Whether you’re an arcade owner, a fan or a collector, pinball machines is one of those games where the child in each and every one of us gravitate to.  With every click and clack, and whiz and turn, on beat with the blinking lights, pinball machines can send a seasoned player down memory as much as it draws excitement in younger players who have seen this machines for the first time.  The rush of trying to beat the last high score, that temporal elation has made millions part with the coins they have at hand.

Pinball machines have grown together with the times, from the launch of the first coin-operated pinball back in the 1930’s, designs from purely mechanical ones now extend to the chip-controlled pinball machines designed with elaborate displays and sound systems.

Pinball Machines: Looking back

Ancestors of pinball machines have come a long way from the reign of the Sun King Louis XIV of France.  In 1869, spring launching using bumpers became the norm for pinball machines.  From then, it has transformed and modified into several other innovations until it reached the modern times.  The 1930’s saw the electrification of the pinball machine and the incorporation of the flippers.  The 1970’s saw a great transformation of the pinball machine, with new ones coming out from production with circuit boards and digital displays.   This was also the same decade when game consoles entered the gaming and entertainment market slowing down the sales of pinball machines.  Pinball machines saw a comeback in the 1990’s with complicated mechanical developments coupled with and elaborate sound systems and more vibrant displays.  This saw a new interest in old and new gamers alike.

Old School Pinball Machines

Pinball games and Pinball machines

In the advent of personal computers and tablets, pinball machines have extended to downloadable pinball games and (used to be free) built in from operating system developers.  This evolution has  physical pinball machines to the virtual pinball games.  Despite this evolution, pinball machines continue to strike awe for those who are child-at-heart.  Nothing beats pressing the actual flipper buttons and (trying) to tip the machine to win a game and earning a replay, nothing about pressing keyboard buttons or tapping a tablet screen can ever replace the experience.  It is an experience on its own.

5 Notable Pinball Games of All Time

The ranking below comes from users from the website pinside.com

1. Medieval Madness

Medieval Madness is a pinball machine manufactured by Williams Electronic Games, Inc. from June 1997. Over 4,400 units of this game went through production.  What made this game so fun to play is the left-side catapult that throws the ball and renders it airborne into a habit rail.  There are two pop-up trolls in the playfield that become active during a Trolls mode.  And who couldn’t notice that exploding castle.

Medieval Madness Pinball Machine

Image courtesy of http://www.pinballrebel.com/

2. Twilight Zone

In 1993, Bally released a pinball machine entitled Twilight Zone following the television series of the same title.  Created by Rod Serling for American television, aired from 1959~1964 originally.  The game was noted for having the most number of patents, the most toys installed in the game and the most over-cost budget in the history of pinball machine manufacturing.

Twilight Zone Pinball Machine

Image courtesy of http://www.northcarolinapinball.com/

This game reached success because of the life-size gumball machine that when activated, locks balls inside.  It also features a mini playfield fitted with invisible flippers, thanks to magnets, and a ceramic ball that is not affected by the many magnets installed in the game.  It also has a mechanical clock with rotating arms.

Another feature of the this pinball game is the many modifications that are sold for it, making it popular amongst pinball machine enthusiasts who install this game back in their own homes.  Some mods include a real mini television screen, a flashing camera and a robot toy among many others sold in the market.

With over 15,000 units produced to date, it can truly be considered to be one of the best pinball games ever commissioned.

3. Monster Bash

Made by Williams Electronic Games Inc. in 1998, this pinball machine sold over 4,000 units to date.  This game raked in raving reviews for its gameplay.  The idea is to collect monsters by collecting each monster’s feature.  When you finish collecting them, a special is activated.

Monster Bash Pinball Machine

Image courtesy of http://www.arcadegamesuperstore.com/

4. Attack from Mars

Another pinball machine that reach high acclaim among pinball machine enthusiasts is Attack from Mars. This a pinball machine from January 1995, manufactured by Bally Manufacturing Co. sold over 3,450 units from its release.

Attack From Mars Pinball Machine

Image courtesy of http://www.arcade-classics.com/

5. The Lord of the Rings

Manufactured by Stern Pinball, Inc. and released on 2003, this is the newest title ever released to reach this rank in this list.  Following the success of the franchise from author JRR Tolkien, this pinball machine is known as “The greatest fantasy of all time is now an epic pinball for the ages.”

Noted features on the Official Stern Pinball Flyer says:

  • Players can select Souls on the Path of the Dead… an upper playfield.
  • The Balrog guards the jump ramp that leads to The One Ring.
  • Players bash on the angry Balrog.
  • The Two Towers: Orthanc and Barad-Dur. Players can knock down Barad-Dur to face the eye of Sauron.
  • The jump ramp launches the ball into The One Ring, and the magnet pulls it through.

Pinball machines are here to stay and it will continue to be a source of entertainment and exhilaration for a long time to come.