A Look at How Slots With Cascading Reels Work

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A vector image of the spinning reels of an online slot with a 5x3 grid.
BetMGM Feb 16, 2024, 11:29 AM

Slots are the most frequently-played online casino games and have been since the first internet casinos launched in the 1990s. But what is it about online slot machines that give them such longevity?

A big reason for their enduring popularity is the incredible innovation found within the industry. There are literally hundreds of software developers creating these games, some of which have produced some game-changing mechanics. One such example is the development of slots with cascading reels.

Read on to discover the history of cascading slot machines, the different variations of this feature, and exactly how cascading slots work.

History of Cascading Slot Games

Founded in 1996, industry giant NetEnt has been producing casino games for over a quarter of a century. Always innovative, the company is responsible for some all-time classic online slots, including the likes of Starburst. However, its most notable release, which has subsequently grown into a hugely successful franchise, has to be Gonzo’s Quest.

Released in 2011, this game is certainly a product of its time. The standard 5×3 reel grid configuration, medium volatility, and an average return to player (RTP) rate of 95.97% all hark back to a different era. However, it took the slots world by storm in those days, thanks to a number of intriguing gameplay elements. And the most famous of these was, of course, its Avalanche feature.


This never-seen-before mechanic introduced slots players to a new layer of excitement. Wins could be earned by matching identical symbols along a payline, just like any other slot. 

However, once that prize is paid, those same symbols would explode and disappear from the reels, reminiscent of the old Tetris video game. This would leave empty spaces behind for the other symbols to fall into from above.

As the gaps fill up, blank spaces would be left at the top of the grid for new symbols to fall onto the screen in their place. The movement of all these different symbols would potentially trigger additional wins. Symbols that did not previously lie along one of the game’s 20 paylines could now find themselves dropping into a winning position.

Nobody had ever seen anything like this before, and the Avalanche feature threatened to revolutionize the way these games worked. So it proved with Gonzo’s Quest, which quickly became known as one of the best slot machines to play online.

Other game development studios wanted a piece of the action, with several working their own versions of this feature into future games.

Different Types of Avalanche

You might encounter several different terms for this thrilling feature, but essentially, they all mean the same thing. “Tumbling reels” is a common way for slots developers to refer to their interpretation of the mechanic, as is “rolling reels.” The two most popular terms, though, are “avalanche” and “cascading reels.”

It doesn’t especially matter what symbols are on the reels for this feature to work. A classic fruit machine-style game would likely contain cherries, BAR symbols, and bells, for example. But a slot set in ancient Egypt might use hieroglyphs and images of the pyramids and the Great Sphinx of Giza.

The mechanic can be applied to any game, regardless of its theme. As long as those symbols disappear from the grid when forming a win, you’re looking at a slot that’s using cascading reels.

Popular Slots With Cascading Reels

Here are some of the most popular slots that feature a cascading reels mechanic and their corresponding RTPs.

  • Mercy of the Gods (NetEnt): 96.64%
  • Hypernova Megaways (ReelPlay): 96.09%
  • Funkmaster (NetEnt): 96.04%
  • Ted Megaways (Blueprint Gaming): 96.03%
  • Deal or No Deal Golden Case Megaways (White Hat): 95.99%
  • Gonzo’s Quest (NetEnt): 95.97%
  • Cash Volt (Red Tiger): 95.71%
  • Mighty Griffin Megaways (Blueprint Gaming): 95.46%

How To Find Online Slots With Cascading Reels

Many online casinos, such as BetMGM, allow you to filter games by feature, using options found within the lobby. This way, you can easily identify slots with cascading reels or other mechanics, such as megaways, infinity reels, or cluster pays. BetMGM Casino has thousands of slot varieties to explore in its library.

Alternatively, a good idea is to search for games by developers known to use this feature frequently. A good example is obviously NetEnt, the pioneer of this mechanic. But others include Red Tiger, Blueprint Gaming, and Nolimit City.

Slots Gaming Tips

Whether you enjoy cascading reels or not, there are several other things you should always consider when choosing the right game. The following tips can boost your odds when playing slots.

Check the RTP

The RTP tells you the game’s theoretical payout. Since slots are random, this offers no guarantee of success. However, the greater the figure, the higher your potential return could be.

Understand the Volatility

If the RTP tells you how much a game returns, the volatility reveals how it does so. Low-volatility games pay lots of smaller prizes, which is good if you are easily bored or frustrated. High-volatility games can make you wait for wins, which can cause some people to chase losses.

Play the Demo

It’s almost always possible to enjoy casino slots in a free-to-play demonstration mode. This is a great way to make sure you learn the rules of the game and understand how its features work. Do this before risking real money.

Enjoy an Avalanche of Slots at BetMGM Casino

Did reading this article whet your appetite to play some slots with cascading reels? Then make sure you register with BetMGM Casino. 

As the country’s best online casino for slots, you can enjoy hundreds of different titles featuring all kinds of innovative mechanics. What’s more, you can try classic table games, including blackjack, roulette, and baccarat, not to mention online poker.

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Our BetMGM editors and authors are casino experts with a wealth of knowledge of the online casino industry at all levels. Their coverage includes company news, game reviews, how-to instructional articles, strategy guides, and editorials showcasing BetMGM’s superior product and game library.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are casino experts with a wealth of knowledge of the online casino industry at all levels. Their coverage includes company news, game reviews, how-to instructional articles, strategy guides, and editorials showcasing BetMGM’s superior product and game library.