Wilds on a reel. These games can see some big wins landed at any point and this does make them feel like they are great value to play.
- Playability in abundance
Finally, the most important aspect for any slot game to truly become legendary is that it must be one that you want to come back to play time and time again. That happens when you design a slot that meets all of the factors above and which almost makes players sorry that they need to stop playing and go and do something else.
I am not talking about a slot being addictive here, but simply enjoyable to play. It must offer a player a fair amount of risk and reward as we have already stated. It should explore its theme in creative and imaginative ways. It does help if it is presented spectacularly too, but even some of the simplest slots can still be hugely playable.
If at the end of your slots session, you can look back and say "I really enjoyed that" regardless of what your balance says, then you will know that you are playing a top slot game.
Byline: This article was published by Mega Moolah expert Henry. Media and other enquiries.
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