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All You Need to Know About the Scatter Symbol

To hit a winning combination on a slot game, you need to line up three or more symbols on a payline. So far, so simple, right? But what about scatter symbols?

Author: Editorial Team February 15, 2021

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These much sought-after and very valuable symbols offer access to bigger wins and bonus features. And so scatter symbols—aka a slot player’s best friend—are definitely worth knowing about when it comes to playing slot machines. Along with the wild symbol, they are the symbol that every slot player is desperate to see appear on the reels.

What are Scatter Symbols in Slot Machines?

Scatter symbols are a standard feature on the vast majority of modern online video slots, although you’ll also find them on traditional fruit machines and arcade slots.
Wins in slot games are triggered when you line up at least three matching icons across an active payline. However, with a scatter symbol, these symbols don’t have to be aligned to trigger a win. Rather you just need a minimum amount to appear—usually three—scattered across the different reels.

The Nuts and Bolts: How Exactly Do Scatter Symbols Work?

Scatter symbols might function slightly differently depending on the slot game you’re playing but typically you need a certain number of scatter symbols to appear in a spin for it to then unlock or launch a bonus feature.

To find out exactly how many, check the game’s paytable, which is accessible from the gaming screen. The paytable will give you all the information you need about different symbols. Check before you play to understand the different winning combinations, what the scatter and wild symbols are, and what’s required for a payout.

On some scatter slot games, the appearance of scatter icons will launch free spins. The number of free spins will usually depend on how many scatter symbols you land. In Microgaming’s Cricket Star game, for example, you get ten free spins if you land three scatter symbols, fifteen free spins for four scatters, and twenty-five free spins for five scatter symbols.

In many slots with scatters, the scatter symbols will launch an interactive bonus game such as a Wheel of Fortune. Or it might launch a ‘pick me’ game where you can choose between different options to win a guaranteed prize. It’s often in these bonus games that you’ll have a chance at the big money.

On simpler scatter slot games, a scatter symbol simply rewards a payout—although this will still often be bigger than the payout from regular icons.

The scatter symbol’s graphics will usually relate to the overall theme of the game. For example, on Dragon’s Return by Konami, you get free spins when you land three eggs. However, in other slots with scatters, these symbols might just have the word ‘scatter’ on them, such as in the game Siberian Storm.

A History of Scatter Symbols in One Hundred Words

On the first slot machines, the original scatter symbol was the double red cherries. While other symbols had to line up across the payline to generate a win, cherries could appear anywhere and still trigger a win. The more scatter symbols on a spin, the bigger the payout.

Today, we have video slots with five or seven reels and the possibility of hundreds of win lines at the same time. You still usually require three or more scatter symbols to win, but when you win, it won’t just lead to a payout. You may also get free spins or bonus features.

Scatter symbols today are also often animated, with 3D graphics or video clips appearing when the scatter symbols appear.

Wild Symbols vs. Scatter Symbols: What’s the Difference?

Wild symbols can be thought of like the Joker in a pack of cards. They can substitute for most other symbols on the reels, however not usually for the scatter and bonus symbols. This helps you to complete a winning combination for a payout.

Wild symbols are one of the most highly coveted symbols, but scatter symbols can also reap big rewards—hence their popularity among casino fans. And while wild symbols can substitute most other symbols, they cannot usually replace scatter symbols.

However, in some games, like Wild Wheel, the bonus rounds are triggered by wild symbols rather than scatters. And on some online slot games, scatter symbols also function as wild symbols.