Gambling and gaming don’t have quite as much of an overlap as one might assume. Even though the word “gaming” can refer to both PlayStation video games and roulette spins, these two hobbies share very different demographics, with gaming generally appealing to younger people and gambling being preferred by more seasoned ladies and gentlemen. This disparity has caused the casino industry to seek new ways to attract a younger audience which grew up on video games. One solution, which has already been implemented in certain casinos in the US, is to include skill-based gambling. Imagine a game of Space invaders, except if you kill enough of those pesky pixels you can multiply your bet.
Unfortunately, skill-based games – as exciting as they are – probably won’t pass most countries’ legislations very easily, due to concerns that they may appeal to actual children instead of only to young gamblers (a concern which has recently caused the randomized “loot boxes” players can purchase in certain games to be banned in several countries). And if the casino industry can’t bring gambling to video games, they’ll bring video games to gambling! Enter: the videogame slot, a licensed slot machine themed after some of the greatest gaming franchises to grace consoles and home computers! Licensed slots are not exactly new, or particularly rare, but slots licensed after games (instead of movies or TV shows) certainly are. And as we at Casino.Online are fans of both casino and video games, we can’t help but be fascinated by them!
So join us as we explore some of the most interesting slots themed after gaming franchises. Keep in mind, this is by no means a comprehensive list (we need to leave room for part 2, after all), but we’ll still do our best to look at the more popular ones and determine whether they’re a worthy follow-up or nothing more than shovelware!
Lara Croft: Temples and Tombs
Lara Croft may not be the first lady in gaming, but she’s undoubtedly the most popular one! With twelve games under her belt since the 90s (and that’s without counting her numerous spin-offs, like Temple of Osiris or Lara Croft GO), not to mention three movies with a fourth on the way, it’s clear that the Tomb Raider has amassed herself an enviable fan following. Her games have taken on many shapes and forms, from linear exploration-driven puzzle titles to large, open-world epics, yet they always preserve the core themes of mystery and discovery. Lara Croft may be known as an action hero, but she’s an archeologist first and foremost, meaning that ancient ruins are where she’s most comfortable.
Microgaming are no stranger to making slot adaptations, but admittedly, they don’t always do it well. Their “Jurassic Park” and “Jurassic World” adaptations are great, with some very impressive visuals and bonus games, while their “Game of Thrones” slot is worse than Season 8 of the show. So admittedly, we were a bit cautious when placing our imaginary coins into their Lara Croft slot. Luckily, we had no reason to worry!
Its visual style is beautiful and very similar to that of the games (despite the transition from 3D to 2D), the animations are smooth and quick, and the little details, like the particles of dust as the stone reels drop on each other make every spin feel fantastic.
Mechanics-wise, Lara Croft is a “rolling reels” slot similar to Gonzo’s Quest, in which any symbols that connect on a payline will be removed, and those above them will “drop”, giving players the chance for more wins on the same bet. Furthermore, each subsequent win gained like that comes with a multiplier going up to 5x what you would have earned normally. This adds a little “puzzle” element to the slot, which, of course, feels right at home for Tomb Raider. But what would Lara Croft be without treasure to liberate from the ruins? Wild symbols are represented by golden coins which are “collected” and go into a pool. The more coins you have, the higher the chance you’ll trigger a jackpot the next time you pick one up, which is such a fun idea for a game like Tomb Raider. We couldn’t have come up with something better if we tried!
Resident Evil 6
Resident Evil is by far the biggest horror game franchise of all time, and it’s not hard to see why. While games such as Sweet Home and Alone in the Dark set the foundations of the survival horror genre, it was Resident Evil that first established the formula of exploration, resource management and scares that was copied dozens of times throughout the 90s and 00s, giving rise to other beloved horror franchises like Silent Hill. Then, it was also Resident Evil (namely the fourth game) which changed the perspective to be over the main character’s shoulder and focused more on the action rather than the scares, which breathed new life into the genre and inspired beloved classics like Dead Space. And then, at long last, Resident Evil 6 served as the Infinity War of the entire franchise, gathering old and new faces together to face a common threat in what would become one of the most successful horror games ever made.
Obviously, following it up with a slot adaptation is going to be pretty tough act, but Skywind took it seriously, and it shows. The presentation is on point right from the get-go, with the game’s intro playing when you start the slot before greeting you with that iconic voice saying the title – a staple of the franchise.
This horizontally-aligned format actually makes the game perfect for being played on your phone, without requiring you to turn it around to see the full picture like so many other slots do. So double kudos for that!
Gameplay-wise, the real strength of Resident Evil 6 lies in its bonus games. The original title features four campaigns, each with its own playable character – iconic characters Leon, Chris and Ada are joined by the newcomer Jake, the son of series antagonist Albert Wesker. As you might expect, each character has their own bonus game which triggers if all of their symbols line up on the middle reel (after the scatter symbol, the green herb, ‘activates’ it first). Ada’s mission involves guessing a lock combination, while the guys will give you free spins and a bonus on top of them, like expanding, sticky or random wilds. This keeps the gameplay varied, especially when activating the bonus game will also give footage from Resident Evil 6 featuring the character you’re playing as on the top screen – which is a very nice touch!
There was a time when PopCap were seemingly everywhere – if you owned a PC, chances were that you played at least one game released by the company. They were known for creating simple, yet highly addictive games with unique presentations: Zuma, about a frog trying to match colored balls that constantly advance towards it; Big Money, about clearing colored spheres to make moneybags touch the bottom of the screen; Insaniquarium, about maintaining your own little aquarium and taking care of your fish as aliens tried to destroy it… We bet that at least some of you got nostalgic when we said those names! But undoubtedly their biggest hit was also their first, a little game by the name Bejeweled about swapping the places of jewels in order to get three in a row. This game absolutely exploded throughout the 00s, inspiring quite literally hundreds of clones on PC, consoles and mobile, including a little-known title you might have heard of called Candy Crush Saga. You know, only one of the most popular mobile games of all time.
Unfortunately, after being purchased by the Grim Reaper known as EA, PopCap devolved into making nothing but spin-offs of Plants vs Zombies. But their legacy, and the legacy of Bejeweled, lives on – in online casinos. Obviously, the concept of gems that need to be lined up in a certain order is a no-brainer to adapt into a slot, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that companies like IGT, Blueprint Gaming and Specialty Games have all developed their own slot versions of the game. And while some other time it might be interesting to visit the Blueprint and Specialty versions, today we’d like to pay special attention to the IGT slots, for a reason that will become obvious soon enough.
There are no free spins, no bonus games, nothing particularly engaging about it. It’s neat how, instead of spinning reels, the gems fall into place like in the game, but that’s just a fun novelty which wears off quickly.
So why are we mentioning it at all if there’s nothing special about it? Well, that’s because there is another version, another Bejeweled slot by IGT by the name of Bejeweled 3D which, unfortunately, never left physical casinos. Hands on our hearts: that slot looks amazing. It’s packed full of bonus features taken straight from the game: for example, getting certain combinations of jewels (like 4 or 5 in a row) will give you your wins, like always, but will also clear a line or even the entire screen, multiplying your bonus – just like they would in the original game. On top of that, as you play you may get lucky and collect several keys, which activates a small mini game where you choose one and win whatever it unlocks (usually a big wad of credits). Bonus tokens are rarer, but collecting three on the same spin will give you access to one of the bonus games that gives you free spins, thousands of credits and the chance to win several jackpots. We can’t help but wonder why us online casino fans were given such a bland version in comparison to our land-based friends!
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
We’re pretty sure that even if you don’t play videogames, you still know what “Call of Duty” is, given that it’s one of the best selling franchises of all time! A new Call of Duty game comes out every single year, and every year it’s consistently among the top selling games of the year – most often in the top 5. In pop culture, the name has become almost synonymous with “war video games”, and there was a time in which every shooter was compared to “Call of Duty” by both fans and critics (before everyone realized that this resulted in very boring shooters that all looked and played the same). While the Call of Duty franchise has enjoyed its fair share of popularity from the very first game, it wasn’t until Call of Duty 4 took the series out of WWII and into the modern age that it became the phenomenon it is today, with the Modern Warfare sub-franchise winning the affection of millions of fans and spawning 2 direct sequels, as well as a reboot in 2019.
With that said, it’s not a particularly big surprise that Cryptologic chose precisely Modern Warfare to adapt into a slot form when the series jumped from consoles and PC to casino reels.
So, how is the Modern Warfare 4 slot? It’s… Alright. It’s not as well-made as Microgaming’s Tomb Raider, but also not nearly as boring as the online version of IGT’s Bejeweled. It is a perfectly serviceable 25-payline slot. If you’ve played a 25-payline slot, you already know exactly what to expect here.
The big appeal of the slot (as with most slot games) is, of course, the bonus rounds. Modern Warfare provides you with two different bonus features, one of which involves a soldier throwing a grenade or running across the field to plant a bomb, with the explosion of which turning symbols into Wilds. It fits neatly into the theme of the slot, but unfortunately doesn’t happen very often (plus it’s completely random, seemingly not triggered by anything), and the wins from it aren’t that great. The big bonus feature is when you collect 3 or more Scatter symbols on the same spin, and that takes you into a first person shooter section where you need to shoot down enemy soldiers to earn bonuses. We were extremely excited to try this out, but unfortunately it plays about the same as a Flash game from two decades ago, and while it may sound skill-based, it’s really no different from picking which box to open, a feature that numerous slots offer in a less exciting form.
Street Fighter 2: The World Warrior
We’ve saved the best for last, both in terms of the slot and the game it’s based on. Street Fighter 2 is one of the most influential games of all time. Much like Resident Evil, it created an entire genre pretty much single-handedly (as the original Street Fighter played pretty differently), a genre which would later spawn hits such as Mortal Kombat, Guilty Gear, Tekken, Super Smash Bros and other beloved classics. Its cast of colorful, unique characters was so memorable that when Capcom decided to bring Street Fighter back in 2008, after over a decade without a new game (not counting the prequel Alpha series), they chose to return to the cast and stages from Street Fighter 2, just remade with 3D graphics. It has influenced several movies (including a live action one starring Jean-Claude Van Damme and Raul Julia), it has been referenced repeatedly in both American and Japanese pop culture, and it still keeps getting re-released to this day, even in the presence of much more advanced successors like Street Fighter 5.
There was only one company capable of doing a game this monumental justice – and that was NetEnt, the slot masters. Their slots have the reputation of having the best graphics in the industry, and most of their bigger titles come with really interesting and unique features and bonus games.
The graphics are taken straight from the game – literally! Since Street Fighter 2 uses sprites (flat 2D images that appear in quick succession to mimic movement), unlike the other games on the list which use 3D models, the slot version is able to use the exact same graphics and animations from the original, making it feel more authentic than ever. Right from the start, the classic intro of Street Fighter 2 will greet you just as it would if you were to play the game in an 80s arcade, and after that the slot will invite you to choose your character. This change, however, isn’t only cosmetic – different characters will change the volatility of the slot, resulting in more frequent, but smaller wins, or less frequent, but bigger wins. Already, off to a fantastic start!
But that’s not all. Street Fighter 2 is a fighting game, and while it would’ve been so easy to just put the characters’ faces on the reels and call it a day, NetEnt have chosen to go a step further. After selecting your fighter, you’ll be matched against an opponent who you need to defeat. Getting wins using symbols with your character’s face on it will cause them to attack, dealing damage to the enemy’s health bar – but the same holds true for your opponent. This means that, while you’re always winning money, the battle can play out in a number of different ways. If you win, you’ll be taken to a bonus stage where you get unlimited free spins as you attempt to take down one of the bosses from the game, which is already a fantastic reward for sticking with the slot for more than a few spins. If you lose, you’ll still get a consolation prize in the form of the car wrecking mini-game from the original… Which is actually fully playable on both mobile and desktop. Yep, you can fully control your character’s movement and attacks just like in the game, with the goal being to destroy a car as quickly as possible. Of course, the reward you get from the bonus game is always fixed and not dependent on your skill, but it’s still a great reward and a refreshing breather after dozens of spins. NetEnt didn’t need to put that in, just as they didn’t need to make the slot that good – but they did, and it’s all the more special for it.