Typical Modes

What would people say are classic or typical “modes” in pinball (since the introduction of modes)? Not your favorite modes, just categories you might expect to see. By mode I’m including anything that might through software shift the typical course of play or change your objectives in some way (even if just introducing secondary ones). (I posted this on a the PDX FB group so my apologies to anyone there seeing this twice).

What might I be leaving out of my initial list that follows?:

Achieve some number of combos
Shoot ramps/loops repeatedly
Shoot some set of targets in a certain order (not sure if this is vastly different from combos)
Bash something
Timed goals
Video mode

“Lit shots” which is what modern games like Star Trek, GOTG, Aerosmith, Kiss. There might be a better way to generalize those, but I don’t think they’re really covered by your list.

That said, i think this exercise would only serve to confuse the terminology for beginners.

In my mind, a mode tends to be something that has to be explicitly started or selected, and will have explicit objectives/jackpots and/or explicit completion. In AFM, Total Annihilation is a mode, but the hurry-up from completing the right ramp is not a mode. Collecting weapons in Deadpool is not a mode, nor is earning extra ball from combos in Batman 66, these are objectives. The power jackpots in Iron Maiden are not modes, but Cyborg Multiball is.

One of the earliest modes that comes to mind for me (outside of multiballs, which are frequently the only “mode” on solid state games until the 90s) is Reflex on Dr Dude. To qualify the mode you hit the white stand ups, to start the mode you hit the left saucer. To complete the mode you have to hit 1-2-3 in the time limit.

Gottlieb’s Deadly Weapon also has a mode where you are supposed to hit the police cars in specific order.

Compare that to Taxi, where in my opinion the only “mode” is multiball. Collecting all passengers to get the jackpot isn’t a mode, it’s just the objective of the game.

Super Cellar on Whirlwind may be a mode, but the awards along the way are not, except for Quick Multiball. Regular multiball is the other mode.

  • Build N’ Cash (e.g. “He Slimed Me” from Ghostbusters, Stark from Game of Thrones, etc)
  • Hurry Up (could fall under “Timed Goals” but I think it’s distinct and common enough to be it’s own item on the list)
  • Add-a-ball mode (most of the 90’s Data East games have one)
  • Sharpshooting mode (mode where some targets/shots incur a penalty and should be avoided like Mr. Freeze)
  • Super Feature (e.g. super pops, targets, etc) Overlaps with “bash something” but again probably common enough to call out as its own thing (and super features, unlike “normal” modes, are often untimed)
  • Skill shot mode (TZ and Congo)
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Well, I’m not (yet) worried about confusing beginners. Just brainstorming something for some hypothetical future writing and trying to cast a wide net.

In any event, these are helpful thoughts and examples that are helping me think about this.

Hurry ups! That definitely fits what I’m mulling over. The others are all helpful additions but I’m not sure if I’d consider them universal enough for what I’m thinking about (maybe “build n’ cash”). All of the ideas are helpful, though.

Wizard and mini-Wizard modes (multi-phase modes), requiring certain amount or maximum progress in a game.
Typically very lucrative.

Combo Shot modes


Modes where some physical aspect of the playfield changes (magnets, diverter, etc)

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Can playfield multipliers be a “mode”?

Thinking White Water 5x Playfield, vs more modern multiplier implementation, which aren’t very mode-y. Though they may “shift the typical course of play or change your objectives in some way (even if just introducing secondary ones),” as in Munsters, for example.

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Interesting. Using your own definition, why would the hurry-up not qualify as a mode? It’s started by shooting a major shot three times, has an objective of shooting the center, and completes by shooting the center or timing/draining out. Also can be built up by shooting other things, so it has a bit of that “build ‘n’ cash” aspect mentioned separately.


Does seem to fit my description. I guess because it’s a hurry up? Shrug

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Here we go. Brace yourselves

Here’s how I organize modes:

Impact on progress:

  • Progresses towards wizard modes via being played (TSPP TV modes, ST:TNG modes, etc.)

  • Progresses towards wizard modes via being completed (BK:SOR modes, Transformers modes (I’m pretty sure, right?))

  • Progresses towards wizard mode via performing well enough (can’t think of any at the moment, but I’m almost positive these exist)

  • Improves wizard mode (getting artifacts or medals in Star Treks, completing STPP TV modes)

  • Does not progress towards wizard modes (Treehouse modes in TSPP)

Any applicable combination of these

Affect on game state:

  • Priority (enters a ‘mode state’, if you will. Different than single ball play without a mode running; think TSPP TV modes, or Stern Trek modes)

  • Concurrent (basically an addition to normal single ball play, like Green Goblin modes in Spider-Man, daredevil modes in TSPP. Background modes, I guess)

Number of Spheres (so I don’t feel naughty):

  • These are pretty obvious. I personally don’t consider multiballs to be modes, apart from those that are in mode ladders (Aces High, Quill’s Quest). Niche cases are like Stern Trek’s warp factor 9.9, which I think is just strictly an add-a-ball; not really a mode.

Play/Completion Method:

  • What the mode tasks the player with doing. These will all probably be mentioned in this thread, so I won’t delve into them.


  • This one’s more fluid from game to game, but compare TSPP TV modes, which can stack with most other modes (including other TV modes), to say, Royal Madness, which can’t be stacked with anything (to my knowledge). There are a number of common trends in stackability: modes that don’t stack with others of the same family, but still stack with other modes (probably the most common), like IMDN songs, or modes that only stack with multiball. (This is probably a safe place for this. A little reward for reading this far: the first person to say to me: “I hear the gooseberries are coming in nicely this year, and so are the mangoes” will get ten dollars. Doubled if you do something to show me you know what it’s from). And then there’s how well multiballs stack with each other, and whether you have to start modes or multiballs before or after the multiball in question.

Types of wizard modes (that I know of):

  • Single ball mode (TV wizard mode in FG, Black Castle in BK:SOR, Chester Prime or whatever in Transformers)

  • Multiball modes that terminate once one ball is remaining (which I think are the most common)

  • Multiball modes that don’t (Super Hero in Spider-Man, Battle for the Kingdom in MM)

  • Objective-orientated modes (Super Hero, Rule the Universe in AFM, Final Battle in Shadow and T3, Join the Circus in CV). May terminate after completion (or running out of time, draining (down to one ball), etc.), go to victory laps, or segue into a new phase (Party Multiball after joining the circus)

  • General scoring modes (Final Frontier in ST:TNG, Super Duper Mega Extreme Wizard Mode in STPP)

  • Timed modes (Lost in the Zone in TZ, Casino Run in JB)

  • Disappointment (We’re Ready to Believe You! in older ROMs of GB)

Some fringe cases:

  • Alternate playfield modes (Battle the Power in TZ, battlefield in Shadow)

  • Multi-playfield modes (Stewie/Donkey MB in FG/Ogreman)

  • Center button modes (the Ti-Fighter thing in Stern Wars, this the only one?)

  • )BG ni airetsyH ssaM ,PPST ni topS yretsyM) sreppilf eht esrever taht sedoM

TL;DR: I don’t blame you. In fact, you probably made the right choice.