Bonus Round Slots – Free Slot Games with Bonus Rounds
Slots have come a long way since the first reels went spinning. Back in the late 19th century, they were big lumps of mechanical metal. But the games operated in much the same way at the base level: reels span round and you’d be awarded a prize for a set of matching symbols.
However, these games would not have had a bonus round. They were a one-shot betting machine. Bonus rounds aren’t completely an operation of the online age though. As slot machines got more sophisticated they could introduce subsidiary rounds, often shown on a second screen above the main reels.
These extra games came in all shapes and sizes, but back in the day when real players were hitting real buttons, they tended to like physical and skill challenges. This could mean stopping a flashing light at the right time, or a moving light at the right stage of its journey. These games are still around but are less popular in the cyber world.
The most popular slot bonus round is a free spins round. But there are a load of other options, and we’ll take a look at those now.
Slots With Bonus Rounds: Base Game v Bonus Round
When does the base game end and the bonus round begin?
The base game for us is the spinning of reels and the forming of winning combinations on the reels.
And there can be bonus features in this part of the game.
For example, respins:
Respin Bonus Rounds
Respins are a bonus feature that gives you a second bite of the cherry. Like almost all bonus features they need to be triggered in the main game.
The most common way to trigger a respin is with a win. And the most common way it is delivered is by knocking out the symbols involved in the win and dropping in new ones in their place. Potentially, you get a new win.
These can carry on and on in some games, though they may be limited, sometimes to one respin sometimes to three.
Wild Bonus Rounds
Wilds are a base game feature but also can have bonus round functions and bonus-round like features by going beyond the first spin.
Wilds can expand or move after spins, for example.
Bonus Rounds Proper
But proper bonus rounds are generally more obviously differentiated from the main game.
Bonuses help make the game more interesting to players by offering a contrast in the action. Anything you do repetitively has the potential to get boring. Wins are one way of breaking things up, and bonus games add another dimension to play.
Typically they also offer bigger prizes.
They may work with the game’s narrative, and in more recent games can open up a second world of escalating prizes and adventure by starting a new secondary structure.
These bonus games outside the main spin come in a variety of types. We will probably miss a couple here, simply through lack of comprehensive surveying and time and space, but bonus rounds can most easily be sorted into two families:
- Free Spins Bonus Games, and
- The rest.
Let’s have a walk through the whole experience.
Bonus Round Slot Games: Function
Almost everything you see in a slot machine happens at random. This is also true of the vast majority of bonus games. We’ve left a qualifying “almost” in that sentence almost for the sack of argument because the whole structure of slots is random, but there are occasional skill games.
This means that slot bonus games are triggered at random. It is possible that they will be presented to the player as if they have been “earned” in some way. If you see this function it is merely a measure of time and random chance – by triggering a series of random events and by staying long enough to do it enough times to “earn” the bonus prize.
Throughout this, you should keep one thing in mind. Bonus slot games are part of the functioning of the vast majority of slot games because they work to deliver the prime directive of slot games because they result in players spending more time on the game and spending more money. Please remember this and always make your own financial situation and mental health the most important part of how you make decisions about bonus round slots.
The most common way to trigger a slot machine bonus game is via special symbols. Pay-tables are usually divided into standard symbols, that combine to deliver pay-outs and special symbols.
These are generally Wilds that sub in for other symbols to deliver a higher value win.
And scatters that count as a combination wherever they appear on the reels and are the most common way of triggering a bonus round.
There may be other symbols that contribute to bonus games or to the triggering of bonus games, for example, symbols that might be collected to “earn” a prize or special feature.
Other Types of Bonus Games:
All games on slots are gambles, but some are more obviously lucky choices than others.
We’ll look at a couple here.
Going back to the roots of the slot industry, card flips or choices (or coin tosses) are a classic way to present a choice to the player.
The most common card bonus game is the double-or-quits choice.
This comes after a prize is awarded. The player is then given the choice to double their win or lose all of it (or fall back to an earlier position in a prize sequence if the game has more than one level). Usually, the choice is presented as a red-or-black choice on the turn of a card. You may also see a four-way choice between the four suits of a deck of card, offering a longer-odds choice and maybe a bigger reward for getting it right.
The hi/lo gamble is another very common way of asking players to risk their wins.
Doubling prizes quickly add up to really big rewards. For this reason, there is almost always a limit on the number of times the game can be played.
Another popular way to deliver a random choice is via a spinning wheel.
This can be used for any number of purposes. It may offer the player a choice of other bonus games. It may set a multiplier level. And it may be a “picking” game where the player is asked to pick a number or colour and hope the wheel hits it in order to win a prize or move up a bonus game ladder.
Many bonus wheels are used in progressive jackpots. Progressive jackpots are a bonus game that is usually separate from the main game and often triggered entirely at random and independent of the main game. Progressive jackpots very commonly come in three- or four-level games: mini, major, and massive, for example, and can deliver enormous prizes.
The Wheel of Fortune game by IGT is a great example of a prize wheel in action. The game is triggered via scatters, with the wheel awarding a bonus prize based on the spin of the wheel.
In common with most of these “other bonus games,” this game can often be used to deliver or determine something in a free spins round.
Random Pick and Prize Pick games
A load of bonus round slot games are a variation on the pea-and-nut game. This fairground game – notorious for “tricking” players – is a very simple one. The game owner hides a pea under a nutshell – moves them around and asks the player to pick a shell. If they get the pea they get a prize.
Random pick games are basically this.
They may feature symbols or items that move. They may not. Three or nine options are common, but really there’s no set template for this sort of game.
The player is given a choice of a number of items and is awarded the prize that is hidden by that item.
A good example of this is in the legendary Barcrest slot Rainbow Riches, which offers a number of themed prize picking games, including pots of money.
Another way to deliver prizes is via a sequence of prize awards.
These games are typically a series of random choice games of the sort we’ve discussed above. For example, the wheel of fortune, which sometimes comes with increasing level.
They also include choice ladders, like the card choices, or spinning wheels that send you up and along a road or ladder of prizes.
Some of these games may be:
Bonus games may involve skill. That’s good news for you if you’re skilful!
These games are usually matters of hand-eye coordination.
Such games date back to real-life cabinet games when bonus games were often played on a second physical area.
The skill game is generally simple, most often involving stopping a light from flashing at the right time, or stopping a sequence of lights at the right place.
While these games begin as games of skill, they almost always end up as random games as the flashing or movement of the lights gets so fast that there’s no realistic way to use your skill to get the task right and you’re just pressing the button and hoping that the timing is right.
Arcade Skill Games
These games have developed lately to involve more sophisticated tasks.
For example, the Dolphin Cash game from Playtech involves an arcade skill game that asks players to help a dolphin climbing to grab some cash.
Again, these games may start as involving a certain amount of skill, but most often end up as random games by virtue of their speed or difficulty increasing so far as to make them realistically random.
Free Spins in Bound Round Slots
The commonest by far of all bonus games is the free spins round. Free spins round exist on their own, but may also interact with any number of the bonus games we’ve listed above, most often a random choice or prize progress game that is being used to decide how many free spins the player wins or a multiplier on prizes in the free spins round.
Again, slot games come in all shapes and sizes and it’s simply not possible to cover every existing or possible variation on free spins bonus games here.
What are Free Spins Bonus Rounds?
Free spins are the go-to bonus round. Players love them. They are simple and they deliver big prize potential.
Free goes on the game!
That’s right, the bonus is just a re-run of the base game – clicking and spinning the reels in the hope of winning prizes – but with no stake being taken out of the player’s balance for the game.
That’s the simple explanation of a free spins bonus round.
How are Free Spins Bonus Rounds Triggered?
There are some exceptions, but the vast majority of free spins games are triggered via scatters. Scatters are special symbols that award a reward no matter where on the reels they are in relation to one another.
The vast majority of slot combinations rely on proximity to award prizes but scatters just rely on numbers.
The commonest set up for free spin scatters is for a set of three to award the free spins round.
How many Free Spins are in my Free Spins Bonus Round?
The most common number of free spins is 10. There is no reason for this, it’s just the way of the world to prefer round numbers.
Free spins rounds may be singular. You win a set of spins and that’s it. Or they may come in different sizes.
A fairly common set up for this would be: three scatters award 10 free spins, four scatters award 15 free spins, and five scatters award 20 free spins.
Free Spins Rounds that Retrigger
Free spins rounds may include scatters and the scatters may retrigger the free spins game.
This can be limitless or may have limits. The number of spins in a retrigger may be smaller than in the original award of free spins.
However many times a free spins round retriggers it won’t transcend the top prize limit for the game.
How Much Can I Bet on my Free Spins?
In the vast majority of free spins rounds, you will play with the amount you were betting in the spin that won you the free spins round.
Extra Bonus Rounds in the Free Spins Bonus Rounds
Here we again enter the realm of Too Much to Describe in Full, as it is very common to add extras to free spins rounds.
These can come in the form of extra features or extra symbols, for example.
Here are a few common examples.
Multipliers in Free Spins Bonus Rounds
Multipliers increase prize size by multiplying an awarded prize not just by the stake but also by the amount of a multiplier.
For free, we’ll tell you that 1x multipliers are worthless! But, anything above 2x is well worth having. Multipliers often come with increasing values that climb as certain values are passed, or simply with the passage of time.
Free Spins Bonus Rounds with Extra Symbols
Putting more high value or special symbols on the reels during the free spins round is a common way to push the prize values up higher.
For example: the game may add more wilds to the reels. The wilds may then be given special properties, for example, they might expand to cover more than one symbol space and complete more than one winning combination.
Wilds can also move across the reels in subsequent spins. They may cluster together. Or they might move up or down the reels.
It’s also possible to see more high-paying symbols, or even a completely new and different set of reels in a free spins bonus round.
Bonus Rounds Slots are Always Good News
Bonus round slots serve to deliver more variety – which players like – and to promise bigger prizes – which players would like to win.
Their purpose is to make players play more. This is the most important thing you can take away from this article. Bonus round slot machines are there to make you play for longer and to spend money. So be wary and keep safe gambling at the front of your mind at all times.
Enjoy games and their bonus round, but do it safely.