How do Megaways Slots work?

Added: May 24, 2022

Last updated: April 19, 2023

Megaways slots have become an integral part of the gambling world.

So much has changed in the slots world.

Over 25 years ago, we only played (boring) fruit slots, and about 10-15 years ago, we saw the first moves towards more exciting video slots.

Most video slots had a standard set-up of 5 reels with 3 rows of symbols. You usually had 5 or 10 or 20 paylines, but we saw some changes later on: 30, 40 or 50 paylines.

Sometimes you also see slots with 4 rows of symbols.

Win all ways

After a few years, it became clear this also offered too little variety. Following that, the “win all ways” concept was introduced. Now you got 243 (3x3x3x3x3) possibilities to win, as long as symbols appear consecutively on the reels (from the 1st reel) without necessarily being in a line.

Aristocrat introduced this mechanism on land-based slots, and Microgaming did so for online slots.

Cascading symbols

Later on, slots with the so-called cascading symbols made their way. The idea? Winning symbols disappear and make way for new ones.

This can lead to chain reactions in winning combinations, possibly with progressive multipliers on top. A famous example of a cascading slot is Gonzo’s Quest.

Cluster Pays slots

More than five years ago, cluster pays slots were introduced, where you had a large grid (playing field) with so-called positions (or tiles) where symbols appear. The idea is to get adjacent symbols that create a cluster.

Well-known cluster pays slots are Play’n GO’s Reactoonz, Gemix, Honey Rush or Moon Princess. Very entertaining and indeed, and something else.

Besides, cluster pays slots offer many more different winning combinations than regular slots.

how do megaways slots work

The development of Megaways slots

And then Big Time Gaming came up with the Megaways concept…BOOM!

How did Megaways slots come up?

Megaways slots are a mix of win all ways, (often) cascading symbols, a large playing field and above all: very much “out of the box” thinking.

The idea behind Megaways slots?

Big Time Gaming came up with a concept with 5 or 6 reels with a random number of symbols per reel combined with the Win All Ways mechanism.

Megaways slots have at least two symbols and (in most cases) a maximum of 7 symbols per reel. The result was that, in theory, more than 100 thousand winning combinations per spin were possible! And yes, that was very appealing for players.

The first Megaways slots were Dragon Born Megaways, Bonanza Megaways and Starquest Megaways,

Big Time gaming managed to get a patent on this genius concept but licensed this idea to providers like Blueprint Gaming, Red Tiger Gaming, Relax Gaming, Fantasma and Stakelogic.

Many other providers know by now that they can’t ignore this prevalent concept and have also got (or are planning to get) licenses from Big Time Gaming.

megaways slots explained

So how does a Megaways slot work?

Most (but not all) Megaways slots have a set-up with a maximum of 117,649 Megaways.

It means that there are 6 reels. Each has at least 2 symbols and up to 7 symbols per spin. This number is (for each reel) determined randomly. Per spin, you end up with a maximum of 117,649 Megaways.

Most (but not all) slots have the Avalanche (Cascading or Tumbling) mechanism built-in. In this case, you get a free re-spin after each winning combination. Just before the re-spin takes place, the winning symbols disappear, and new symbols replace them. You get unlimited re-spins as long as you continue to make winning combinations (a “Reaction”).

More detailed explanation with illustrations

We will elaborate in detail below, with some examples and illustrations. We discuss:

  1. The number of Megaways per slot
  2. The Avalanche mechanism
  3. Frequently Asked Questions on Megaways slots

SECTION 1: determination of the number of Megaways

The nice thing about Megaways slots is that the number of Megaways (paylines) varies per spin. It depends on how many symbols appear on the reel.

We have given three examples below.

Number of Megaways – example 1

In the example below, you have 6 reels, each with a minimum of 2 and a maximum of 7 symbols.

If all 6 reels get the maximum number of symbols, it is possible to get a winning combination in 117,649 ways. The 117,649 is calculated as 7x7x7x7x7x7=117,649.

However, as you can see below, most reels (usually) have fewer symbols. Reel 1 has 3 symbols, reel 2 has 6 symbols, reel 3 has 4 symbols, reel 4 has only 2 symbols, reel 5 has all 7 symbols, and reel 6 has 2 symbols.

megaways slots game mechanics

In total, you end up with 2,016 Megaways, calculated as 3x6x4x2x7x2=2,016 Megaways.

In this example, you have 6 winning combos of 5 of-a-kind (5 consecutive symbols). These are shown in green. The 6 is calculated as 1x2x1x1x3=6.

The green symbols are all identical symbols, possibly including wild symbols.

Number of Megaways – example 2

The example below is the same idea. Here you now have: 5,040 Megaways (paylines) calculated as: 6x3x4x2x7x5 = 5,040.

megaways slots gameplay

In this example, you see that there are 8 winning combinations of 4 of-a-kind (4 symbols that follow each other on the reels) are spun.

The symbols of the winning combos are green.  There are no green symbols in reel 5. Therefore, the green symbols on reel 6 are not part of the winning combo.

Number of Megaways – example 3

The same idea again in the example below. Here you now have: 21,168 Megaways (paylines) calculated as: 3x6x4x7x7x6 = 21,168

There are no more winning combinations as you don’t have identical symbols (or wilds) on reel 2.

You can argue that it’s a pity that nothing appeared on reel 2, especially since there are many matching symbols from reel 3 onwards.

Imagine that you would have one matching symbol on reel 2. In that case, you would have gotten 108 winning combos! Calculated as: 2x1x3x3x3x2=108.

But yes. If my grandmother had wheels, she would be a train!

SECTION 2: The avalanche (cascading) mechanism

As I said at the beginning, many Megaways slots (and especially the more recent Megaways slots) have the Avalanche mechanism built-in. This is also called the Cascading mechanism or the Tumbling symbols mechanism.

Below we illustrate how this works. There are five steps.

Step 1: Spinning a winning combo

The Avalanche mechanism is activated after a winning combo.

Let’s look at the example below.

The green symbols from reel 1 up to reel 4 are part of winning combinations. Those on reel 6 are not, as there are no winning symbols on reel 5.

Step 2: the symbols that contributed to the winning combination disappear

Below you see that the green coloured symbols of reels 1 through 4 have disappeared.


Step 3: existing symbols drop (tumble down) to fill the gaps

The “gaps” that are left behind, as the winning symbols have disappeared, are filled up by existing symbols that drop (tumble down). These symbols are also called “dropping symbols” of “tumbling symbols” or “falling symbols.”

You can see in this example that there are no symbols left on reel 4. Nothing happens there in this step.

Step 4: New gaps are created at the top of the reels

Here you can see that when the symbols have dropped, there are gaps (or spaces) on the reels where winning symbols appeared and afterwards disappeared.

Step 5: new symbols appear and fill up the empty spaces

Now you see that new symbols have appeared on the “empty” spaces.

In total (in this example), you see two new symbols appeared on reels 1, 2 and 4. And further one new symbol on reel 3. On reels 5 and 6, nothing happened.

The number of symbols per reel has remained unchanged. Just like before, you have 6 symbols on the 1st reel, 3 symbols on the 2nd reel and so on. Therefore, the number of Megaways has remained the same.

Next steps of the Cascading mechanism

After the re-spin, you are hoping for new winning combinations. If this is indeed the case, the steps described above are repeated. This whole process is called a Reaction.

The reactions follow each other, as long as a new winning combo is created each time.

When no new combination appears, the Cascading mechanism has come to an end. For the next spin, all reels will spin, and yes, the number of Megaways can be different (which is usually the case).

Where can you play Megaways slots?

Megaways slots can be found in almost every reliable online casino.

You can play Megaways slots for real or with practice money.

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