Entertainment can come in many forms, from comedy, drama, action, and even fear, people have always had a fascination with horror stories, enjoying being scared out of their wits for fun. Pinball machine makers have long understood this and had great success with horror-themed pinball machines.
The 10 best horror-themed pinball machines are:
- The Addams Family
- Haunted House
- Freddy: A Nightmare On Elm Street
- Monster Bash
- Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein Pinball Machine
- Scared Stiff
- Creature From The Black Lagoon
- Bram Stokers Dracula
- Elvira And The Party Monsters
From literary classics such as Frankenstein and Dracula to modern, terror-fueled movies such as Alien and Nightmare On Elm Street, pinball machines are a perfect canvas on which to recreate this genre for fans. And below, we’ll look at ten of the best horror-themed pinball machines of all time.
Based on the 1991 movie of the same name, the Addams Family pinball machine is the highest selling machine of all time, breaking all previous records when it was released in 1992. Licensing a popular movie was hardly virgin territory for Bally, but even they couldn’t have foreseen over 20,000 units being sold of this spooky classic.
Fans of the movie will recognize many great features in the Addams Family machine, including “Thing” the autonomous hand that on the playfield, creeps out of a box to magnetically grab the ball and take it to below the playfield.
The Addams Family pinball machine came with the first-ever optical target bank, which was inside the revolving bookcase. And in much the same way the “Thing” had a mind of its own, one of the four flippers, as well as being player-controlled, was also sporadically controlled by the game’s programming.
A power magnet in the center of the playfield, which when activated, made the ball shoot off in unpredictable directions just adds to the spooky, horror-themed genius that is The Addams Family. With excellent artwork, both the playfield and the backglass add to the scary, if family-friendly, theme, and given its commercial success, the Addams Family has to be number one on our list.
If being scared is your thing, then it doesn’t get more horrific than a haunted house, and Gottlieb & Company pull no punches with their 1982 classic, Haunted House. Complete with a hidden cellar under the playfield, and spooky noises to add to the ambiance, Haunted House is a great addition to any horror fans collection.
The machine itself is also noteworthy for its eight flippers, a multitude of features such as pop bumpers, four, and five-bank drop targets, and a tri-level playfield, all of which make Haunted House a real classic.
Each of the three playfields gets plenty of use, and each feels like an integral part of the game rather than a superfluous addition that Gottlieb & Co. threw in because they could, and moving between the three levels becomes vital, as scoring in one level may activate double scoring points on another, forcing the player to move.
Fans of Haunted House keep returning to this fantastic pinball machine, and with an average sale price of over $2,000, it retains its value very well, a unique part of pinball history, and a great game to boot.
Most people will remember the first time they saw Freddy: A Nightmare On Elm Street, and the ensuing days of jumping at shadows and imagined noises, and given the huge success of the movie it was no surprise to see Premier Technology pick up the licensing to make this horror-themed pinball machine a reality.
Playing pinball while being eyeballed by a frankly monstrous-looking Freddy, whose head sits proudly in the center of the ghoulish playfield may not be everyone’s idea of fun, but thankfully, the fast playstyle and simple ruleset make this a machine that is fun to play, and hard to forget.
No horror-themed Freddy Krueger pinball machine is complete without the dreaded razor-sharp claws, and these also make an appearance on the playfield, and there are plenty of Freddy sound effects to keep players on their toes while having a blast on this great pinball machine.
As well as the great theme and artwork, this pinball machine has four flippers, one of which is a ball save claw, multi-ball, and a player-controlled Up Post, and straight from the plunger, players can choose from heading for a multi-ball game or heading for more conventional scoring methods.
Monster Bash pays homage to the horror theme by incorporating many of the genre’s most famous characters, from Frankenstein, The Creature From The Black Lagoon, and Dracula, to name but a few. This awesome pinball machine looks bright and has a cartoon-like quality to it that adds to its charm.
The playfield is covered in horror-themed inspired toys, and the music and sound effects are excellent and complement the overall look very well. Monster Bash is a huge fan favorite, as much for its ruleset and superb gameplay as it is for its theme and design.
Players have to spend time getting each of the six monsters and their corresponding instruments, and due to the difficulty in getting the instruments, Monster Bash is a popular game for hardcore pinball players as it has many great features that add a real element of skill to play.
Casual pinball players are also well looked after, as Williams superbly designed machine can also just have a lot of fun aiming for a high score by collecting the easier to obtain monsters. And with a theme that is horror inspired yet toned down and more cartoon-like, players of all ages can enjoy Monster Bash
Mary Shelley wrote the classic horror story, Frankenstein, in 1818, and it has remained one of the most reproduced and much-loved horror stories ever told. Sega snapped up the opportunity to turn this timeless classic into a superb pinball machine, with around 3,000 units being sold.
The first thing that strikes you about Frankenstein is its artwork, Sega took great effort to maintain the dark complexity of the theme, and there is also the addition of a Frankenstein model that collects the ball and then throws it towards the flippers or bumpers.
The soundtrack for Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein includes Edgar Winter’s song “Frankenstein”, and with a backglass featuring the actors from the 1994 movie featuring Robert De Niro as Frankenstein’s monster, this pinball machine stands out as one of the best horror-themed pinball machines of all time.
Scared Stiff is another Elvira-inspired pinball machine, a Midway-produced celebrity horror pinball game that is full of great features and creepy artwork. A chilling playfield that has a skull pile on the playfield, flippers that look like finger bones, as well as a bone ramp that looks like a spinal column, Scared Stiff is an incredibly addictive and well thought out pinball machine.
An animated spider in the backbox interacts with players, the sounds and voiceovers are, as to be expected with an Elvira pinball machine, witty and dripping with double-entendres. Also included is a toy-laden playfield that has many autonomously moving parts. Including an opening coffin lid and dancing boogie men.
Midway spared no expense when it came to making the playfield and backglass as entertaining and horror-filled as possible, and the gameplay and ruleset are also excellent, making Scared Stiff one of the most popular pinball machines available.
Skilled players can take Scared Stiff to new heights, as there are many potential strategies for getting high scores, not least the Stiff-O-Meter, an endgame stage where the pinball machine comes to life and scores can go through the roof. Scared Stiff is another very popular pinball machine, and the overall cost of getting your hands on one can average well over $5,000, but for such a great machine, it’s well worth it.
50s drive-thru movies are part of American history, and horror movies were a massive part of this era in film-making, with low budget B movies being released to sate audiences’ appetites for scary entertainment. One such classic from this era is The Creature From The Black Lagoon, and Midways’ 1992 pinball machine is a great homage to these movies.
Almost 8,000 units were shipped, though even with that many cabinets available, the cost of purchasing The Creature From The Black Lagoon can reach as high as $8500, in part because of the huge popularity of the game and its great gameplay, and also due to its artwork and historical connotations.
The playfield has a 1950s style that fits well, as does the hologram in the center of the field that occasionally activates during gameplay. A well-drawn backglass gives the look of a drive-thru advertisement showing the latest Creature From The Black lagoon movie, and the large green Creature on the cabinet sides looks eerily fun.
Overall, The Creature From The Black Lagoon is a worthy horror-themed addition to our list, and given its value seems to continue to rise, fans who have the opportunity to purchase their own unit could be investing well.
Pinballs’ obsession with horror-inspired themes wouldn’t be complete without the terrifying Dracula, and this Williams Electronics 1993 addition to the genre is another example of pinball manufacturers using already popular characters to increase sales and popularity.
A blood-red playfield and excellent artwork bring to life this well-known pinball machine, and the mood of the game is further enhanced by well-thought-out lighting and sounds. The designer’s music and sound choices are masterful, and really make the game nerve-wracking to play.
The gameplay can be quite difficult to master due to the slightly smaller flippers that Dracula is provided with, a somewhat devious idea that was introduced to make certain games harder, thereby increasing profits as players fed more coins into the machine.
The shorter flippers make for more difficult shots, especially ramp shots, and skilled players will enjoy this extra difficulty level, and high scores are still very possible, due to the multi-multi-ball feature that Dracula comes with.
A magnet that drags a captured ball across the center of the playfield looks spooky, and when struck by another ball activates a multi-ball game, which can again cause another multi-ball, up to a maximum of three simultaneous multi-balls at once. Each multi-ball can cause a multiplier of 3X, which can soon lead to insane scoring runs.
A firm favorite amongst pinball fans, Dracula is a perfect example of using the right character, the right artwork, and sounds, and turning them into a game that is both frustratingly difficult, and endlessly engaging.
Anyone who has ever watched the Alien series will know just how terrifying these horror classics were, and the gentle “blip” “blip” of a proximity sensor would have viewers squirming in their seats, knowing that any second now their nerves were about to be shredded.
The Heighway Pinball Ltd. Alien pinball machine has only around 200 units in circulation but is worth adding to any horror-themed pinball list, if only because of the theme, though thankfully Alien was a well-received and highly impressive game in its own right.
True to the movie, the playfield has both a Xenomorph and a dreaded Face-hugger, with many other nods to the movie franchise incorporated within the playfield design. The game’s missions are well thought out, and the sounds are atmospheric and bring the game to life.
Sadly for most fans, the rarity of this well-received pinball machine makes it difficult to find, but those that have been lucky enough to play it have commented on the great gameplay, the challenging and interesting ruleset, and the immersive feel of what has to be considered a great recent addition to the pinball community.
Elvira And The Party Monsters may be more rocky-horror than bone-chilling but thankfully makes our list due to its ghoul and monster-filled playfield. Hilarious dialogue and great sounds make Evira a great pinball machine.
The ruleset for Elvira is fairly straightforward, which makes it an ideal beginner’s pinball machine, and a colorful playfield, with plenty of trick shots to try, as well as ramps, multi-ball, and plenty of jumper-bumpers, makes Elvira a lot of fun to play.
Dancing boogie men complete the comedy horror theme, although, with a rather risque backglass, Elvira may be a little too mature for some younger players. The game, much like the character herself, is loud, overstated, and full of innuendo. The actress who plays Elvira, Cassandra Peterson, does voiceovers for the game, a plus for devoted Elvira fans.
Midway produced 4,000 units for sale, and even over 30 years after its release, the price of an Elvira And The Party Monsters pinball machine can range from $3-7,000. A great horror-themed pinball machine that is super fun to play, honoring a much-loved character.
Making use of already well-known themes and characters from horror stories and movies has always been productive for pinball machine makers. Engaging with an already existing fanbase can boost sales and increase a machine’s popularity. And fans of the horror genre are blessed with some of the best pinball machines of all time that make great use of this age-old horror theme.