We’ve had a couple stray posts here and there about Pinball FX/Zen Pinball and The Pinball Arcade/Stern Pinball Arcade, but I thought it might be cool to have a whole post discussing the various video pinball games out there.
Yes, nothing can quite replicate the real thing- but remember that for a lot of people across the world this might be the only pinball they have access to. The only games on Pinball Map nearby might be one with a busted flipper and a bunch of unresponsive switches a three hour drive away.
Video Pinball tends to be split among two possible paths - one is games which attempt to replicate the feel of authentic pins (either making up brand new games or in the case of Pinball Arcade, recreating existing ones) or creating fantastical pinball worlds which would generally be impossible.
This list at the top here is by no means definitive. These are just three that I think represent a prominence, and in the case of the first two - they’re actively updated monthly.
Aka Zen Pinball on the Playstation, Pinball FX has been around since 2010 and has gone through a few different incarnations. The latest is Pinball FX3 which has a high emphasis on competitive play as well as “leveling up” features on the playfield to make them worth more points. You can turn this off- but it gives a little extra sense of gamey progression if you’re not taking these games seriously. Also, this has my favorite lighting model of any video pinball game ever.
The games are all original to Pinball FX and are mostly licensed with a ton of Marvel, Star Wars, and TV properties. They also do some of their own original themes as well.
Pinball FX2 has a VR headset version, and it’s super cool. If you ever have a pal with one of those expensive headsets its worth checking out.
The Pinball Arcade
(they couldn’t get the rights to the world cup so they had to be a little creative)
The opposite of Pinball FX, TPA is entirely about recreation of existing pinball machines. It comes in two different flavors, The Pinball Arcade and Stern Pinball Arcade. Stern Pinball Arcade has a handful of recent Stern releases (Mustang, Star Trek, etc), and The Pinball Arcade has everything else (and 2016 Ghostbusters for some reason).
The Pinball Arcade has been around since 2012 and releases a new table every month. They’ve hit just about every non-licensed beloved Williams/Bally 90s game you can think of, and managed to somehow get the rights to The Addams Family and some other hot properties. As TPA has progressed, we’re entering a bit of a weird wilderness of less requested and beloved games, including some funky Premier games, Alvin G games, and a handful of great EM games.
In the mid to late 90s, Cunning Developments designed four original pins (The Web, Timeshock, Big Race USA, and Fantastic Journey) and paired them with a great physics engine and some awesome prerendered graphics.
Frankly. these games are some of my favorite video pinball originals. The rules for these games are all pretty interesting, and appropriately deep. The four games have a real sense of authenticity that other video pins lack. They - generally - have the feel of something you wouldn’t be surprised to find in an arcade. There’s a remastered super high res version of Timeshock out there, and I think they wanted to bring back the other three, but I don’t think Timeshock sold particularly well so I think that’s put to bed.
Even older there’s the Amiga classic Pinball Fantasies and its sequels, Epic Pinball which just was rereleased on GOG, console games such as Sonic Spinball, Devil’s Crush, Kruball (with a memorable soundtrack done by the guy who did the BK2K music), various Nintendo property pinballs (Metroid, Pokemon, and Mario).
Any favorites? Or any favorite recent tables from PFX3 or TPA? I also didn’t bring up any of the great mobile games that people dig, what should people grab for when they’re bored sitting in a waiting room?