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Cleopatra & Cowboys: Behind Slots' Most Popular Themes

Regardless of how much experience someone has with slots, they likely had an image of the game in their head prior to ever playing. Many people imagine loud sounds - from falling coins to an optimistic ‘ding’ - along with bright images and a rolling wheel of logos.

Depending on a person’s age, this imagined slot might be a physical machine with the iconic lever or an ever-shifting digital image on a bright screen. Since one tinkering San Franciscan created the first slot machine almost one hundred years ago, there’s been great variation in the design, features, and gameplay options.

However, the core of the game has remained the same—in fact, one modern guide with important recommendations would still be incredibly relevant for a slots machine player fifty years ago. What has changed about the game is its dynamism and visual appeal as it has gone the way of digital entertainment.

Since the start of slots in California, the range of themes has diversified greatly—especially as slots saw success around the world. Today, there are a handful of popular themes that players might expect to see on a website, from mythic creatures to horror adventures to ancient Egypt.

But how and why did these themes become popular? Let’s take a closer look at the history and development of today’s most iconic slots themes.

Fantasy Themes: A Cross-Cultural Look at Legends

By far, the most popular theme for slots is fantasy. This covers a wide range of topics—from Irish leprechauns to Ancient Egypt to Norse gods to Zodiac animals. These fantastical themes cover historical and cultural elements that pique curiosity and a sense of wonder, both of which are a great way to attract a gamer to a specific title.

In playing alongside a lightning-wielding Thor, players can engage on a deeper level with the game. In some cases, there’s also themed music, such as leprechauns who appear onscreen along with Irish-inspired ballads.

Chinese themes, from Zodiac signs to the mythic city of Shangri-La, also touch on themes related to luck and identity. In the case of Zodiac themes, some players might have a particular association with certain signs, which keeps them engaged with the game.

Pop Culture Themes: Tried-and-True Characters

Another common theme for slot players to see when shopping around for a new title is a pop culture adaptation, often with a beloved celebrity. These run the gambit from hilarious takes on Beetlejuice from developer SG Digital, to a dynamic and interactive Game of Thrones HBO retelling from Microgaming.

In this case, slot themes tend to be just as successful as the original franchise. Rather than create a totally new world, developers look to touch on a character or scene that audiences particularly enjoyed.

For example, Blueprint Gaming’s The Goonies slot includes bonuses like Super Sloth Free Spins or Fratelli’s Hideout Bonus. For any diehard fan of the 1980s cult hit, both bonus rounds sound cool enough to keep someone fully entertained.

Wild West & Adventure Themes: The Heart of Gaming

Lastly, one of the most ubiquitous themes in modern slots is adventure. In these cases, developers look to create an RPG-style journey for the gamer; rather than a revolving wheel of logos and symbols, these games have secret side quests and levels that add more depth and motivation to the simple scheme.

One of the most common adventure themes covers the Wild West. This is likely due to the era’s association with dusty saloons and gaming. While most grizzled cowboys from back in the day were likely playing three-card stud, slots have seen great success covering the historical epoch.

However, adventure games run the gambit. One of the most popular titles today is Gonzo’s Quest. The NetEnt project has been around in various forms since 2011 and follows the adventures of one conquistador named Gonzalo Pizarro as he attempts to find the lost city of El Dorado.

Others combine elements of fantasy and adventure, such as Jungle Jim and the Lost Sphinx Stone, which combines elements of history, Ancient Egypt, and an unforgettable range of visually dynamic settings and characters.

Head of Content, reality TV watcher and lover of cookies. emma@shared.com