Earlier this week, the Strong National Museum of Play's Julia Novakovic shared her article, "Pinball History in the Archives". Julia is an archivist at the Strong and it was her job to process a treasure trove of pinball documents that had been donated to the museum by a collector. The result of her efforts is the Bally-Midway-Williams records.
I have always had a love affair with pinball machines despite my being described in college by a condescending upper classman as "the worst flipper man in the world". That hurt! Never-the-less, with diligence, my flipper skills have improved until today, I can proudly describe my abilities as mediocre.
In honor of Julie's efforts, I decided to write a list of the top pinball machines of all time. Pinball love, like many any passion, is intensely personal. Therefore I decided to do a meta-analysis of four top pinball lists to see which games were chosen with the most consistency. (See end of this article for a list of the lists used in the analysis).
Based on my analysis, the top eight pinball machines of all time are:
1. The Twilight Zone, (Midway, 1993), 4 lists
2. Medieval Madness, (Williams, 1997), 3 lists
3. The Addams Family (Bally, 1992), 3 lists
4. Lord of the Rings (Stern, 2003), 3 lists
5. Monster Bash (Williams, 1998), 2 lists
6. Attack from Mars (Bally, 1995), 2 lists
7. Funhouse Pinball (Williams, 1990), 2 lists
8. Metallica (Stern, 2013), 2 lists
Two things are apparent: The 1990s were a golden age for pinball machines and that Twilight Zone machine must be one hell of a game.
And, oh yes, before leaving this article, I would like to give a shout out to a machine that made only one of the lists: Joker Poker (1978) from the Gottlieb Pinball Company. It is a pleasure to recognize a fellow Gottlieb although I am, unfortunately, not related to those particular Gottliebs.
I suggest that you go out, find yourself a pinball center in your area and have fun. Perhaps, with effort, you too can become mediocre.