I can still remember telling my six-year-old grandson to pick any drink on the shelf.
He barely took a breath before reaching out, ignoring the myriad of tooth-rotting fizzy drinks to grab a bottle of water. “Why did you choose that?” I asked. He looked at me before grinning and saying, “Because there’s a picture of Thor on it, and Thor’s the best Marvel character.”
It’s hard to argue against Thor being the best Marvel character, given his superpowers are divine, whereas Iron Man’s are man-made. But it did prompt a bigger question in me! Namely, where have all the Star Wars and Marvel slots gone?
More than a decade ago, online casinos were awash with Star Wars games; you couldn’t hit a casino without stumbling across a Storm Trooper.
Plus, there were all manner of slots for Marvel’s creations, including Wolverine, Captain America and Incredible Hulk slots.
This all makes perfect sense because those ten-year-olds watching the original “Empire Strikes Back” in 1980 were all now in their 40s, and nothing sells products better than a touch of nostalgia.
And then they were gone, and newer branded slots started to take their place. Branded slots remain a powerful tool in the armoury of game developers.
Why are they so popular? Well, it’s because they’re instantly recognisable. Gamblers who have been around the block will tend to check out the Return To Player (RTP) rate of a game, look at playability, and investigate functionality or the studio that has designed it before choosing something to play on.
But for those newer to gambling on slots, familiarity can ensure an instant reaction and impulse purchases based on nothing more than “I used to love that TV show!”.
Branded slots can be adult themed, such as Narcos and Game of Thrones or throwbacks to fairy tales.
There’s hardly a single casino out there that doesn’t have a branded slot in one form or another.
So why did the Marvel and Star Wars slots disappear? That’s easy enough to answer; Disney did it!
Disney purchased the rights to both about a decade ago, acquiring the rights from Lucas Films in 2012 and Marvel in 2009.
Why did they do it? Well, it’s all about branding and brand control. Disney is notorious for brand protection because their brand is essentially providing family-friendly products. That’s sad news for Marvel and Star Wars fans like you and me, who enjoy the odd spot of slot action.
But it does make complete sense for a business like Disney with its wholesome, whiter-than-white image. After all, that’s what their customers are buying into.
Marvel and Star Wars slots may have been consigned to the history books but fear not; there’s still a market for superhero and sci-fi slots in online casinos.
Here are our top picks.
Star Trek: The Next Generation
When I was growing up, you were either a Trekkie or a Star Wars fan. But given there are no more Star Wars slots anymore, the next best thing has to be Star Trek, surely!
This particular version of the 1994 reboot of the 60s original TV show is right up to date.
Naturally, the characters are those from the show and are worth more than other symbols, whilst The Enterprise serves as a wild symbol.
Developed by the Skywind Group, this is a five-reel, 50-pay line slot boasting an RTP of 95.5% – so, middle-ish in terms of volatility.
Visually stunning, it’s full of bonus features.
When the Federation symbol appears in the three middle reels of the slot, the free spins bonus round is activated.
Trekkie fans will find it hard to find another Star Trek game as good as this.
Transformers: Battle For Cybertron
Created by IGT, this slot version of the hugely popular cartoon and film franchise is a must for sci-fi lovers.
As you can imagine, this five-reel, 40-line payout version is packed with well-known characters and symbols.
Get three Cybertron scatter symbols to activate the free spins bonus.
Best of all, its Freefall symbols feature means you can win over and over again.
There are two types of people in this world. Marvel people and DC Universe folk.
Sadly, there are no more Marvel slots to be had, which means superhero wise it has to be Superman or Batman.
Justice League brings the best of the DC Universe to slot stardom.
The slot uses five reels, four rows and 40 pay lines to bring home the entertainment.
With an RTP of 96.3%, this PlayTech game really gets going when you stack a particular superhero up high across all reels.
The Justice League logo, JL, is wild, and Batman tops the best payout superhero list. How it is not Superman, I will never understand!
Another space-themed slot and one that is feature-rich.
With no set pay lines, there are 243 ways to win, with combinations in any direction. This is an extremely visually impressive slot from the master of their class, Microgaming.
Things really start to go galactic with the Ion Storm Wild feature when three or more scatter symbols award free spins and multipliers.
This slot has wilds, scatters and bonuses galore and an RTP of 96.6%.
A long, long time ago…in a slots galaxy far, far away, older players enjoyed Marvel and Star Wars slots.
Sadly, those days are long gone since these epic brands were consumed by the might of Disney.
But let’s not mourn their loss because whenever there is a gap in the market, someone or something, invariably fills it.
And they already have!
The internet is awash with branded games; whether you’re into sci-fi, fantasy, thriller or King King, you will, without doubt, find a game that suits you and your tastes.