3-reel slots

3 Reel Slots - Features & Free Games

3-reel online slots are one of the most popular types of slots that continue to compete with five-reel slots to this day at land-based and online casinos. Most often they are classic and fruit slots and normally come with 1 to 5 paylines. These slots do not normally have any special symbols, yet some do feature bonus options and some uncommon combinations. NeonSlots has a wide selection of free games including 3 reel slots that are licensed demos of real games. The list contains slots by world renowned developers and the most popular three-reeled fruit machines with bonus options to play for free.

Characteristics of 3 Reel Slots

3-reel slots feature a lot less themes than the 5-reel ones do. The most popular trends in the genre of these one-armed bandits are fruits and classics. Original slots themed to sports, jewellery, food and so on are much more rare.

These are the structural gaming characteristics that are typical to the 3-reel slots:

  • They have one, three or five paylines. The number of paylines affects the probability of landing a winning combo, so the less lines there are available, the more rarely the combos will land
  • Bet limits are often on the low side. One-line slots often have only three bet levels available, or sometimes five. Five-line slots have a wider range of options, yet rarely will the limits reach the values of bet limits in five-reel slots
  • The infrequency of landing the winning combos is offset by the size of the rewards. In three-reel slots the payouts for the most simple combinations will often reach or exceed the size of the bet per spin

Most of the time 3-reel slots do not feature any bonus options such as free spins, bonus games or special symbols. The most popular option featured in these slots is the risk game. Some of these slots also feature either fixed or progressive jackpots. However, they also have other options that are typical for this kind of slot games:

  1. The hold option - You can "hold" one or two reels until the next spin in order to increase the probability of landing a winning combo. Some slots will block the reels automatically if two identical symbols happen to land on a payline
  2. The nudge option - Some slots will let you nudge the reel one field up or down to bring the symbol that completes a winning combo onto the game screen
  3. Producing combos from different symbols of one category - The most common example is the BAR symbols that traditionally consist of single, double or triple blocks. A combination of different BAR symbols will also earn you a reward
  4. Earning a reward for one symbol landing on a payline. Three-reel slots will often pay a reward as soon as even one cherry lands on the reels
  5. Increasing the reward for combinations involving special symbols. Some symbols featured in three-reel slots act as Wilds. By substituting for a picture that is missing in a combo, they will activate an extra multiplier. The size of the multiplier will depend on the number of Wild symbols in a combo. One symbol will double your winnings and two will get your winnings quadrupled. Most often the Wild function is performed by the highest-paying symbols

Traditional three-reel slots use pictures of fruits (cherries, lemons, plums, watermelons and grapes) and classical pictures (sevens, BAR symbols, bells and stars). In most cases the symbols featured in these slots is a tribute to the history of the development of fruit machines.

History of 3-reel Slots

The first time a slot machine was mentioned was in 1891. This is when the first slots appeared in drinking facilities in the US. The slots that a modern-day user is familiar with, fruit machines, have been around since 1898, when Charles Fey developed his first slot machine titled Liberty Bell that would accept 5 cent coins.

Pictures of fruits started appearing on the slots in the 1920s. Back then they were dispensing pieces of chewing gum with fruit flavours. Combinations of identical pictures would determine which flavour of chewing gum the player would be entitled to, cherry, orange, watermelon and so on.

Since 1933 slots started springing up in casinos across America. The Jennings company modified some complex mechanical slots by providing them with electric motors. This is the company that introduced the concept of jackpots to slot machines.

A technological revolution in the world of one-armed bandits started back in 1981. This was when slot machines switched from mechanical to electronic mechanisms. New slots were being created with special symbols and bonus options. More reels were also added as time went by. Despite the emergence of five-reel slots, classic fruit machines with three reels maintain their popularity to this day.

Popular 3-reel Slots

Players who have mastered most of the varieties and themes of slots will have at least one 3-reel slot on their list of favourite fruit machines. This choice is made due to the fact that these kind of slots feature big payouts and are easy to play.

The three-reel slots listed among the most popular ones are:

  • Always Hot Deluxe is a fruit slot by Greentube with nine symbols and five paylines. The maximum bet is 20 credits per line and the highest reward is paid for a combination of three sevens
  • Double Diamond is a classic slot by IGT where winning combinations can only be formed on one payline. The highest-paying symbol is the slot's logo with two diamonds. It also acts as the Wild symbol and will double or quadruple your winnings when it is used in as a substitute in a winning combination
  • Astronomical is a slot by Microgaming. It has an uncommon space theme, three bet levels and pays a win if just one cherry lands on a payline. The logo acts as the Wild symbol and either doubles or quadruples your winnings depending on the number of Wilds landed on a payline
  • Fire Joker is a slot by Play'N GO. The game features five paylines and nine types of symbols. The Joker is the Wild symbol, which is the highest-paying one in the game. The slot also features a free re-spin and if the entire screen gets filled with identical symbols, you will be able to launch the bonus game where spinning the Wheel of Fortune can give you an extra multiplier of up to x10 for your winnings
  • Jackpot 6000 is a three-reel slot by NetEnt that has five paylines. This game allows you to raise your bet value as you earn more winnings which can be transferred to the Supermeter. Two Jokers landing in any positions on the reels during the bonus game will earn you a random reward, if the bonus bet is active

Developers of 3-reel Slots

Since 3-reel slots are still in great demand, most developers have them in their game lists. Even those that specialise in 5-reel slots, with all sorts of bonuses, are now in the process of designing fruit machines for the fans of classics. They are:

  • Greentube
  • Microgaming
  • IGT
  • Play'N GO
  • NetEnt
  • Playtech
  • Saucify
  • Rival
  • Merkur Gaming

Some game creators have been trying to introduce new options into the gaming mechanics of three-reel slots. NetEnt has developed some slots that feature a game on two screens, the main screen and the bonus screen. Play'N Go has created three-reel slots that also feature bonus games.


Three-reel slots have been successfully competing with the modern-day slots and disproving the allegation that all slots with three reels are the same, as they often use various themes and bonus options. Players are attracted by large payouts and as 3-reel slots are often characterised by their high variance, where winning combinations are not that frequent, but the rewards that they pay greatly exceed your bet per spin, this makes them popular. 

Find out more about how to play slots and other casino games for real money at online casinos.