How do cascading and tumbling reels work in online slot games?

How do cascading and tumbling reels work in online slot games?

Online slots in the past couple of decades advanced graphics, themes, and innovative features, and an exciting gambling experience right home. Two of the popular features that changed the dynamics of online slots are cascading reels and tumbling reels. But how exactly do these features work and are so popular?

 Cascading and tumbling reels

Cascading reels, as avalanche reels, are a feature where the winning combinations disappear, and the place of the symbols, potentially creating new wins. The reels don’t spin in the usual way. Instead, when a winning combo is hit, those symbols disappear, and the symbols above fall to fill the empty spaces. If new winning lines are created, they disappear as well and the process repeats.

Tumbling reels work similarly, with the main difference being that all the symbols – winning or losing – tumble down after each spin. So when you hit spin, instead of the reels spinning conventionally upwards, all the symbols fall downwards chaotically and new symbols tumble in to take their place from the top. Any winning combos are paid out before the next tumble begins.


Cascading reels first originated in land-based slot machines in the early 2000s with games like Money Storm. However, the feature became widely popular online with the launch of NetEnt’s Gonzo’s Quest in 2010. Since then, cascading reels have become a staple feature in online slots from leading developers like Yggdrasil, Red Tiger, and Pragmatic PlayClick here for more info.

Tumbling reels also existed in land-based slots in the past but became more common in online slots in recent years the early online tumbling reel games were from Rabcat Gambling and later Big Time Gaming’s Bonanza Megaways. The mechanics are incorporated into many modern video slots.

Why are they so popular?

Cascading and tumbling reels add whole new levels of excitement and engagement to online slots. Here are some key reasons why they are so popular among players:

  • Increased winning potential – With every cascade or tumble, there is a chance for new winning lines and combos to be created. It directly increases the winning potential during each spin. Players love slots with cascading reels as they feel they can win more frequently.
  • Cluster pays – In slots with cascading reels, paylines are replaced with cluster pays. It means you just need a cluster of matching symbols anywhere on adjacent reels to win, rather than aligning on a fixed payline. It opens up many possibilities for multiple cluster wins from a single spin.
  • Reactional gameplay – The mechanics of repeatedly cascading or tumbling until no more new wins are created makes the games highly relational. You get drawn into watching the symbols cascade or tumble reactively and anticipating if new wins will be created.
  • Visually appealing – The seamless animations of symbols cascading down or tumbling around are inherently satisfying to watch. Seeing the symbols fall into place feels more dynamic than regular spins. The visuals keep players glued to the screen.