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What are the Top Ten Modern Pinball Machines of All-Time?

twilight zone pinball

Let’s somewhat scientifically figure out the best pinball machines of all time.

First let’s look at the top 25 pinball machines list from Pinside.

  1. Medieval Madness
  2. Attack from Mars
  3. Iron Maiden: Legacy of the Beast
  4. Twilight Zone
  5. Monster Bash
  6. Lord of the Rings
  7. Metallica
  8. Dialed In
  9. AC/DC
  10. The Addams Family
  11. Indiana Jones: The Pinball Adventure
  12. Star Trek (by Stern)
  13. Star Trek: The Next Generation
  14. Tales of the Arabian Nights
  15. Spider-Man
  16. Theatre of Magic
  17. The Walking Dead
  18. Scared Stiff
  19. Wizard of Oz
  20. The Simpsons Pinball Party
  21. White Water
  22. Cirqus Voltaire
  23. Total Nuclear Annihilation
  24. TRON: Legacy
  25. Ghostbusters

Pinside's list of the best pinball machines

Recency Bias in Pinball is Real

Any pinball machine released in the past year or two is getting removed from this list. With the honeymoon effect, many brand new pinball machines pop up high in all-time pinball lists.

These pinball machines are not proven yet and are the shiny new thing. Maybe they will prove to be great pinball machines, but you have to take this into effect as it always happens.

In fact AC/DC just came off this list from our prior version of this article…thus proving the point.

So this rule eliminates the following pinball games:

IPDB has their own list of the best pinball machines

Now let’s see ensure the remaining games also exist on the best 25 pinball machines list at the Internet Pinball Database:

  1. Twilight Zone
  2. Theatre of Magic
  3. Star Trek: The Next Generation
  4. Medieval Madness
  5. Scared Stiff
  6. Indiana Jones: The Pinball Adventure
  7. The Addams Family
  8. White Water
  9. Tales of the Arabian Nights
  10. Monster Bash
  11. Creature from the Black Lagoon
  12. Attack from Mars
  13. The Lord of the Rings
  14. Bram Stoker’s Dracula
  15. The Wizard of Oz
  16. Funhouse
  17. Fish Tales
  18. Cirqus Voltaire
  19. The Getaway: High Speed II
  20. The Shadow
  21. Red & Ted’s Road Show
  22. No Good Gofers
  23. The Machine: Bride of Pin·bot
  24. Spider-Man
  25. Revenge From Mars

A truly best pinball machine ever should be in both of these lists. So that means goodbye to the following:

Getting Closer to the 10 Best Pinball Machines Ever

That leaves us with the following list:

  • Twilight Zone
  • Theatre of Magic
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation
  • Medieval Madness
  • Scared Stiff
  • Indiana Jones: The Pinball Adventure
  • The Addams Family
  • White Water
  • Tales of the Arabian Nights
  • Monster Bash
  • Attack from Mars
  • The Lord of the Rings
  • The Wizard of Oz
  • Cirqus Voltaire
  • Spider-Man

Filtering Out Some Overrated Pinball Machines

That leaves us with 15 games. Just like the President, I have full veto power here.

Somebody needs to be the voice of reason — and having twenty years of pinball collecting under my belt I feel confident in my abilities.

If I tell you that Theatre of Magic is one of the 10 greatest pinball machines of all-time and you are bored with it two months later (which is likely) — I don’t want you hunting me down about your $6,000 error.

With a list of 15 of the greatest pinballs here I have five games to get rid of. Actually this is going to be pretty easy to do…

Theatre of Magic is the first to go. Pretty game, some fun shots, neat toys, but it is not very fun long term because of the lame software.

I could say the same exact things about Tales of the Arabian Nights — so that one is out of here also.

Don’t fear Popadiuk pinball fans, I will leave Cirqus Voltaire for you (even though that pinball machine is also overrated.)

Lord of the Rings is a near carbon copy of the Monster Bash layout, only it is less fun, is not funny at all, plays slower, and is much lower in build quality.

Best Ever Pinball Rule: A Pinball Machine Must Be Fun!

Indiana Jones: The Pinball Adventure is gorgeous and was made during the peak of the industry. The problem is the kinetics of the game are off. This is not the kind of game you can play over and over again…because it just is simply not that fun to play.

Speaking of a game that is not very fun to me…Wizard of Oz you could argue is a sign of recency bias.

But more likely it is a sign of geeky bias because it is filled with cool technology.

But fun rules in pinball and the layout of Wizard of Oz is not even average. The gameplay is slow, the layout uninspired and none of the shots are very satisfying.

A greatest of all time pinball has be fun, right?

That produces a top ten list of:

  • Twilight Zone
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation
  • Medieval Madness
  • Scared Stiff
  • The Addams Family
  • White Water
  • Monster Bash
  • Attack from Mars
  • Cirqus Voltaire
  • Spider-Man

This is not my personal list, but I can live with this. Personally I am saddened to not see Creature from the Black Lagoon, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Funhouse, or The Shadow here. But I will try to move on.

Ordering the List of Best Pinball Machines Ever

Now let’s get these all-time great pinball machines in proper order…

I will average the score from the two websites, along with my own personal pinball score.

My personal score is based on how long I found the games enjoyable.

Some games I still own and find fun 20 years later (White Water) while others I tired of eventually and don’t miss them any more (Medieval Madness and Attack from Mars).

So without further adieu…here is your all time top ten list of modern pinball machines.

  1. Twilight Zone
  2. The Addams Family
  3. Medieval Madness
  4. Monster Bash
  5. Star Trek: The Next Generation
  6. Attack from Mars
  7. White Water
  8. Scared Stiff
  9. Cirqus Voltaire
  10. Spider-Man

Best Pinball Designers of All-Time

If you want to break it down by pinball designers. Here is your scorecard.

  • Pat Lawlor = 2 games and numbers 1 & 2! Funhouse should probably be here too…
  • Brian Eddy = 2 games
  • Dennis Nordman = 2 games
  • Steve Ritchie = 2 games
  • George Gomez = 1 game
  • John Popadiuk = 1 game

Conclusions

So there you have a nice clean best pinball machines list. We don’t agree with all of them, but feel this is a good mix of pinball machines that both newbies and wizards love, games that have something for everyone, and are works of pinball art.

* Feature photo by Carsten Frenzl