3 Reel Slots

There is a wide range of modern slots and classic fruit machines available to play both in physical venues and online at casinos around the world. However, their beginnings were much more humble, and the original machines were much simpler, with fewer reels, symbols, and bonuses. They began in the 1800s as physical, mechanical units that included just the three reels and a handful of symbols like cherries, watermelon, and the iconic Liberty Bell that gave them their name.

Now, though, you’re more likely to see five reels, at least on the modern machines, and the classic style has been relegated more to a curiosity in the catalogues of today’s casinos. You can now find flashy-themed slots and even combinations of different games with variants like Slingo, which combines both slots and bingo gameplay. However, the classic three-reelers still hold a special place in the hearts of casino enthusiasts and retain a cult following. 

So why do they still hold up even though times have changed so much?

Why 3 Reel Slots Are Popular

In the wider world of entertainment, vintage is very much the in thing at the moment. Look at how vinyl records and vintage clothing have come back into fashion in recent years. The same can be said for iGaming and slots in particular. As people look for simpler alternatives to the sometimes complicated and convoluted modern options on offer, a return to the classics will appeal to them. That’s where the old Liberty Bell-style slot machines come in with their streamlined gameplay.

At its heart, three-reel slot gameplay is the pure distilled format of the game. Instead of needing to keep an eye on a higher number of slots and wondering if you should hold or nudge, you can focus on the play in front of you and run through a number of games in a shorter period of time. This means that it is fitting for both long-term players and those completely new to the game who want a more palatable introduction to slots.

Common Bonus Features in 3 Reel Slots

While classic slots may be much simpler than some of the more modern and expansive titles, there are still different features that make up the gameplay you will regularly find. These include things as simple as the symbols on the reels or as complex as the finer details of the gameplay that determine whether you win and just what the prize will be. If there are features included, these will often be simple rather than a typical complex bonus game you might find in online slots.

As with every kind of casino game, it’s important for you to read the instructions for the game you choose for the specifics of its features and bonus games.


In slots of all kinds, you will often find a re-spins feature that gives players the chance to keep the reels moving as they look for a winning combination. In many games, this feature will be triggered when a particular symbol is displayed on one of the reels. If the player chooses to re-spin, the symbol will stay where it is while the remaining two reels spin again. This will come at a cost and have a lower payout than if a player gets a winning combo without using the feature.


A multiplier is a great way for a player to maximise any prizes they might be able to land. They most commonly appear as symbols that, when landed, will multiply either your payout for the combination that it is a part of or even your entire bet. For example, if you were to land a £10 combination with a 2x multiplier in that line, you would receive a £20 payout. This is a popular feature amongst 3 reel slots, given the ability to potentially improve wins.


Wild symbols are another way that slots aim to spice up gameplay of 3 reel slots. These will usually stand in for other standard symbols in order to create winning combinations. Some wilds can even be sticky, meaning that they will stay on the reels for more than one spin to potentially help complete winning combinations. They can also trigger bonuses and multipliers, and it’s key that players understand what each wild means for their gameplay. 

Hold & Win

When it comes to the different mechanics that play their part in 3 reel slots, the hold and win feature is an increasingly popular one. This is a bonus feature that will often trigger in extra rounds where special symbols act as sticky icons that can combine with instant wins and other symbols to form combinations that increase the chances of a payout.

Free Spins Rounds

Although 3 reel slots often keep to a standard gameplay set-up with limited bonus features, online slots provide the potential for new additions. One of these is the use of free spin bonuses. Depending on the game, the rules to trigger free spins will change, however, the main round will often be very similar.

The Most Popular 3 Reel Slots

Because there are so many titles available when it comes to slots, it can sometimes feel like it’s difficult to find the right game for you. There are some classic games on the market that have proved incredibly popular:

Fire Joker: This game is a classic three-reel and five-pay line slot from Play’n GO that features a flaming hot jester alongside the typical fruit symbols. The slot includes a max win of up to 800x the bet.

7s on Fire: A 3 by 3 slot from Barcrest, this retro offering is a rare gem that offers a potential win of up to 1,250x the player’s bet. With a flaming screen and symbols, it leans heavily on the fiery numbers that give it its name.

Hot Chilli: Pragmatic Play is one of the most popular developers in the slot business for good reason. This hot pepper-themed game is another three-reeler but has an extremely high nine paylines, offering players different ways to win, as well as a max win of up to 555x.

Always Hot Deluxe: The latest addition to the Hot series by Novomatic, this retro slot offers a potential max win of up to 30,000 times the player’s bet.

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