In this fruit slots guide, we’ll look at the history of fruit machines, see how they work, and give you some guidance on winning online!
One day you’ve probably found yourself sitting, looking at a screen, and smiling to yourself as it fills up with cherries and pays you 10-times your stake in winnings, and you’ve wondered:
Why the hell do we use fruits as symbols in these games?
If you haven’t, you’re not like us!
Whether you have or you haven’t, this online fruit slots guide will tell you why we do, and will also explore one of the biggest sectors in the online video slots market.
Thousands of fruit slot games still build their graphic theming around spinning oranges, cherries, plums and lemons. In the UK at least, the style became so ubiquitous in the old real-world games, that they became known simply as “fruit machines” and in some parts of the country as “fruities”.
Interested to learn more about fruit slots? So pull up a lemon and sit down and tuck in.
Best Sites to Play Free Fruit Slots Online
Reviews of the Best Fruit Slot Machines
Why Fruit Slots? The History of Slots
Fruit slots are not just the whim of some insane fruit-loving designer! I mean, why not dragons or birds or trees or flowers?
They are the result of the history of slot machines, which were born in America, and the history of American gambling laws, which were also born in American and are therefore hypocritical and dumb.
Sorry America, we don’t mean that as a general condemnation of your massively diverse nation. Just your laws on gambling, which are odd.
First Slot was a Poker Machine
The slot machine was born as a way of mechanising card gambling. Specifically, the first slot was a poker machine.
It had five drums – now called reels – that rotated and came to a stop to deliver a “hand” to the player. You put money in a slot to play them (most of these early games were in bars and saloons) but they couldn’t pay out automatic prizes, those too had to be handed over by a trusty barkeeper or shop assistant and were usually in the form of free drinks or cigars.
However, the ingredients of the modern slot are pretty much all in place from their birth, in the first games made by the Sittman and Pitt company of Brooklyn, New York, released onto the market around 1891.
The pay line that defined the winning hand. The five “reels”. The random event delivering a set of symbols. And the “house edge”, in this case, enhanced over straight poker odds by removing two cards from a 52-card deck.
People loved these games, and they spread like a rash over New York City.
However, poker is a complex game, and mechanising it and standardising it is tough. This made the pay-out a problem. Machinery at the time couldn’t handle the huge difference in odds – and therefore prizes – between a pair of twos and a full-house.
So we have the simplification of the machine.
Poker Game Cut Down to 3 Reels
This took place sometime before 1895 in San Francisco. The five-reels of the poker game was cut down to three reels. And the individual cards were replaced with a cut-down set of symbols.
We’re not quite at the fruit machine yet, but Charles Fey – who made these machines – was moving this way and did give us some symbols that are still with us these days. His games had horseshoes, spades, diamonds and hearts from card decks, and a liberty bell (to be patriotic).
This simplification allowed the pay-outs to be automated, and we’re well on the road to the modern online slot.
The bell – which we still see today – became the name of the machine, and they were ripped off left, right and centre.
As new companies came onto the market, new symbols came into the mix. Among the prizes offered were fruit-flavoured gums, and in order to represent these fruits first appeared on the reels.
Another popular symbol still used in fruit machines was the BAR, which was just a company logo for the Bell-Fruit Gum Company.
Fruits were popular prizes because of American gambling law. A machine that copied a game of poker was very obviously a gambling game. But putting symbols on the reels makes things a bit more abstract and breaks the link. Change the prizes from money to food and you’re even further away, and people are starting to make legal defences of fruit machines as vending machines.
Slot Machine Getting Complex
And so we have the fruit machine.
The symbols remained popular as the slot machine became more and more complex. In the 1960s the first electronically powered games were introduced – replacing the mechanical power of a pulled level – with much bigger payouts.
Then video screens meant you could put absolutely anything on the reels. Soon games had the potential to be extremely complex.
But that potential doesn’t have to be fulfilled, and there’s plenty of evidence that gamblers are nostalgic and love games with tradition.
It’s not that the existing games have perfected the gambling experience – though they have a long development that has gone into doing just that – but players enjoy heritage and lineage. We have all the technology to deliver singing space aliens, but people still like to play games based around 18th-century card games.
Slots are somewhere between roulette and cards, and more like poker than anything else. You can put any symbol you like on the reels and the game will remain largely the same, but fruits have a lineage and people enjoy that feeling of connection.
What Fruits? A typical fruit slots set of symbols
So we’ve seen a little of the reasoning behind fruits on reels – a way of hiding gambling!
Those days are gone now. If you’re playing fruit slots, you’re probably doing so at an online casino site and you’re probably doing it for cash. (If you can play fruit slots for free or in demo mode then it’s a great way to get familiar with a game before you splash your cash.)
The history of fruit slots links them with chewing gum, so we’ll assume that that’s why the lovely tasty fruits that feature on the reels were chosen.
Fruit Slot Example
Let’s go inside an example of a fruit slot and take a look at Fruit Shop.
Fruit Shop is a game by NetEnts, one of the biggest online slots companies, and it’s developed by them and released in 2013.
It has on its paytable, a fairly typical set of fruits, these are the:
Melon, the orange, the lemon, the plum, and the cherry.
In this example, they increase in value from the melon on up. There’s no particular rhyme or reason to this hierarchy – many hierarchies are, in fact, arbitrary and unfair, as you probably know!
This fruit hierarchy is fairly common though.
Cherries are most often the most valuable fruit slot symbol. But beyond that, it’s down the designer to come up with their own fruit-flavoured scale.
Other fruits you might see, include – but are certainly not limited to – apples, bananas, pineapple, strawberries, and raspberries.
Like all slot symbols, fruit slot symbols need to be simple to understand and appealing, hence the nice, brightly coloured and simple shapes of melons, lemons, oranges (the fruit that gave its name to a colour) and so on.
It’ll be interesting to see how this style of game reacts to the globalisation of the online slots market. The Far East is now a massive slots market, and that’s one of the reasons why Chinese and other East Asian games like sic bo have become more popular in international casino sites.
It’s also why some cultural artefacts and styles from those cultures are seeping into games that are played by a worldwide market. Western countries still dominate the slot design market, but this is slowly changing, and big international western gambling companies often have offices in the Far East now.
So will we see fruit machines persisting in a culture that doesn’t have a tradition of them? And will we see the symbols remaining the same? Apples are much less common in the Far East. Perhaps lychees would be more appropriate?
Where Do Fruit Slots Fit In the Slots World?
There is seemingly no limit to the ingenuity of slots designers these days.
(Actually, there is, as there hasn’t really been a substantial or substantive change in the fundamental operation of these games for more than a century. But the games work and people like them so we’ll let that pass.)
With the fundamentals so set in stone, the place for innovation is in relatively superficial things like the design of the symbols and music.
Where do fruit slots fit in in this universe of ever-changing games?
Microgaming, one of the largest online video slots companies, has hundreds of games on its lists, it divides them into categories by type.
There are too many of those types to list here, but many will be familiar favourites to experienced slots players.
The list starts with action, adult, adventure, and African theming. It ends with war, weddings, westerns, and winter.
Anything you can make a movie, game, book or show about you can make a game about. But is there anything deeper to the fruit genre?
Well, yes and no.
Of the games it classifies as “fruit” titles, Microgaming lists 23 games. These include titles like fruit fiesta, pub fruity, age of discovery, and lucky little gods.
There’s quite a range there, and the determining factor includes simple games that show fruit symbols on their pay-tables.
Not all fruit slot machines are the same
The theming though is quite diverse. For example, the Age of Discovery is actually a game about Elizabethan-era discoveries. And, in a nice touch, they have made the fruits on the pay table are updated to fit in with this international theme. So instead of melons and lemons, we get bananas, avocados, mangoes, guava, and papaya. Lovely!
But the game of fruit slots is very much more typical of the genre because it is a classic slot and even retro in its design and theme.
The graphics are deliberately backwards-looking and unsophisticated. The game is also simple, with just three reels. And the pay table is built completely around the classic pay table.
Cherries are at the bottom of the table. Then lemons, oranges, plums, and guavas. At the top are the bars that we learned earlier are fruit machine company logos.
So fruit machines are more likely to be classic than sophisticated, and more likely to be retro than forward-looking, but that’s no hard-written rule.
Some games take the fruit theme and play around with it, for example, digitizing the fruits and making them expanding squared 8-bit symbols.
How to Play Fruit Slots
Fruit slots are played like any other, though the emphasis on simplicity means they’re likely to be pretty easy to play, with fewer bonus games.
But like everything in this article that may not be the case. Fruit slots is a relatively broad theme, and the theming can only go skin deep or develop into a complete retro game with only a spin button and two bet buttons.
It’s always worth reading the full paytable and the full instructions of any game before you start playing it seriously. It’s also a great idea to play these games for free if you can, either as demo mode games or as free games with free spins bonuses at new sites.
A fruit slot game can probably be played with just two buttons – the start button and the Bet button. That’s great! People like simple games.
Fruit slot games are usually three or five-reel games.
Three-reel games have fewer pay lines, usually starting off at around three, while five-reel games can have up to 25 pay lines as a fairly standard option. There’s no reason why fruit slots can’t be set up to run with cluster wins or some other branded multi wins system.
Decide how much to bet
To play a fruit slot you’ll need to decide how much you want to bet on the next spin.
You do this with up to three controls: a coin size choice, a selection of the number of pay-lines on which you would like to bet that money, and/or a total bet amount.
This sounds complex to newcomers, but it really isn’t. Again, demo mode games are your friend here, and if you think this is something that you’re going to struggle with then look for games with simple betting controls that don’t ask you to make choices about pay lines or coin size and instead give you a single choice over a total bet.
And then you press play!
That’s about it.
Another button you’ll want to press is the information or “pays” button. This will show you a pay table that explains how you’ll be rewarded for each set of symbols you hit, and it should also cover the rules of the game more broadly, including any bonus games.
Fruit Slot Games – The Bonus Games
As a style of game that usually fits into the more classic end of the market, you’ll usually find that fruit slots have relatively simple bonus games.
Again, no hard and fast rule here, just a likelihood, and always inform yourself of the rules before you play.
The first sort of bonus games you might see are extras in the base game.
Almost all fruit machines, even the most simple, will have a wild symbol. This is a relic from the games’ historic link to card games of the past. Some poker games use a wild card to spice up games and shake up the odds.
This means that if you see a “wild” symbol it takes on the value (usually the highest possible paying value) of another symbol in order to give you a win.
The other common bonus symbols are the Scatters. These symbols might pay very large prizes, including jackpots, but most often are used to trigger a subsidiary bonus game. They are called scatters because they don’t need to be next to each other on the reels to count as a set. So three scatters anywhere on the reels are likely to trigger a bonus game.
There may also be gamble features in a base game. In fact, these are popular in fruit games as they’re a real hallmark of classic slots.
Bonus features are generally double-or-quits games. Once you win a prize you’ll be offered the chance to gamble it. You will usually be given a simple binary choice (the choice between a red or black card is the most common). If you guess the right outcome your prize will double. If not, you lose the original prize.
Gamble features can be more sophisticated, offering a choice of more than two options. They can be skill tests, asking you to stop a symbol climbing a ladder or stop a light flashing in the right position. Keep winning and you may increase your prize by many orders of magnitude.
Beyond the base game, a secondary bonus is a stand-alone part of the game that you win access too. It is most often where the most valuable prizes are won, and their variety is such that it’s not possible to cover the whole galaxy of fruit slots bonus games here.
The commonest bonus games are free spins. Free spins are just what they sound like. You get a number of free goes on the game, usually in quick succession, and you keep everything you win without risking any of your own funds!
They are most often offered in sets of five or 10. They may be a one-off offer, or you may be able to win more free spins from within the free spins game. There is usually, but not always, an upper limit on the total number of free spins you can win.
Free spins rounds usually add some other extras. They may increase the number of high paying symbols on the reels. They might change the way that wild symbols react, turning them into giant symbols, or allowing them to move, or giving them some other special feature.
The free spins round might otherwise reform the reels or symbols on it.
Other Bonus Games
Other bonus games might include cash ladder games. These work a little like gamble features, with players being offered a number of simple choices. In reward for getting these random choices right, they advance along a trail or ladder with ever larger prizes along the way.
Choice games are about as simple as things come. A range of options are offered – styled in any number of ways – and the player picks one, or a group of them, and they win the hidden prizes.
Skill games are relatively rare – which is a shame because they really add another dimension to games. The most common ones are simple tests of hand-eye coordination that ask you to stop a sequence in the right place, usually offering you a ladder of prizes, and offering you the option of taking your current prize at each stage, risking it if you carry on testing yourself.
How to Win at Fruit Slot Machines Online
If you’ve read much of our content you’ll know that we have one constant theme – games at straight sites are honest and fair and random. Honest and fair means that you have a fair chance of winning a prize, even a big prize, every time you play a fruit slot machine online.
And random means just that. The outcomes are genuinely random. There’s a reason why people use random sequences to make difficult decisions.
You can’t cheat them. You can’t predict them.
Tossing a coin is a great way to make a binary choice because you – unless you cheat yourself – can’t really influence it. And cheating a coin you toss yourself – a single 50/50 chance – is extremely hard. You have no chance of influencing a massive random sequence of computer-generated numbers.
In the same way, there is no winning strategy with fruit slot machines online. There are safe strategies for your bank balance and for your mental health, but there is no trick of timing or staking or praying or planning that will help you to win.
So use those safe playing strategies – only play with money you can afford to lose, don’t play when you’re intoxicated or unhappy, don’t try to regulate your mood with gambling – and give a wide berth to anyone who is trying to sell you fruit slots winning strategies.