A good bonus game is integral to a good slot. Having something to aim for outside of the regular spins is often what has players coming back for more. In this article I will explain what types of bonus games there are, what makes a good bonus game and finally, I will reveal the 10 slots that we at ThePogg believe are best ones out there for you to play today.
What are Bonus Games?
Bonus games can come in various different guises, but there is a general rule that they exist outside of the main game and that you need certain symbol combinations in order to trigger them. In most instances a bonus game is triggered when you reveal three or more of a certain symbol type, but there can be other more imaginative ways to trigger a bonus. This might involve a symbol landing on a specific section of the reels or two different symbols landing on the same row. I couldn’t possibly go through all the different ways that I’ve seen bonus games triggered before but if you are ever unsure about how this can be achieved when playing a new slot, a quick look at one of our reviews or the slot’s paytable should make that clear for you.
The most common type of bonus games are Free Spins. These, as the name would suggest, are a number of spins that you have been awarded that cost you nothing to play once they have been triggered. You will be hard pushed to find a slot that does not include them, making them a staple in the world of bonus games.
The important question we need to ask if almost every slot comes with Free Spins is what makes one set of Free Spins better than another? One way for developers to ensure that their Free Spins are better than their competitors’ is to grant re-triggers. In other words, once you have triggered the bonus you can trigger it again whilst you play it. The number of Free Spins is also important, especially when awarded for landing additional triggering symbols. Essentially, if you need 3 Pineapples to get 10 Free Spins, you should get 15 Free Spins if you land 4 Pineapples.
What I have described above is relatively standard fare. Along with all of that, what sets the Free Spins bonuses apart are the ones that come with that additional bonus within. It could be extra Wild symbols, instant wins (I’ll come to this later), a pathway to another bonus game, or even options for you to choose from.
If a slot is going to score well from us, then having some of those additions within the Free Spins is quite often something that we will look for and is likely to be something you see from the slots that we include in our top 10.
There are two standard types of Instant Bonus Wins: Pick & Win Bonuses and Pick and Match Bonuses. The way you trigger your Instant Wins is normally similar to the way that you trigger Free Spins. In the vast majority cases you need a combination of 3 or more symbols, but that can vary from slot to slot.
Pick and Win Bonuses involve clicking on a blank tile to reveal a cash prize that lies underneath.
Pick and Match Bonuses are not all that different, other than you click on tiles until you reveal the required number of matching prizes. The amount on those tiles will be what you are awarded.
Obviously, these sorts of Instant Wins can come with subtle differences but the bonuses that make the most of the Instant Win are the ones where you have more than just a tile to flip. When time and effort is invested in an Instant Win bonus; where you move through doors, or tunnels or whatever the developers decide to replace the tiles with to make the experience more immersive and engaging.
Spin the Wheel
Spin the Wheel Bonuses are essentially the same as an Instant Win bonus, except instead of flipping tiles you spin a Wheel. When you do this you can normally win instant cash prizes and Free Spins and the way you trigger them is normally similar to how you trigger a Pick and Win or a Pick and Match bonus.
Re-Spins are a bit like mini Free Spins but often trigger in a very different way. The most common way to trigger a re-spin is when playing a cascading slot. With these slots you form combinations instead of identical symbols across paylines. In a cascading slot when you form a winning combination the symbols involved will normally disappear to be replaced by new symbols during a re-spin, a process that will continue until you fail to land a winning combination.
This is by no means the only way that you can trigger re-spin, but I would argue that it is the most common way. It would be futile to attempt to go through all the re-spin triggers that I have seen before to the extent that it can be a random feature or the result of any win.
Level Up Games
Some bonuses come with levels. Normally the deal is that the further through the levels that you go the bigger the rewards become. Like most of the bonuses I’ve already mentioned this can be a basic tile flipping bonus or something much grander. Either way you begin at one level and are either awarded a cash prize there or you move up to the next level and try to win a larger cash prize.
One of the down sides to Level Up bonus games is that sometimes you leave them with nothing as the levels offer higher risks and rewards the further through them you go.
A Progressive Jackpot is an instant win, but one that comes with a significant twist. Normally, if you want to access a progressive jackpot you need to play at high stakes. This is not always the case but it something that I have noticed is becoming increasingly common. Once you have access to the Progressive Jackpot every bet placed by anyone playing the slot that fails to win will have a percentage placed into the Progressive Jackpot.
Progressive Jackpots are very popular features because they tend to mean that you have a much better chance of winning a large amount in one go. The downside is that you will often have to bet big in order to access it.
Arguably, random features don’t count as bonus features but I thought I would mention them because you do get some really good ones. A random feature is one that triggers without any warning. They just happen, without symbol combinations or collections.
They tend not to be that big, hence why they are rarely described as bonus features. You are looking at extra Wilds added to the reels, or duplicating reels or whatever else a smart designer can think of.
What makes a Bonus Good?
First and foremost, you have to feel like you actually have a chance of triggering it. If you spin for hours and never some close to so much as a sniff of the key bonus feature, then it doesn’t really matter how good it is.
Once you know you might actually get the chance to play a bonus, I like to see some imagination. At the end of the day everyone will have different criteria for what makes a good bonus feature. For me, the bonus needs to have something to do with the slot. What I mean is, most slots have a theme and as such I would expect a good bonus feature to link to that theme.
For example, generic Free Spins are always a welcome addition, but Free Spins that involve characters or narrative are much better because they don’t feel like addons but integral elements of the slot.
This is what we focused on when we complied our list of the top 10 slots with bonus games. Whilst it is far from an exact science and could be considered subjective, here at ThePogg we believe that recognition should be given to those slot developers who go the extra mile to bring us something that is not only unique but an integral component of the slot.
The Top Slots with Bonus Games
The Gonzo’s Quest slot is about the crazy character that Net Entertainment created all the way back in 2011. The developers claim, and I don’t know if this is definitely true, that Gonzo’s Quest is the first slot to use cascades when forming winning combinations. If this is the case then it is not just Gonzo, the Conquistador, who should be considered a pioneer, but whichever Net Entertainment employee came up with the idea in the first place. The central bonus feature is the avalanches. Every time you win, the symbols involved will disappear and are replaced by a new set of symbols. Each time you do so the game multiplier will increase. The slot also comes with what are fairly straight forward Free Spins that can be re-triggered but what I like about them are the interactions that we get with Gonzo, as he opens the gates to the Golden City of Eldorado before moonwalking at the bottom of the reels.
The bonus features in the Pirate’s Plenty slot are so good that it managed to stand out as arguably the best slot of 2018. This is hands down Red Tiger’s best slot, something that it has its bonuses to thank for. The stand out bonus within a sea of stunning bonuses has to be the additional reel. You trigger this by collecting symbols, moving across a treasure map as you do so. Once you have enough symbols collected a 6th reel will unfurl, making the gaming experience bigger and better. You also have a quality set of Free Spins that have a bonus feature embedded within them. If it’s pirates and stunning bonus features that you are after then this is the only slot you need to play.
Champions of Rome
The Champions of Rome slot should be considered one of best releases of 2019. Once you trigger the Free Spins you need to choose between “Training” mode and “Death Match” mode as you enter the gladiatorial ring. Seriously, what other Free Spins have you played that give you the chance to play in “Death Match” mode? In “Death Match” mode you risk more of what you have already collected for the chance to win big and if that wasn’t enough choice for you, once you are in “Death Match” mode you need to decide on the number of Free Spins you want and the size of the multiplier. Obviously, the multiplier increases as you take fewer Free Spins. Add to this a whole host of random features and a lesser feature that is triggered when you only get 2 out of the 3 Free Spins symbols and you are in for some seriously combative entertainment.
Scudamore’s Super Stakes
Not enough attention was paid to the Scudamore’s Super Stakes slot for my liking. It was released at the start of the year and is in my mind the single best horse racing slot that you can play. Why? Because of some excellent bonus features. First off, you get to place a side bet on the number of a particular type of symbol that you think will appear over a select number of spins. This side bet ticks away whilst you play the main game and ends when the number of designated spins have been completed or when you win your bet. Then you have the “Peter’s Classic Cup” feature that is essentially a set of Free Spins but in this instance it is also a horse race. You need to choose which of the horses you think will win the race and each spin that lands a winning combination involving the colours of the horse you have chosen will move it further down the course as you look to scoop up the jackpot. Scudamore’s Super Stakes comes closer to replicating a day at the races than any other horse racing slot that you can play today.
The fact that Play ‘n Go have used the template for the Viking Runecraft slot on, at least, 2 other slots tells you just how impressive the bonuses are. Moon Princess and Rise of Olympus are based very heavily on this absolute classic. Let’s start with Gift of Gods, a feature that only rewards you when you lose and one that comes with 4 different possibilities. They all involve Wilds, but each set of Wilds takes it own unique form. Then you have a Bonus. Wait, did I say a bonus. What I meant to say was you have 7 different Bonus features. Add to all of this the fact that this slot comes with cascades and you are left with an experience that is about as exhilarating as playing a slot game can be. This is one where you feel as if something totally different could happen on each and every spin.
Dead or Alive II
If you think Dead or Alive should be on a list of the best bonus games then the Dead or Alive II slot should definitely be there because, and this is just between you and I, the second version is actually better. In Dead or Alive II you get 3 different types of Free Spins and you have to choose which one you want to play. You get Old Saloon Free Spins, High Noon Saloon Free Spins and Train Heist Free Spins. One comes with extra Wilds, one comes with a Multiplier and one comes with a combination of both. Each variety of Free Spins comes with its own advantage and yet still ties in well with the Wild West theme. I would encourage anyone who still plays Dead or Alive to think about making the upgrade to this year’s new edition.
The Immortal Romance slot has to be considered one of the classic slot games. Having been around for years it is still one of the most popular slots out there today and this is partly down to the quality of the bonus features that it has to offer. There is nothing we like more in a slot than a little personalisation and choice and in this instance you have 4 different sets of Free Spins to choose from. You can choose between 10, 15, 20 or 25 Free Spins with fewer spins offering more features. Each set of Free Spins is named after one of the characters from the slot helping to create a narrative that you just don’t find in many slots released these days.
Vikings Go Berzerk
The Vikings Go Berzerk slot is one of the all-time great Yggdrasil games. It is the second in the Vikings Go Somewhere series with this one standing out from the other two as the best of a very good bunch. This slot is all about the Free Spins, and not just playing them. There is more than one way to trigger them. There are, in fact, 4 different ways that you can do this, which makes it feel as if the bonus can be triggered at any time. This adds excitement, not just to the bonus, but also to getting there. In this instance the journey is almost as exciting as the destination. That doesn’t mean there is nothing to look forward to when you do get there. There are 5 additions and any one of them can be chosen at random to accompany each of your spins. What you need to love about those additional features is how well each of them relate to the theme of insane Vikings.
Who Wants to be a Millionaire: Megaways
When the Who Wants to be a Millionaire: Megaways slot was first released I remember thinking it would be really cool if they managed to somehow fit a quiz into one of their bonuses. If you have played the slot before then you will know that this is exactly what they have done. As the Free Spins are triggered you can play them if you wish to. The slot comes with cascades and re-spins, and during the Free Spins feature a multiplier is increased with each cascade. You can also win additional Free Spins during the bonus. Those are some excellent Free Spins but where they get interesting is at the point of trigger and whether or not you choose to gamble them and sit in the Hot Seat. If you do you will be asked a series of questions and each one you get right will win you an additional Free Spin. You have lifelines and safety nets on the 2nd and 7th rungs, meaning that when you reach them you cannot fall below this point, even if you get a question wrong. This additional feature makes for one of the most exciting and original bonuses that I have played in a long time.
Where do I begin with this one? As if basing a slot on one of the most popular TV shows of the last 20 years wasn’t enough, Skywind only went and made the Downton Abbey slot one of the most exciting and bonus laden slots that I have played in years. First of all, you don’t get just 1 grid, you get 2. An upstairs and a downstairs to reflect the division between the workers and aristocrats who live in Downton Abbey. The top reel is not always in play, but if you can bring it into play you can form wins across both sets of reels and you send any Wilds you land on the bottom reel upstairs to hang about with the rich folks. You get a bonus feature, which leads to 3 other bonus features, all of which are equally complex. You also get Free Spins that offer you more if you can land more triggering symbols. Add to all of this a progressive Jackpot and I swear you will struggle to find any other slot offering as much fun as this one.
It was a really tough job trying to pick 10 slots that I feel have the best bonus features. Even now I have titles running through my head that I think could have made an appearance on another day.
Slots like Jackpot Raiders or Arcane Reel Chaos both stand out as releases just from this year that have a case for making it onto the list. There are also older slots that I know had amazing features that I just can’t get a hold of anymore. If I could then it is likely that the Rocky, Scarface and the Ghostbusters slots would have all made an appearance.
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