Who doesn’t remember Sonic Spinball? Who can’t wait until they forget Metroid Prime Pinball? Love them or hate them, pinball machines have been raking in quarters since the beginning of arcades. It comes as no surprise that clever developers sat down to see how they could improve the pinball genre in a virtual gamespace.
Many game studios have released themed pinball tables but players don’t need to go to a physical arcade to enjoy their favorite style of game. Pinball doesn’t have to be just hitting bumpers to get points either. Plenty of virtual pinball games exist and some are so excellent they’ll have players popping paddles for hours.
Odama is a hidden gem that players weren’t ready for when it originally released on the GameCube. How many people were asking for a military strategy pinball game? Still, it’s an absolute shame it’s currently trapped on the old console. This pinball-style game isn’t for everyone but for people that want a game that’s a bit weird with a huge need for strategy Odama is worth hunting down.
9 Pinball Quest
Part pinball and part RPG, Pinball Quest was one of the first games on home consoles to try and make pinball more than just bopping a ball around. Leveling up to upgrade flippers with to have special abilities or buying different balls to do more damage is an incredibly novel concept. The saddest part of the game is it only has six levels because once pinball fans try playing it they’ll wish there was more.
8 Screaming Mad George’s ParanoiaScape
Sometimes game designers decide to go weird when they make games. Few can go as weird as Screaming Mad George. Famous for his work in movies like The Guyver, Society, and the Nightmare on Elm Street series, there’s no denying he knows how to make things unsettling. Just look at all of Slipknot’s masks!
ParanoiaScape is the only video game Screaming Mad George ever worked on and was released exclusively in Japan. This deeply unsettling horror game featuring pinball mechanics is more than just a game — it’s an experience.
7 Kirby’s Pinball Land
Kirby games are known for being experimental at times but sometimes experiments fail. That is not the case with Kirby’s Pinball Land. It was a strong pinball game that also allowed players to adventure and explore in a way no pinball game before it had done. It did have some issues with being blurry on the original hardware, but the gameplay made up for it in spades.
6 Pinball Dreams
The Amiga might be an old computer but it still had some of the best PC games of the retro era. Many of these games still hold up today and Pinball Dreams is among them. Wirtualna Polska ranked the game as the fourth-best Amiga game of all time and selling 650,000 copies of a PC game in 1992 is no easy task. It’s one of those old games worth tracking down on emulator or original hardware to see just how sleek a pinball game can be.
5 Revenge Of The ‘Gator
Revenge of the ‘Gator is likely one of the most competently produced mobile pinball games of all time. It doesn’t have any fancy frills, the developers focused on making the mechanics perfect and it shows. The game is so well remembered by pinball fans that it got a virtual console release in 2013. Plus, playing in Match Play mode is an absolute joy — who knew battle pinball was so much fun?
4 Pokemon Pinball Series
It’s probably cheating to put all of the Pokemon Pinball games together but if we didn’t they could have dominated the list! Trying to catch ’em all becomes a whole new fun challenge when paddles are involved. Not to mention, having a Pokeball as the pinball is just too perfect.
Both the original and Pokemon Pinball Ruby & Saphire were commercial and critical successes for good reason. For fans that really want to dig into the franchise, Pokemon Pinball Mini is an often forgotten game that also has tons of levels to play.
3 Yoku’s Island Express
Every genre has a game that massively changes what it can be and Yoku’s Island Express is that for pinball games. A pinball platforming game sounds absurd on the surface but the mechanics work gloriously together to create a uniquely fun gaming experience. The world is adorable and the story a fun romp as well. Swedish studio Villa Gorilla knocked it out of the park with this game.
2 Devil’s Crush
The original Devil’s Crush was released back in 1990 and there’s a reason it still keeps getting ported to modern consoles. Its visuals are flashy, the setting surreal, and the physics sublime. Even on the TurboGrafix-16, this game is fantastic to play. We recommend hunting down a Japanese version of the game to enjoy it without the censored art it had in the North American release.
1 3D Pinball Space Cadet
No, we didn’t just put this one at the top of the list out of nostalgia. It’s true that 3D Pinball Space Cadet was owned and played by likely millions of Windows PC owners but it wouldn’t be remembered fondly today if the mechanics hadn’t made it a blast. 3D Pinball Space Cadet distills what makes playing pinball fun down to the perfect experience — it’s likely the best virtual pinball board to ever exist.