Electrical and video games often get most of the attention when it comes to retro games, but there are some fantastic mechanical games out there too. Namco’s Quick & Crash and Taito’s Ice Cold Beer are two great examples of games that don’t depend on video screens. There’s something about hearing the clicks and thunks in a mechanical game that is very satisfying. One armed bandits have always had that tactile element where you really feel like you’re in control when you pull that arm down. That’s an example of a game that has successfully transitioned into the online space as you can see in these online slot reviews. Another physical game that arguably has not transitioned into the digital world quite as well, however, is pinball.

Pinball games have tried to go digital in several ways. There is the Atari Arcade Video Pinball, realised in 1978. There are pinball emulators on PC called Future Pinball and Virtual Pinball. There are multiple pinball apps on iPad and iPhone, some with real playfields and others with made-up play fields. All are great ways to experience different playfields without having to own multiple machines (because they are very large, heavy and expensive). There was even a very cool virtual pinball machine in an episode of Black Mirror. But nothing can really replace that recoil when you fire the first ball out, the shake of the machine when the buzzers all go off, the tilt in action. It’s a tactile and physical event that is best experienced with a proper machine. 

So, with my blue-sky, lottery-winning hat on, which machines would I most want to own if I had the money and space? I’m basing the below on my own, very basic, pinball knowledge up until now, my appreciation of the subject matter of the machine’s theme, the gameplay and also the artwork of the machine. It was also interesting to read the scores on the Internet Pinball Database’s Top 300 pinball machine list. 

Metallica – I’ve heard this one is quite good, and I can imagine that if they have snippets of the music then it must be pretty good. Hard rock goes pretty well with the noise of metal balls smacking around inside a glass cage. I’m kind of surprised Metallica allowed their music to be used here, but I guess it was obviously properly licenced and perhaps they are pinball fans too. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=npKSo6Y-D_A

AC/DC – Same as the above. Hard rock and pinball go very well together and AC/DC are one of those bands that has so many recognisable and awesome little riffs. I just think playing this one would be so much fun. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cIYPHZCPabs

5 – Lord of the Rings
I was very close to replacing this one with AC/DC. I love everything about Lord of the Rings, particularly the music, but I don’t actually think the music is the Howard Shore score from the films. I think perhaps it has the main theme in there but the rest is original music which is a big shame. It nearly lost its place for that. But then I watched a few videos and it seems to really make the gameplay into much more of a story than a lot of other machines. You almost feel you’re watching the film or playing a Fighting Fantasy book or something while you play it. That really intrigues me. And the artwork looks great. It just makes my Top 5 list.

4 – Indiana Jones
This is one that I have played before and the music and sounds effects work brilliantly. Plus it’s just a fantastic 80s iconic theme that it would fit perfectly into my decor. Definitely makes the list. Some nice little sub-games on it too as you can see in the video. 

3 – The Twilight Zone
Now, it’s not a property that I love quite as much as others, but I certainly have always respected it over the years. It’s a classic brand and I always loved the Twilight Zone touch at the Tower of Terror at the Disney parks. It makes my list here because on nearly every pinball list I could find, this was listed as the no.1 pinball game. It seems to be a favourite of most people. It appears to have a combination of great sound, great artwork but also some really innovative gameplay. I can imagine it would be fantastic to play with the lights down. Very atmospheric.

2 – Star Trek: The Next Generation
I’m a huge TNG fan, and I’m very pleased to hear that this is one of the most popular pinball machines. Great artwork, good gameplay, and incredible speech and sound effects. This must be great to play. I really do need to hunt one of these down. Just hearing Patrick Stewart’s voice in it sends shivers down my spine.

1 – Guns N’ Roses
It might not be as good as Twilight Zone or Star Trek TNG in terms of pinball gameplay but I would just absolutely have to own a Guns N’ Roses pinball machine, for the artwork, the music and the overall coolness of it. Not many things can be more satisfying than playing pinball while feeling the vibrations of Welcome to the Jungle pumping through your body. Sign me up.