This article looks at some of the best pinball machines in recent history, including some iconic models you can still seek out today.
Pinball is all about the unbridled joy of flashing lights and trilling noise as orbs slam into objects and along rails in front of you.
Playing a game is equal parts enjoying the spectacle of the pinball design and also the challenge of controlling the madness.
While this author claims no great depth into pinball knowledge beyond casual, yet enthusiastic participation, we here at Bar Games 101 do know a good time when we see one.
Without further ado, here are 10 of the best pinball machines to seek out and play for the experience of classic fun.
The Best Pinball Machines, from Classic to Modern Titles
1. The Addams Family (1992)
The Addams Family pinball cabinet is ubiquitous across every top list on the internet, and for good reason.
The cabinet on these games is beautiful and cartoony at the same time, and captures each of the lovable characters from the hit 1991 movie.
What’s also great about this game is that nearly angle, corner, and direction you can send a pinball flying at features something from the Addams Family that will score you points and set off goals & scoring multipliers.
This is the most prime example of what great game design and engineering execution can do in a pinball machine. Mamushka!
2. Super Spin (1977)
A true retro classic, the Gottlieb Super Spin one of the best pinball machines that is easy to play and easy to love.
The first thing about this game to notice is that it is noisy – every obstacle & wall has a ring, ping, clink, or buzz to it.
In fact, the game creates so much noise you can forget that there’s no music playing, just a solid staccato of pinball action.
Sure, you can’t score points into the millions and there are no multiple levels or ramps, but the brilliance of its simplicity cannot be beat.
Also, who doesn’t love future-retro space surfing?
3. The Pinball Circus (1994)
There are two Pinball Circus cabinets in existence, and one belongs to a private collector in Germany, so why is it on this list?
The Pinball Circus has a uniquely vertical design that is un-matched, for one, and it is on display & available to play at the Pinball Hall of Fame in Las Vegas, NV!
The game features seven (YES, SEVEN) flippers and four tiers of play en route to the jackpot behind the clown’s mouth.
A booster chair is recommended for the vertically challenged wishing to play.
4. The Lord of the Rings (2003)
Verging on too much, the Lord of the Rings pinball is one of the best pinball machines beloved for many reasons.
The playfield is covered in features and miniatures from the series, the sound & music are epic in scope, and the actual gameplay on this machine is intensely varied.
It’s a challenging game, but more than rewarding for fans of the franchise and pinballers everywhere.
5. KISS (2015)
Pinball games based on musicians are great, and there are many out there. While classic arcade pinball is fun, taking a band and celebrating what makes them great is perfect for the pinball medium, and you can’t get much bigger than the already larger than life Kiss.
This particular version gets a nod for being an update on the old 1979 Kiss pinball cabinet, also a beloved classic, but now featuring actual Kiss music, ramps, figures, and, of course, Gene Simmons’s motorized head, which will shoot balls out from it.
Drop a few quarters and rock & roll all night.
6. Medieval Madness (1997)
A widespread and popular pinball cabinet, Medieval Madness hits the sweet-spot of one of the ebst pinball machines with varied gameplay goals, great art and features, while also maintaining effortlessness in play.
The board lights help identify bumpers and game objectives very well, and there’s a real satisfaction in hitting the game’s castle doors, trolls, and dragon.
- Command the Enterprise and Fight to Save the Federation From Evil
- You are Captain Kirk Fight the Vengeance
- USS Vengeance Custom Molded Animated Ship Model
7. The Twilight Zone (1993)
Described as one of the most exciting games in pinball, The Twilight Zone was known as the height of innovation when it came out on the market in 1993.
Loud, bright, and challenging, this machine boasts 4 flippers, 2 ramps, several magnets in the board to assist in hitting target shots, and a ceramic “powerball” for multi-ball play that’s lighter and faster than standard pinball.
Never pass up a chance to step into the Twilight Zone.
8. Pinball Wizard (1994)
Yes, THE Pinball Wizard from The Who’s ”Tommy” album deserves its own machine and it’s a beautiful game to play.
A notable innovation in Pinball Wizard is its retractable blinders that cover the flipper area from player view to really escalate the challenge of the game – taking it to “wizard mode” as it were. Plus, the game plays to the Tommy Broadway show soundtrack.
That’s some mean pin ball!
9. Black Night (1980)
Black Knight is a notorious “love it or hate it” pinball game, but is also undoubtedly one of the most innovative games of its time.
As the first solid-state electronic pinball cabinet with a multi-playfield (a pair of flippers on the raised area and the bottom, too), Black Knight also boasts a unique “magna-save” feature that allowed a player to lock a ball in for later.
This game is a perfect representation of how 80’s pinball technology was trying to get towards the flashier, electrifying games of the 90’s.
10. Pin-Bot (1986)
Robots from space are a perfect theme for any 80’s pinball arcade machine, and Pin-Bot delivers wonderfully on that theme.
Featuring perfect robot voice activation during play, Pin-Bot would declare things like “NOW I SEE YOU” as it challenged players with its multi-level playfield and seemingly thousand of light-up LED’s.
Pin-Bot is more than a game, it is an experience.
Now that you know about some of the best pinball machines to seek out, the question is, where do you find them?
Luckily, there’s a great online resource called Pinballmap.com that will help you locate a machine in your area.
All images sourced from The Internet Pinball Machine Database, unless otherwise noted in the caption.