Our Favorite Slots
More of the most popular slot games on today’s casino floors
By Frank Legato
Last September, we featured an article offering a snapshot of the most popular slot games in the business at that time. Readers are always asking us what the most popular slot machine is, so we decided to compile a list of the highest-earning slot games.
We based our methodology on the assumption that the only way to gauge what is most popular at any given moment is by how much the games are played. Logically, the games that earn the most money for casinos are the ones that are being played the most, and thus, they are the best measure of what is the most popular for the period studied.
To get the data, we turned to two of the most respected research and consultancy firms in the business, Fantini Research, Inc. and Eilers & Krejcik Gaming. The two companies jointly publish the monthly Eilers-Fantini Game Performance Report. Officials of slot manufacturers follow this report religiously to see what’s working.
The performance report separates the games into several categories, including Overall Core Games (Video + Mechanical), Premium Leased Games, Wide-Area Progressives, New Core Video, Low-Denom Core Video and others.
In September, we decided the broadest brush would be Overall Core Games, so we highlighted the top 10 earners in this category that appeared in the August Eilers-Fantini report. The list of games offered a cross section of slot manufacturers, although Aristocrat was responsible for five of the 10 games highlighted—more than any other slot-maker.
This month, we look at a combined list of the top 10 games in the Premium Leased and Wide-Area Progressive categories. These are the games that casinos pay a fee to lease—they are the most high-profile titles on the slot floor. And while it is a separate category, the top wide-area progressives—games on which the top progressive jackpot accrues from wagers on identical machines spread across the country—are in the same general grouping.
We asked Eilers & Krejcik Gaming for the most recent list of the top earners in these two categories, which was from December 2021. Remarkably, not only did Aristocrat games dominate the list, but different versions of the same Aristocrat title—Dragon Link—dominated the list as the highest earners, and thus, most popular slot games in December.
The research firm provided two lists—one of the overall game categories, new and old games; the other, the top 10 new games in the categories, which consists of games launched in the year 2021. Versions of Dragon Link constituted nine of the top 10 games in the overall Premium Leased/Wide-Area Progressive category, although there were ties in two of the positions. Of those launched last year, Dragon Link titles occupied two of the top 10 titles, although seven of the top 10 new games were, in fact, Aristocrat titles.
Here are the two lists, but since there are so many versions of Dragon Link, we will first describe the feature that is common to all Dragon Link titles, the groundbreaking Aristocrat “Hold & Spin” feature.
A symbol, usually a “cash-on-reels” symbol (that is, simply displaying a dollar or credit amount) serves as a trigger for a bonus event—six of the symbols scattered on the reels trigger the bonus.
Those symbols stay in place, awarding their accumulated value and locking in for what is usually three free spins of the remaining reels. As long as at least one of the cash symbols lands, the spin count returns to three, and the player is awarded the cumulative bonus. If all the spots on the reel array fill with the special symbols—commonly called a “blackout”—the top progressive jackpot is usually awarded.
Following are the top 10 games from December, with descriptions of the features included that are in addition to the Hold & Spin feature in the Dragon Link titles.
TOP 10 Premium Leased and Wide-Are Progressive Slots
Eilers-Fantini Game Performance Report, December 2021
- Dragon Link Golden Century, Aristocrat Gaming
Golden Century features Hold & Spin, scalable bonus prizes, cash on reels and some new functionality including the ability to win up to 250 times your bet on a scatter. During the Golden Century free games, all special symbols will reveal the same symbol, including the chance for jackpot symbols, which provides players an additional way to trigger the Hold & Spin feature.
- Dragon Link Happy and Prosperous, Aristocrat Gaming
This version of Dragon Link features a Golden Buddha smiling from the screen. It features all the features of Golden Century, but the free games feature is different. During free games, all the lower-paying royal symbols are removed. A bonus trigger symbol landing during free games adds an additional three free spins.
- Tie: Megabucks Double 3X4X5X Pay, IGT; Dragon Link Autumn Moon, Aristocrat Gaming
Megabucks Double 3X4X5X Pay is one of the most enjoyable of the big-money Megabucks brand from IGT. That’s because you’re not just spinning reels looking for the big-money Megabucks symbols; you are looking for multiplying wild symbols. In addition to wilds that multiply jackpots in winning combinations by three, four or five, there is a 2X wild symbol. That means lots of entertainment while you’re shooting for the big prize, which is won by 3X, 4X and 5X symbols in sequence on the payline.
Dragon Link Autumn Moon is essentially a clone of Golden Century, with special symbols revealing the same symbol, including jackpot symbols.
- Dragon Link Genghis Khan, Aristocrat Gaming
This theme includes all the standard Dragon Link features—scalable bonus prizes, cash on reels and wins up to 250 times the bet on a scatter, with another unique free-game feature, with multiplying wild symbols—2X wild symbols appear scattered during the free games, and the 2X symbols add together for a maximum 16X multiplier applied to a winning combination.
- Tie: Megabucks Double Diamond Deluxe, IGT; Dragon Link Panda Magic, Aristocrat Gaming
Again, the best Megabucks games are the ones with multiplying wild symbols. Here, IGT gives the Megabucks treatment to one of its most popular core titles, Double Diamond Deluxe. The game features the regular Double Diamond wild symbols, one in a win doubling the pay and two multiplying the pay by four. But also included are various bar symbols displaying a diamond, pointing up or down. When landing just above or below the payline, the bar symbols “nudge” to the payline, often forming a winning combination. Add this to the big Megabucks prize, and you can see why this game’s popular.
Dragon Link Panda Magic is similar to Happy and Prosperous (No. 2), in that during free games all royals are removed, and three extra free games can be won with any scatter during the feature.
- Dragon Link Peacock Princess, Aristocrat Gaming
All the regular Dragon Link features are here, plus, in the free-spin round, reels 2, 3 and 4 combine and spin together as one big reel; three free spins are added when a full scatter symbol lands on the big reel.
- Dragon Link Spring Festival, Aristocrat Gaming
This one’s a clone of No. 6, Peacock Princess.
- Dragon Link Silk Road, Aristocrat Gaming
Normal Dragon Link feature, but during free games, any wild that lands on one of the three middle reels expands to cover the whole reel.
- Cash Express Luxury Line Buffalo, Aristocrat Gaming
This high-volatility game incorporates cash-on-reels symbols with repeat wins. Randomly, the game will launch the Gold Train Feature, where landing a Gold Train symbol along with the qualifying trigger symbol awards repeat jackpot wins.
- Dragon Link Peace and Long Life, Aristocrat Gaming
This version of Dragon Link is similar to the Genghis Khan title—2X wild symbols appear scattered during the free games, and the 2X symbols add together for a maximum 16X multiplier applied to a winning combination.
Top 10 NEW Premium Leased and Wide-Area Progressive Slots
Eilers-Fantini Game Performance Report, December 2021
- Dragon Link Silk Road, Aristocrat Gaming (see above)
- Dragon Link Golden Gong, Aristocrat Gaming
This is a clone of Silk Road, with the middle reels expanding into a single reel during free games.
- Crazy Rich Asians, Aristocrat Gaming
Based on the 2018 romantic comedy hit from Warner Bros. about a Chinese-American professor and her boyfriend’s rich family in Singapore, this is the inaugural game on Aristocrat’s fantastic Neptune Double cabinet, with stacked 49-inch 4K monitors delivering remarkable quality in footage from the film through primary game play and bonus features that include 2X symbols, a wheel bonus and a pick-em progressive bonus.
- Coin Combo – Carnival Cow, Scientific Games
Coin Combo is billed as the “next generation” of 88 Fortunes, and specifically of the Duo Fu Duo Cai series. It includes all of the familiar elements including the Fu Babies and three “Wealth Pots” that grow as special symbols land, and can randomly burst for big bonus wins. Players also have the opportunity to level up the jackpot awarded and possibly win a double Grand jackpot. Carnival Cow is one of several titles in the series.
- Buffalo Link, Aristocrat Gaming
This takes Aristocrat’s most popular game franchise, Buffalo—with its “Buffalo Stampede” feature and unique free games—and adds a wide-area progressive jackpot.
- Aristocrat Legends, Aristocrat Gaming
This machine features three of Aristocrat’s all-time classic titles. Players can pick one and play it on three different reel arrays simultaneously, or mix and match the titles and play different games at once. The latest version features the games Buffalo, Timber Wolf and 50 Lions.
- Wild Wild Buffalo, Aristocrat Gaming
This places the classic Buffalo title on the imposing Neptune Double cabinet. To the classic game is added a four-level progressive, cash-on-reels symbols, and a bonus wheel that can award free games, progressives or progressive multipliers.
- Willy Wonka: Dreamers of Dreams, Scientific Games
Featured on Scientific Games’ new Mural cabinet—dual stacked 55-inch 4K curved monitors in a presentation that rises 11 feet—Willy Wonka: Dreamers of Dreams uses every inch of the massive display for the player-favorite “Super Oompa Loompa” feature, including a multiplier reel that stretches all the way to the top. A giant Wonka Double Wheel can award a credit prize and a multiplier, and Fizzy Lifting Free Spins feature a reel set and wilds that float up over the display.
- Wizard of Oz – Over the Rainbow, Scientific Games
This latest entry in Scientific Games’ franchise of titles based on 1939’s The Wizard of Oz just might be the best yet. It is beautifully done, from the outstanding graphics to the mind-boggling collection of features. The artwork is simply gorgeous. Floating overhead in the scene is the Wizard himself, in his “State Fair” balloon. Wild symbols increment a must-hit-by jackpot displayed on the balloon, which can hit at any time after crossing a threshold. There is the occasional random appearance of Glinda the Good Witch, who turns entire reels wild.
- Conan, Aristocrat Gaming
This game is featured on the Edge X cabinet, the immersive game setup that was home to last year’s Game of Thrones: Winter Is Here and Star Trek: The Next Generation. Conan, based on the legendary fictional pulp-magazine and Marvel Comics hero, gives you a choice between three different free-spin rounds, each with a different volatility, plus multiplying wild symbols.