A Complete Guide to Slot Symbols

Getting into playing slots, and wondering what all the different types of slot machine symbols are? We’ve got you covered with our Guide to Slot Symbols!

If you can’t tell a scatter symbol from a wild symbol, you may find yourself confused about what is going on when special symbols land on the paylines.

To answer your questions about slot machine symbols, we’ve put together an in-depth guide to all the different types of slot symbols you might encounter when you are playing slot games online.

Standard Symbols

Most of the symbols you see on a slot game are just your regular types of symbols that don’t have any special attributes.

The goal when playing a slot game is to have matching symbols line up on a payline.

It is common for standard slot symbols to look like fruits such as cherries, bananas, lemons and grapes.

It is also common for them to be related to playing cards in some fashion. You might see suit symbols such as spades, hearts, clubs, and diamonds, or you could see numbers and letters representing Tens, Jacks, Queens, Kings, and Aces.

But those are just the most common slot symbols out there. Regular slot symbols can take any shape you can dream up.

On a safari themed slot game, they might appear as animals. On an Egyptian themed slot game, they could appear as ancient Egyptian symbols.

Choose a slot game with a fun theme that you enjoy, since you’ll be spending a lot of time watching those symbols landing on the paylines.

Guide to Slot Symbols

This is a shot from the slot “Pistols and Roses”, one of the most basic slots you’ll find around. Some people want that! You can play it at Bovada or you can read a review about it here!

Wild Symbols

Now let’s talk about wild symbols. These are special symbols which can substitute for others.

In fact, a wild symbol can stand in for any other standard symbol in the game.

So, imagine you have a payline on which four cherry symbols have landed, plus a wild symbol.

This will get you a payout, since the wild symbol will automatically stand in for a cherry symbol.

Did you know there are many different types of wild symbols? Let’s go over them now.

  • Regular Wilds
  • Guide to Slot Symbols

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The simplest version of a wild symbol is just what I have described above. You spin the reels, and you see a wild symbol land on a payline.

When you spin the reels again, the symbol will depart with the rest, behaving just like any other symbol in the game.

  • Sticky Wilds

What is more exciting than a regular wild symbol? How about one that doesn’t spin with the rest when you turn the reels?

When you get a sticky wild symbol, it will slide into place on the payline, standing in for any other symbol as needed.

The next time you push the spin button, you’ll see all the other symbols depart the payline as the reels turn—but not the sticky wild. It will stay right where it is.

When the reels come to a stop, it will again fill the same function on the payline, standing in for any symbol you need.

How many rounds the sticky wild sticks for will depend on the game you are playing. But for as long as you have it, it will make it easier for you to get winning combinations on that payline.

  • Shifting Wilds

Adding to the excitement of sticky wilds is a variant called “shifting wilds.”

When a shifting wild first appears, it may show up in any position on the reels. But there is a really good chance you’ll see it on the last reel.

When you take another spin, the shifting wild won’t go away, but it won’t stick to the same place like a sticky wild either.

Instead, when the reels stop turning, you’ll discover that the shifting wild has shifted position, usually landing up one position away from where it started in any direction.

Now you can guess the reason why it is common for a shifting wild to initially appear on the last reel. It means that when the wild shifts, there is a good chance it will simply shift off the screen.

If that should be the case, that shifting wild is done, but hopefully you’ll get another soon.

If it shifts to a different position where it doesn’t leave the screen, it will stand in for any other symbol you need in the space where it ends up.

When you spin again, it might either shift again, or it might disappear. Again, how many spins it remains for depends on the game you have selected.

  • Wandering Wilds

A type of wild symbol which is similar to a shifting wild is a wandering wild. Like a shifting wild, a wandering wild can move on each spin and last through a few spins before it disappears.

What is the difference between the two? It is defined by how far the wild symbol moves between spins. If it only moves one spot in any direction, then it is a shifting wild. But if it appears in entirely random locations, including (potentially) all the way across the reels, then it is a wandering wild.

  • Walking Wilds

A walking wild symbol is similar to a shifting wild, but it behaves in a more predictable and orderly fashion.

When this type of symbol appears on a spin, it will shift position on the subsequent spin. But instead of shifting to a random adjacent position like you would expect from a shifting wild, it will “walk” one position over on each spin in the same direction.

NetEnt is the company that introduced walking wilds, and on their games, it generally walks to the left one space on each spin.

So, ideally, a walking wilds will appear on the far right reel. If this happens, its value is maximized since it will have to cross the entire screen before it disappears. If it shows up on the far left reel, it will be gone by the next spin.

  • Overlay Wilds

We have now talked about different types of wild symbols which appear by themselves. But there are several types of wild symbols which take up more than one space when they appear.

Among them is the “overlay wild.” This is another type of wild symbol pioneered by NetEnt.

An overlay wild will not fall into place with the reels as they finish spinning. Instead, it will appear at random directly after the reels settle. It is “overlaid” on top of the existing symbols.

The overlay will actually consist of an entire formation of wild symbols in a particular shape. The shape varies from game to game. The most commonly cited example is the NetEnt Guns N’ Roses game, which has an overlay wild with a cross shape.

There are two things which are interesting about overlay wilds. The first is that by dint of their unusual shapes, they can stand in for symbols on multiple paylines.

The second is that where they land on top of the reels can vary from spin to spin. Sometimes, an overlay wild will be perfectly positioned to be entirely visible on the screen, giving you the maximum possible advantage.

But other times, the overlay may be imperfect, so that part of the formation is off the edge of the screen and not affecting the paylines.

Seeing an overlay wild at all can be exciting, but it is most thrilling when the entire formation appears.

  • Stacked Wilds

Another type of wild is the stacked variety. As the reels stop turning on a spin, rather than just seeing the one the wild symbol slide into place, you will see multiple wild symbols stacked together.

Each of these stacked wild symbols will behave just like a regular wild in that they can substitute for any other symbols in the game. So the more of these stacked wilds appear, the better your chances of winning a payout.

  • Trailing Wilds

You can think of a trailing wild as a stacked wild which forms over a series of spins rather than appearing all at once.

On the first spin, you will see just one wild symbol appear. You could easily mistake this for a regular wild, unless the game informs you that it is the start of a trailing wild.

When you take another spin, the trailing wild will stick in its position. You’ll then see another wild appear with it, so that you have a stack of two wilds.

  • Colossal Wilds

There are some slot games that feature colossal wilds. These wild symbols take up more space than a single symbol spot. They occupy a grid comprised of multiple symbol spaces, for example 2×2 spaces (4 spaces in all) or 3×3 spaces (9 spaces in all).

When a colossal wild symbol appears, it increases your chance to win over multiple paylines in multiple directions. It is similar to the expanding wild feature (see below).

  • Expanding Wilds

One more type of wild symbol which can add to the excitement (and potential profitability) of a slot game is expanding wilds.

When you get an expanding wild, it will expand to cover a whole reel. Multi-space wild symbols such as expanding wilds and colossal wilds are sometimes sticky, and may hold through multiple spins.

You should also note that it is possible to get more than one expanding wild. If you get these on two or three reels at a time, you are in a great position to potentially get some serious payouts.

  • Scatter Wilds

While a wild symbol can substitute for any regular slot symbol, you probably are wondering if it can also substitute for other types of slot symbols.

The answer to that is “it depends.” On many slot games which include both wild and scatter symbols, a wild symbol cannot stand in for a scatter symbol.

But there are slots which feature scatter wild symbols. If you see one of these symbols, it acts as both simultaneously. That means it can stand in for a regular symbol to help form a winning combination on a payline, and it can reward you with a bonus, free spin, or extra payout (see below).

Scatter Symbols

We have now talked about multiple types of wild symbols that you might run into when playing slots online. Let’s move onto another class of special symbols called scatter symbols.

Scatter symbols are a bit difficult to explain for the reason that there is a significant amount of variety between them from game to game.

It is easiest to explain what scatter symbols are and how they work by examining their history and how they have evolved.

Scatter Symbols in Their Most Basic Form

If you played old-fashioned fruit machines back in the day, you probably recall the excitement of spotting cherries. The reason they were exciting was because they often served as early scatter symbols.

Such symbols can be “scattered” anywhere on the reels and pay out, even if they aren’t on a payline as part of a winning combination.

While a single scatter symbol would trigger a small payout, two scatter symbols would pay out more, and three even more, and so on.

Again, all of these symbols could show up anywhere. They did not need to be grouped together on a payline.

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Scatter Symbols Today

We’re in a new epoch for scatter symbols, thanks to digital technology. That has led to some changes.

It is common—though not ubiquitous—for a single scatter symbol alone not to trigger any sort of payout on today’s slots.

But if you get two or more, any of the following could happen, depending upon the game you are playing:

You could get a payout. The more symbols show up, the higher the payout will be.

You could trigger a bonus round.

You could win free spins. Once again, the more symbols appear, the more free spins you would win.

If the scatter symbol is also a wild symbol, it can help form a winning combination.

How do you know how a scatter symbol on a particular game will behave? You will need to read the rules before you play.

Below, we go over some of the different types of scatter symbols out there.

  • Basic Scatters

The most basic type of scatter symbol is one which shows up when the reels settle after a spin, and then disappears the next time you spin the reels.

Check the rules for a game before playing to find out how many scatters you need to trigger a payout or other reward.

  • Sticky Scatters

Just as there are sticky wilds, there also are sticky scatter symbols. If you get a sticky scatter, it will persist through multiple spins, holding its position as the reels turn.

Since many games require you to get more than one scatter symbol to trigger a reward, a sticky scatter can be very helpful. If you are able to get a second scatter symbol to appear while the sticky one is holding, you may qualify for the reward.

  • Scatter Wilds

As already discussed, there are games that feature scatter wilds. These symbols can substitute for others on the reels while also giving you a scatter reward.

  • Expanding Scatters

An expanding scatter symbol works like an expanding wild symbol. When you see the scatter symbol appear, it will expand to fill an entire reel. This can immediately qualify you for some awesome rewards in many cases. See the game rules to find out what will happen if you get an expanding scatter.

  • Scatter Multipliers

Finally, there are also sometimes scatter multiplier symbols (see below).

Multiplier Symbols

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A third type of special symbol which is common to find on slot games online is a multiplier symbol. As the name implies, if you get a multiplier, it can multiply the value of a payout. Let’s discuss the different types of multipliers you might find on online slots.

First of all, there are two broad categories of multiplier symbols:

  • Win multipliers
  • Bet multipliers

Their names describe what they do. Win multipliers multiply the amount of your winnings when they appear. Bet multipliers multiply the amount of your bet. In both cases, you get better payouts.

The types of multipliers described below can be win multipliers or bet multipliers, depending on the game.

  • Base Play Multipliers

The majority of multipliers appear during bonus rounds and free spins, not during base play. But base play multipliers do exist.

You will need to consult the rules of a particular game to find out how multipliers in that game will work during base play.

But in general, the payout on the winning payline will be multiplied according to the amount listed on the multiplier. So if it says 2X, it will be doubled. If it says 3X, it will be tripled, and so forth. Some games even feature huge multiplies like 10X or more.

  • Free Spin Multipliers

Multipliers during free spin rounds work just like those during base play. If you get a 2X multiplier during a free spin, your winnings will double. If you get 3X during a free spin, your winnings will triple, and so on.

If a game includes free spin multipliers, it may or may not also have base play multipliers. You’ll find lots of games which only feature free spin or bonus multipliers (see below), and not base play multipliers. In essence, the multipliers are part of the reward of having triggered a free spin or bonus round.

But there are also games that feature multipliers not only during free spins and bonus rounds, but during regular play.

  • Bonus Multipliers

A bonus multiplier is just the same as a free spin multiplier, but it shows up during another type of bonus round.

  • Scatter Multipliers

This is a type of multiplier which is also a scatter symbol. The beauty of a multiplier being a scatter symbol is that by definition, it does not need to be on a payline with a winning combination to go into effect. It could be located anywhere on the reels and still multiply your winnings.

In some cases, a scatter multiplier might also reward you in some other way when it appears. You will be able to find this information in the game rules.

  • Wild Multipliers

A multiplier may serve as a wild symbol too. If you get a wild multiplier on a payline, it can both help to form a winning combination and increase the payout of that combination.

  • Expanding Multipliers

Along with expanding wilds and expanding scatter symbols, expanding multipliers are possible. If you get an expanding multiplier, it will expand to fill an entire reel, multiplying winnings across multiple paylines. Just imagine if you got an expanding 10X multiplier! You could find yourself with an incredible payout.

Bonus Symbols

We have now discussed scatters, multipliers, and wilds. Another type of special symbol that many slot machines feature is a bonus symbol.

When a bonus symbol appears, it will trigger some type of bonus. Any of the following may be possible.

  • Free Spin Bonus Symbols

If you get this type of bonus symbol, it will trigger a free spin.

  • Bonus Round Bonus Symbols

This type of bonus symbol will send you to a bonus round such as a mini-game.

  • Miscellaneous Bonus Symbols

Technically, anything can be described as a “bonus,” so depending on which game you are playing, a bonus symbol could trigger any number of different types of bonuses.

  • Scatter Bonus Symbols

It is common to need a bonus symbol to appear on an activated payline in order for it to go into effect.

But one exception is when you get a scatter bonus symbol. This type of symbol can appear anywhere on the reels and trigger a bonus.

Free Spins Symbols

One more specific type of special symbol you might find on slot games is a free spins symbol.

This is essentially a type of bonus symbol, but instead of being labeled as a “bonus symbol” in the game, it will be labeled as a “free spin symbol.” It is the exact same thing as a free spin bonus symbol though. If it comes up on an activated payline, it triggers a free spin.

Conclusion: Multipliers, Scatter Symbols, Wilds and More Make Today’s Slot Games a Thrill

You are now familiar with many of the different types and sub-types of slot game symbols which show up on modern slots both online and in land-based casinos.

To give yourself the chance to experience as many of these types of symbols and their lucrative effects as possible, you’ll want to join online casinos with wide slot selections.

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