Over the years pinball machines have become popular additions to the game rooms of many homes since the game can be enjoyed by the whole family, as well as saving a lot of money that would be spent in an arcade during multiple visits. Let’s take a look at the best machines that players can install at their homes and the factors that influence them.
Depending on whether the whole family is going to be playing or just one or two, a list of games that appeal to the players needs to be made. Once this list is complete, the price and availability details of the listed machines can be verified. There are plenty of sellers for new machines, but old as well as used machines will have to be sourced from eBay or direct contact with the owner.
What To Look For In A Pinball Machine For Home Use
The Age Factor And Cost
There are many old pinball machines whose popularity has not waned despite the passage of decades since their manufacture. These machines command a huge premium depending on the game as well as the condition of the machine, so be prepared to pay double or triple the regular price. Pinball machines that are only a few years old are often put up for sale when the owner gets tired of playing them.
Very old machines with little or no demand can be bought for prices as low as $200, however, the cost of restoring the machine could be substantial assuming spare parts are available. It would be wise to confirm the availability of spare parts and a repairman in advance of buying any of these, as certain critical spare parts wear out very often, and are likely to be out of stock.
Pinball machine prices vary greatly with the machine’s age, condition, and popularity. While some of the top pinball machines such as Medieval Madness have seen a second production run, others are only available as used machines therefore it is vital to confirm their working order as well as the condition of the main moving parts before purchase.
The Playability Factor
A hidden factor that has to be considered is the playability of the game. Some games require a high degree of skill and will not be valued by others who are not as skilled. Children, in particular lose interest very fast in any game that they find hard to play and are attracted to something easier. There are games that are very difficult to play, while others are easy enough for the whole family.
The 10 Best Pinball Machines For Home Use
1. Godzilla Pro (Stern)
Godzilla from Stern is the pinball adaptation of the film series that was released in 2004, and again in 2014 in English. A total of 20 Godzilla films in Japanese have been produced starting from as early as 1954 with the last one in 2019. The pinball machine has a Mechagodzilla mechanized rotating bank of targets as well as the original title song, “Godzilla” from Blue Oyster Cult.
The backglass, as well as the playfield, have custom artwork while the multi-colored cabinet is a rainbow of color. The RGB LEDs are software controlled to light up the playfield beautifully in varying colors as the game progresses. The magnetic Mechagodzilla sculpture can catch balls while a bridge ramp can drop pinballs onto the playfield or send the ball back to the flipper using diverter magnets.
The point worthy of note is that gameplay is more suitable for an advanced player rather than a beginner; as such may not have much charm for children. However, it does have secrets and 2 cheat codes that less skilled players can use to advance in the game.
Godzilla was released in September 2021, costing $6,899 for the regular version, Premium Model at $8,999, and Limited Edition Model at $10,499. Currently, the Premium version sells for around $13,000 as there is no stock of the machine available, however, the machine can be bought for the normal list price of $8,999 on backorder from certain shops.
2. Dialed In! Limited Edition (Jersey Jack Pinball, Inc.)
Dialed In! was released by Jersey Jack Pinball, Inc. in 2 versions in 2017; a Standard Edition and a Limited Edition. This machine features a 27-inch High Definition LCD screen as well as a Bluetooth connection for the player to take control of the machine using a smartphone. This machine features 3 flippers, 5 magnets, and a moving target.
A digital camera takes photos of the player and displays them on the LCD TV. The machine boasts of an Intel Celeron CPU that runs the software to keep the game running. The playfield uses RGB LEDs to light up the playfield under glare-reducing Invisiglass as well as a headphone jack for stereo sound with separately adjustable volume controls.
The gameplay is excellent though the level of difficulty is well above medium thus children may not like this one. Dialed In! Limited Edition is currently sold out at the Jersey Jack Pinball, Inc. store, but is available at another store at about $9,000 and elsewhere at $10,499 for a refurbished machine. Used machines sold by their owners are priced at about $8,000 upwards without refurbishing.
3. Jurassic Park (Stern)
Jurassic Park was released by 3 different manufacturers. Data East Pinball, Incorporated launched it in 1993, then by Sega in 1997, and again in 2019 by Stern who released 3 versions; Pro, Premium, and Limited Edition. This pinball machine has the looking cabinet art of all with the playfield covered with a map of Isla Nublar.
It has 3 flippers, 2 slingshots, and 3 up-posts. The multiball modes are very enjoyable as the flippers can hit the balls very hard to make them rocket around the playfield. Added to this are custom animations as well as lots of enjoyable music. The ball doesn’t drain easily providing longer play time with more satisfaction.
Jurassic Park Pro was released in August 2019 at $5,999, and is currently available at about $6,999 for a new machine, but is out of stock. Used machines, not refurbished are available at about $7,500. The level of difficulty is medium, suitable for most players even children.
4. Ghostbusters Premium and Limited Edition (Stern)
Ghostbusters was released by Stern in June 2016, in 3 versions; Pro, Premium, and Limited Edition. The new price for the Limited Edition was $8,795. Surprisingly it uses an old dot matrix display instead of an LCD screen. The cabinet, backglass, and playfield have impressively detailed artwork with RGB LEDs installed under the playfield to keep changing the colors.
This is a standard 2 flipper machine with 2 kick-out holes, 9 stand-up targets, and 1 spinning target. The unique feature of this machine is a magnetic accelerator fitted under the playfield that creates some very interesting visual effects. The ball moves randomly, moves around in circles very fast, or moves back and forth for a few seconds.
When the game was released in 2016, the manufacturer’s suggested retail price was $8,795. Currently, a new Ghostbusters Limited Edition machine sells for $12,995 but is out of stock although plenty of used machines are available with price tags ranging from $11,000 to $16,000. It needs to be said that the condition of used machines needs to be carefully verified before making a purchase.
The gap between flippers is wider than normal, setting the difficulty level too high with many shots that feed straight to the drain. Not recommended for children or novices, nevertheless, a skilled player could enjoy the challenge.
5. The Wizard of Oz Emerald City Limited Edition (Jersey Jack Pinball, Inc)
The Wizard of Oz was released by Jersey Jack Pinball, Inc in 2013 when 1,000 units were produced. As demand for the game increased, Jersey Jack Pinball released 3 more versions; the Emerald City Limited Edition, the 75th Anniversary Edition, and the Yellow Brick Road Limited Edition. The Emerald City Limited Edition became the most popular of all.
This is the first US machine to use a 26-inch High Definition LCD screen while the playfield is fitted with LEDs to supply the lighting. Most machines use 2 flippers, although this has 5 flippers, 3 slingshots, 5 magnets, and 1 spinning target, all of which are controlled by software powered by an Intel Celeron CPU.
A 600-watt audio amplifier, as well as a Shaker motor, adds vibration to the cabinet with sound effects to enhance the gameplay. Even though the cabinet and backglass have superb artwork, sadly, the level of difficulty on this game is above average. Beginners will find it too hard to play for any length of time. Current prices of used machines range from $10,500 to $15,000 depending on the condition.
6. Deadpool Premium and Limited Edition (Stern)
Themed on the Deadpool films, the pinball adaptation of Deadpool was released by Stern in 2018 in 3 versions; Pro, Premium, and Limited Edition. This standard machine has 2 flippers, 10 standup targets, and 2 spinning targets. Plastic ramps have been replaced with stainless steel and wire ramps. Excellent sound, as well as hilarious callouts are accompanied by custom animations on the LCD display.
The soundtrack features 11 original tunes specially composed for the game as well as sound effects reminiscent of the 80s pinball machines. A Shaker motor makes the cabinet vibrate along with animations that are triggered by the action on the playfield for a more enjoyable experience. A unique feature of this machine is a motorized disco ball with disco lighting effects.
The Deadpool Premium machine is currently available at $8,999 on pre-order. Used Deadpool Premium machines are readily available at price tags between $11,000 to $14,000. Since the Limited Edition was limited to 500 units and featured a custom themed backglass with cabinet artwork, it is likely to find higher demand from collectors rather than players.
7. The Lord of the Rings (Stern)
The Lord of the Rings was released by Stern in 2003 with 5,100 units produced, and again in 2009 when the Limited Edition of 500 units was produced. Themed after The Lord of the Rings film trilogy, it was bound to be a huge success. This is a standard 2 flipper machine with 3 ramps and features a moving Balrog as well as a collapsing tower.
The cabinet and backglass have exquisite artwork straight out of the movie, with custom animations and 3 multiball modes: one for each of the 3 films. The game features an unusual visual effect when the ball levitates inside a ring. The game is relatively easy to play so expect the children to spend a lot of time on it. This is definitely one for the entire family.
A refurbished machine costs $10,999, though currently out of stock. Quite a few used machines are available at prices between $7,500 to $9,000, although the condition of these machines needs to be checked as there are many parts that require regular replacement after prolonged machine usage. Since very few units of the Limited Edition were produced, this is sure to be on every collector’s list.
8. Spider-Man (Stern)
Spider-Man was released by Stern in 2007 when 3,760 units were manufactured, priced at $5,799. The pinball adaptation of the comic books, television series, and films was sure to become a success. There are 2 other versions: Black Spider-Man and Spider-Man VE, all have 3 flippers with 4 multiball modes. The cabinet art is exceptional with outstanding artwork on the backglass.
A Shaker motor can be fitted to make the cabinet vibrate with the action on the playfield. J. K. Simmons who acts as Peter’s boss in the film makes some funny callouts along with other voices from the cast. The “Game Over” message starts the Spider-Man song with a light show. This is one of the few games with great gameplay that can be played by beginners or experts, making it a true family machine.
A refurbished machine with a Limited Warranty of 1-year sells for $7,999, but they are never in stock. Used machines are very rarely available as the demand for this game is extremely high, however, people who want to sell their machines advertise on eBay or craigslist from time to time. Always insist on physically checking the condition of the machine before buying.
9. Avengers: Infinity Quest Premium (Stern)
The Avengers: Infinity Quest was released by Stern in 2020 with a price tag of $6,199. The pinball game is themed on comic books, television series, and films with 3 versions: Pro, Premium, and Limited Edition. All 3 versions feature an interactive Dr. Strange spinning disc as well as a magnetic Avengers Tower, and an Ironman multiball mode.
There are plenty of great callouts from Thanos, Black Panther, Captain America, Captain Marvel, Ironman, and a few others. The cabinet and backglass artwork is outstanding. The gameplay is good enough to challenge an advanced player, however, a beginner might find that the ball moves a bit too fast. The Limited Edition is limited to 500 units globally.
A new machine currently costs $9,499, available for pre-order on a $1,000 deposit, with a production run scheduled for March 2022. Used Avengers: Infinity Quest Premium machines are available at prices between $6,700 to $9,000 although the Pro machines are selling for $1,000 to $1,500 less. The condition of these machines needs to be physically verified before agreeing to purchase.
10. The Simpsons Pinball Party (Stern)
The Simpsons Pinball Party is based on the popular animated sitcom, The Simpsons. The game was first released as The Simpsons in 1990 by Data East Pinball which later became Stern, and then in 2003 as The Simpsons Pinball Party. The cabinet and backglass artwork is by The Simpsons creator, Matt Groening. This is another machine with 5 flippers, 3 drop targets, and 2 multiball modes.
There are plenty of funny callouts featuring the voices of the original Simpsons cast, custom recorded for the game, as well as a reversed flipper mode. In this mode, the left switch controls the right flipper, and the right switch controls the left flipper. The only way to play it is with crossed arms. There is plenty of fun for the whole family with hours of entertainment.
Homer’s head with a lamp inside moves on the playfield as well as Bart on a skateboard attached to a captive ball feature. A refurbished machine can be purchased for $9,999. Used machines that are not refurbished are freely available at about $8,000, however, the machine condition needs to be checked.
This list is compiled by popularity and availability. Highly popular pinball machines that are not readily available have been excluded. In the end analysis, no matter what the game reviews say, there is no substitute for a hands-on experience, so locate an arcade that has the game you want to buy and spend a few hours playing, before putting money down to buy it.
Tips For Buying A Pinball Machine
Buying A New Pinball Machine
Nowadays there are more companies manufacturing pinball machines than ever before, so look around before making any decision. Ideally, the best way to identify a game worth playing is to check the machines in the arcades. The machines with a long line of players waiting to play them are good starting points from which to make a list of possible purchases.
Once a list of possible games has been made, check the individual machine price on the manufacturer’s website as well as other sellers. It does happen that sellers with excess inventory of certain games offer sizable discounts off the list price from time to time. All new pinball machines carry the factory warranty as well as no shortage of spare parts, so there is nothing to worry about.
Buying A Used Pinball Machine
There are a number of sellers who regularly advertise their inventory of pinball machines on the Internet. Because the more popular machines have higher demand, any of them that are in stock move very fast depending on price. Machines that are left behind are usually overpriced or in poor condition. For the cost-concious, there are plenty of used machines advertised for sale frequently on eBay.
A number of pinball machines that are no longer in production are sold by repair companies in completely refurbished condition ready to use after delivery. Machine availability, terms of sale, as well as price need to be confirmed. Some of the main parts have a limited 30-day warranty, while others have a 1-year warranty.
Special attention needs to be paid to parts that carry a 30-day warranty as they are liable to fail very often. The seller may not have an inventory of short warranty parts to replace in case of failure so it is prudent to find out how long repairs and service will be available in case they are required. A used pinball machine may seem like a good deal initially but does hold an amount of risk.
Are Pinball Machines A Good Investment?
Vintage pinball machines have more appeal to collectors rather than players who want to buy them to play. The 3 big factors that determine an old pinball machine’s price are demand, popularity, and condition. Given that in a lot of cases production stopped decades ago, the demand for bestselling games can only go up and take the price with it.
It is worth sourcing spares for the most common parts that fail, to keep the machine in good working condition. The better the condition the higher the price, as the number of machines in nearly new condition is becoming less and less.
A pinball machine in the game room can be an excellent source of recreation as well as entertainment for the entire family if the purchase is carefully thought out. Refurbished pinball machines in perfect working condition can be purchased to be played and as an investment for the longer term.