Help me select a pinball machine.

I’m looking to purchase my first pinball machine. I’m going to be reaching out to local collectors to help me with this but I’m having trouble even imagining what pinball machine I want that’s within my budget.

  • Budget: $2000 and under
  • Solid state machine (at this price I’m probably sticking with pins from late 70s/early 80’s)
  • Very difficult and/or deep enough ruleset that there is good replay value.

Re: repairs. I am nervous about electrical repairs/circuit board issues. If I don’t have any pinball repair skills now, is it feasible for me to teach myself how to fix electrical issues as they appear? Also, I’ve read that Williams System 11 machines tend to be more reliable. Is it worth it to specifically buy a machine on that CPU in order to avoid electrical problems in the future?


1 Like

At that price point you might find a Jonny Mnuemonic or maybe a Roadshow? (Roadshow tends to be 2300 and JM has been going up in price, but a routed version is probably doable.)

Those have deep rules. If you want difficult Getaway or F14 might be better. They are brutal, but not nearly as deep.

Just my two cents.

1 Like

Where are you located?

You want a Williams/Bally WPC game or a Data East/Sega for that price point. System 11 machines are fun and will cost less, but won’t have the depth you are looking for.

I’m in NYC.

I will check those out. Are there any particular titles you’d recommend? I’m familiar with most of the big names (TAF, FT, TZ, ST:TNG) but I know a good condition machine for those would be way above my budget.

Also, the resources for WPC machine repairs are incredible–holy crap.

If you’re willing to drive a bit to pick up a game, you’d be amazed what you could find around your target budget. For example, Pennsylvania seems to be a hotbed of pinball machines, but it might be a several hour drive to visit a seller. If you can make a day trip of it, you’ll probably be able to find something that pleases you.

(Of course, the sucky part of the driving possibility is if you arrive at the seller’s location and find that the machine condition isn’t as promised… :frowning: )

A couple of quick tips.

  1. If you can, try to play as many different machines as you can. You’re bound to find one you like in your price point instead of buying the first machine that fits your criteria.

  2. When you get ready to buy, look at the machine in person. Lots of incredible people in this hobby. Unfortunately, some unscrupulous ones as well.

  3. You can definitely teach yourself how to fix a lot of issues. is a good resource. is a good one too (it’s a pay site). Googling ‘clay pinball guides’ will lead you to another good repair source - and an amazing amount of drama!

1 Like

I would not go for Sys 11 for a 1 game collection. They’re great, I have Taxi and SOF, but too shallow. I’ll try to make a few specific recommendations.

I think it depends on your skill level as well. If you are a beginner, consider a World Cup Soccer. You could get one close to $2000, and it’s a fantastic game. Great layout, interesting rules. The only issue is, it’s pretty easy. But, sometimes that’s a good thing.

Terminator 3 would be another good choice. It’s harder than WCS, but still approachable, fairly complex and fun for $2K or so.

If you’re willing to stretch your budget a bit, you might find a The Shadow. It’s an awesome game. Fun, difficult, deep.

Good luck, and let us know what you end up with!

1 Like

Install an app like mokriya that searches craigslist all day and alerts you when it finds something. Setup searches in all of the cities you are willing to drive to. Wait until an awesome deal comes up. Call them and say you have cash in hand and you’ll be there asap.

I drove 9hr round trip to buy my first pin EATPM for 1200. I didn’t know how to troubleshoot or fix anything. Got it home, cleaned it up, got some help online and she was back in business. I drove 12+hr for my second pin. Good luck!

1 Like

The bad thing about a $2000 budget is that a lot of the A-list games are well out of your price range. The good thing about a $2000 budget is you still have a ton of options.

I’d start with WPC games first. They are the highest quality machines from the era and have great software, sounds and personality. For $2000 or under, look at games like Demolition Man, The Getaway: High Speed II, World Cup Soccer, Fish Tales, Judge Dredd, No Fear, etc. They are all going to be of “player condition” quality, so expect faded cabinets and well-used/heavily routed examples.

Going from there, you’ve got a lot of options in the Data East lineup. Last Action Hero and Jurassic Park are good examples. Early SEGA titles fall in this category since they were basically transitioning from Data East: Baywatch, Frankenstein, Maverick, etc. All solid games and can be found for $2000 or less (Frank and Maverick are usually between $1400 and $1800). I’d personally avoid the tiny-DMD era DE games (Batman, Hook, TMNT, etc)–the rulesets on those typically aren’t very good. You want a first game that’s going to have some meat to it and provide a decent challenge. You also want it to last you a while, not something you are going to consistently see through to the end of in a day.

Moving downward, you’ve got the later SEGA games. They aren’t the best games out there from either a quality or rules perspective, but they usually have a lot of ramps, are fast and the prices are low ($1800-ish for a lot of them). Starship Troopers, Goldeneye, X-Files, Independence Day, Lost World: JP, etc.

Some early Stern games can even be pretty cheap (under $2K). High Roller Casino, Striker Xtreme, Sharkey’s Shootout, etc. I won’t recommend the later two (Striker because it’s weak, and Sharkey’s because I haven’t played it), but HRC is a cool game with a solid ruleset. I’ve seen it as low as $1200.

If you want bottom-of-the-barrel stuff, there are the Gottlieb DMD games. Street Fighter II, Super Mario Bros., Big Hurt, etc. I wouldn’t really recommend any of these as a first pin–the flippers are goofy and the machines feel kind of clunky overall. Maybe try some later on if you get hooked, especially Stargate or Waterworld, but avoid this manufacturer for now, you have a lot of other choices.

Hope that helps!


This is extremely helpful. Thank you!

You might be able to find a World Poker Tour for $2k still. And that’s an A-list game, with probably enough depth for you. :wink:

1 Like

For 70/80s solid state <2000, there are some fun titles, harlem globetrotters, evel Knevel, my fav is 8-ball deluxe (saw one this week on Mr Pinball classifieds for $1700). These are the classic Bally titles where there were several thousand made, and still plenty to be found in good or great shape. Eight Ball, Playboy, Night Rider are others that come to mind.

For a game in the price range you mention, I would stick to a Funhouse or The Getaway. Two of the greatest games ever made. With tons and tons of replay value. And with ace sound and mechanical action.

Funhouse has some strategy depth to it when played for high score and with EB’s on. Frenzy, Crazy steps and Gangway - when to go and when to save for later. A masterpiece.

Hi PDXmonkey, couldn’t help but notice your name. Any tips for someone getting started or looking to buy in Portland OR? Thx!

Welcome to Tilt forums @brocktal
@PDXmonkey hasn’t posted here in years but I have some tips for you. Portland has a good pinball scene. Get to know local pinheads. They will have machines for sale and will be able to go with you and help inspect any machine you find. Belles & Chimes has a Portland chapter:
Go to any local pinball event:
You’ll find lots of people interested in buying and selling games too and they may know local dealers with good service and ones to avoid.

1 Like

I can’t think of any online sellers. But have you tried Craigslist? If you’re in Canada Kijiji would be another alternative