High Variance Slots: How They Work & Top Games

High Variance Slots

High variance slots are some of the most popular games in online casinos right now.

They provide an exciting mix of high-risk gambling and super-charged gameplay, with big payouts often driven by crazy sequences where free spins, multipliers and symbol modifiers combine to drive huge wins.

Since Big Time Gamings’ Megaways™ game engine arrived back in 2016 competition has been fierce amongst slot game studios looking to surpass their rivals and deliver the ultimate high volatility slot.

The popularity of these games and the cult of high variance is in evidence in the huge number of fan sites and streamer channels now available for slots fanatics who want to learn more about their favorite studios, as well as the next high-profile releases.

What Does Slot Variance Mean? 

Before we take a look at 3 of the best high variance slots of the year so far, a quick word on what variance actually means.

The term refers to how far from the theoretical return to player (RTP) a game will drift over time. Most games have an average RTP of around 96%.

That means for every £100 wagered, on average £96 will be paid out in prizes. But this number will vary. During some sessions the RTP will be over 96% and in some it will be lower.

How far above and below the advertised RTP the game moves is referred to as the variance. Low variance games will vary little and consequently a player can be sure of regular, small payouts and what we would say is ‘low risk’ gambling.

High variance games vary a lot which means the RTP for a session could be very low, even below 50%, whilst at other times it could be much higher than 100%.

Typically, high variance games pay out infrequently, but when they do, the wins are much bigger. This makes the games a more high risk proposition as punters can sit through long periods with no wins before seeing any return. 

Now lets’ take a look at three of the best titles in this genre for 2020. These slots are all available at licensed casinos in the UK and across Europe.

Book of Shadows by Nolimit City

Paylines: Up to 20

Buffalo Slot Machines Review: How They work and Where to Play

RTP: 96.01%

Top Payout: 30,338x

Variance: High

Anyone who has ever played Play n Go’s famous high variance slot, Book of Dead, will be familiar with the format of this game from Nolimit City.

In fact there are many Book of … games on the market, each replicating Book of Dead’s gameplay in one way or another. Their genius is in their simplicity.

The base game ticks along just fine then once in a while three or more scatter symbols land and the free spins round opens up.

Before it plays out, one symbol is chosen from the paytable to be the ‘special’ symbol for the round. Each time it lands on any reel it expands to full reel height, increasing the chances of filling paylines with identical symbols. 

It is possible to land your special symbol on every reel and finish with a full screen of identical symbols, triggering the top payout. 

Nolimit City are currently one of the hottest game developers around and their Book of Dead game is a brilliant take on this format. The theme is horror and the scary looking undead girl who fronts the games is the top paying symbol, triggering a win of 30,338x if she fills all positions on the reels. 

Peaky Blinders by Pragmatic Play

Paylines: 20

RTP: 96.5%

Top Payout: 2,022x

Variance: High

Branded slots are always fun to play, particularly if you are a fan of the TV show or movie they are based on. For their first ever branded slot, Pragmatic Play have chosen to base the game on one of the UK’s most popular TV box sets, Peaky Blinders.

The story follows the lives of the Shelby family from Birmingham who work their way up from the street to be all-conquering gangsters, appropriately enough with their own bookmaking business.

The 5 reels of the slot game display all the major characters from the show and there are 20 active paylines in play at all times.

Scoring big wins in this one is dependent on triggering one of the bonus features.

There are Shelby Betting Shop Bonuses where additional cash wins are assigned to premium symbols, By Order of the Peaky Blinders Bonuses where all instances of premium symbols become identical, giving better odds of hitting wins, and free plays triggered by landing scatter symbols.

The top payout is more modest than other high variance games, at just 2,022x stake, but it’s made up for by the branded graphics and features from the Peaky Blinders program.

This slot promises to be one of the top new games for 2020.

Pink Elephants 2 by Thunderkick

Paylines: 4,096

Betting Strategies When Approaching NFL Games

RTP: 96.13%

Top Payout: 10,000x

Variance: High

Sweden’s Thunderkick are a game developer who likes to do things a little differently.

They are renowned for producing slots with a comic twist to them, some crazy artwork and intense gameplay on the reels. So, when they decided to produce a 4,096 ways-to-win video slot it’s no surprise that they bucked the trend a little.

For those who don’t know, the first 4,096 payline game of all time was WMS’ Raging Rhino, a fierce, highly volatile slot that inspired many more, always featuring a crazed African beast of some kind.

Buffalo Blitz by Playtech and Mighty Africa by Playson are slots in the series that spring to mind. Ever at odds with the rest of the world, Thunderkick took a psychedelic turn for their version and called it Pink Elephants!

They also included a cast of meerkats on the reels and some famously hallucinatory scenes in the gameplay.  

The first Pink Elephants slot arrived in 2017 and was hugely popular.

This year’s sequel arrived in June and is also of a high quality. The best of the gameplay happens in the free spins round where collecting meerkat symbols fills special meters at the side of the reel.

When each meter is filled, every instance of one low value symbol from the paytable is upgraded to a high value symbol, giving better odds of high payouts. Fill all the meters and every low value symbol is upgraded, giving a top payout of 10,000x.