How Cascading Slots Reels Took the Industry by Storm

Picture Of A Cascading Slots Reels Machine Showing All Jackpots

Slots developers have tried many things over the years. However, not all of these innovations become popular and last.

Cascading reels, on the other hand, appear timeless. Rolled out over a decade ago in Gonzo’s Quest, this feature has become a staple in many slots.

Why is it, though, that cascading reels have succeeded were so many other features have failed? I’ll discuss this matter by covering more on cascading reels and why they’re so popular.

How Do Cascading Reels Work?

Up until the late 2000s, slot machines always featured a simple concept: spin the reels and collect whatever winnings, if any, from the given spin. Many old time gamblers like me miss these days, but we can still play many of the same machines as we did back then. They’re just a little harder to find in modern casinos.

Plenty of slot machines still feature this classic model. They only give you one chance to rack up winnings with each spin—and that’s it.

However, NetEnt added a new wrinkle to the gaming world when they released Gonzo’s Quest in 2009. They unveiled cascading reels (a.k.a. the “avalanche” feature) with this game.

As you may know, this feature removes winning symbols from the reels. New symbols then fall into their places and provide the chance for more wins.

This avalanche effect continues until no more wins are possible. Therefore, you could theoretically rack up lots of extra payouts so long as the cascades continue.

Sometimes, cascading reels come with additional features such as a win multiplier. The multiplier will increase and provide larger wins as more avalanches occur.

Why Players Love This Feature

Slot software developers wouldn’t put cascading reels in so many games if they weren’t seeing good results. However, many players love the avalanche feature. Here are the main reasons why it continues to be so popular among gamblers.

More Action

Online slots are all about entertainment. Players choose the games that provide the most action and thrills.

Avalanches certainly do a good job at bringing more action to the equation. They offer the chance to keep earning payouts beyond just the initial spin.

You might, for example, spin the reels and earn a small payout. Once the avalanches kick in, though, you could earn much bigger payouts.


The end result is that you get to see symbols vanishing and more symbols falling onto the grid. Furthermore, you’ll also witness plenty of wins adding up in the process.

Increased Volatility and Payouts

Many slots players prefer high volatility to low volatility. The former comes with more features and bigger potential wins.

Of course, the downside to high volatility slot machines is that it creates more short-term unpredictability. You could lose your bankroll much faster with a volatile game if the wins don’t come often enough.

The upside is that you can win bigger payouts. Highly volatile slots often include bonus rounds that deliver wins worth up to 10,000x your stake or higher.

Some of these slots even offer prizes worth over 100,000x your stake. In this case, you could win $1 million on as little as a $10 wager.

Supplements Other Features Well

Avalanche is no longer a key attraction to slot machines. As I’ll discuss later, it’s been done over and over so much that it is now redundant.

Nevertheless, cascading reels are often part of an exciting slots experience. They do a good job of supplementing other features.

As mentioned before, avalanches sometimes come with win multipliers. In this case, your win multiplier will increase as you collect more cascading wins.

Here’s an example on how the multiplier might increase in one of these games:

  • 0 avalanche wins = 1x multiplier
  • 1 avalanche win = 2x
  • 2 avalanche wins = 3x
  • 3 avalanche wins = 5x
  • 4 avalanche wins and above = 10x

You might not have access to any life-changing wins when the multiplier is worth 2x. But once it starts creeping closer to 10x, you can look forward to massive potential prizes.

Why Do Developers Like Avalanche Payouts So Much?

If gamblers were the only people who liked cascading reels, then they wouldn’t be as big of a phenomenon. Instead, game developers also appreciate this feature.

The obvious reason why they like avalanches is because the players do as well. Therefore, they increase the chances that their games will be successful by including cascading reels.

Developers also enjoy this feature due to the fact that they don’t need to pay royalties when using it.

NetEnt never patented the avalanche effect when they developed it. With that said, other developers quickly began using this feature when they noticed how popular it was.

NetEnt Logo With Casino Background

Contrast the scenario to Big Time Gaming‘s (BTG) Megaways. BTG did patent their Megaways engine, which is why many other developers pay to use it.

In summary, developers like avalanche payouts because they’re both popular and free to use. This combination has led many game producers to employ cascading reels.

The Saturation of Cascading Reels

This post is a discussion on why avalanche payouts are so popular. Cascading reels have become so beloved, in fact, that they’re almost too prevalent.

If you’re playing a Megaways or grid slot, then you’ll likely be dealing with avalanches too. These formats go hand in hand with cascading reels.

It’s to the point now where you might even expect avalanches when playing these types of slots or any other. It almost feels weird when cascading reels aren’t present in slots nowadays.

What was once innovative with Gonzo’s Quest is no longer special. Avalanche payouts now seem like a mere formality.

I’m not saying that cascading reels aren’t welcome when they’re available. I simply think that, at this point, they’re to the point of saturation.

The Benefits of Non Avalanche Slots

As mentioned before, avalanches provide multiple benefits. They deliver more action, increase the win potential, and blend well with other features. Therefore, you might absolutely love cascading reels.

On the other hand, avalanche payouts aren’t completely perfect. The biggest problem that they present involves reducing the frequency and/or size of the average payout.

Cascading reels tend to produce larger individual rounds. Of course, slots have to counteract these bigger single-round payouts.

Row of Slot Machines

If you’re betting $1 per spin in a game with avalanche payouts, for example, then you may experience lots of rounds where are you earn between $0 and $0.20 per spin. At this point, you’re essentially waiting for the big payoffs to recoup losses from the other spins.

In a non-avalanche slot, you only get one chance to win per round. With that said, you might not rack up huge payouts in individual rounds. However, you’re probably going to earn more frequent and/or larger average prizes.

Will This Feature Ever Become a Thing of the Past?

Avalanche payouts show no signs of disappearing from the industry anytime soon. They still keep appearing in game after game.

Of course, cascading reels have been around for over a decade. You might think that, at some point, players will get tired of them.

Avalanches themselves have changed over time as well. They are now packaged with interesting formats and/or win multipliers. They’re no longer a standalone draw on their own.

Nevertheless, I don’t see cascading reels vanishing from the gaming world. I still think that they’re a good way to supplement other features.

Again, they have great synergy with win multipliers. They also go well with any grid or Megaways slot. They’ll probably blend well with new formats that arise in the future.


Cascading reels propelled Gonzo’s Quest to become a timeless hit. They’re now a mainstay in the gaming world and a part of many slots.

Avalanches have the potential to deliver lots of wins in a given round. They also keep rounds going and provide more entertainment.

Of course, you do have to be careful with this feature. Cascading reels raise volatility and, thus, reduce payout frequency.

Provided you can deal with the increased volatility, though, then you should appreciate this feature. It adds more excitement to games and can result in huge prizes.