Getting your hands on a pinball machine may seem extremely difficult, but it’s actually easier than you may think. From home-friendly, digital machines to the real deal, you’ve got a few options for purchasing a pinball machine nowadays.
While every machine is different, there are a few things you need to know when selecting which one to buy.
- Digital Vs. Physical: There are two types of pinball machines out there: digital and physical. Physical machines are what you likely think of when you think “pinball machine”—it’s the traditional, authentic pinball experience you’d find in an arcade. The issue is physical machines are extremely expensive and require plenty of maintenance, which is what digital machines aim to solve. These still have the trappings of normal pinball cabinets, but instead of having the physical game inside, they have screens that display various pinball video games. These still include physical buttons and are more affordable, but it won’t be able to trick you into thinking it’s the real deal either. A big advantage of these though is they can have multiple pinball games loaded onto the machine providing more value. Which one you get is up to you, but just to be clear, digital machines are much easier to get your hands on.
- Design: The aesthetics of a pinball machine are important, if it doesn’t look cool then what’s the point really? Whether they’re digital or physical, the machine you buy should capture that classic style you expect out of a pinball machine—from the shape of the cabinet to the artwork.
- Size: If you’re putting this in your home, then chances are you’re dealing with limited space. While traditional pinball machines tend to be fairly large, you can find smaller machines if you don’t have the room to spare (especially digital machines). We’ll be sure to mention the dimensions (height x length x width) of the machines mentioned here (when provided) so you have a better idea of what you’re getting into.
- Build Quality: Listen, no matter what you get off of this list you’re going to be spending a decent amount of money. The product you receive should be able to live up to that, with a premium feeling cabinet and (in the case of digital machines) high-quality displays. We’ve made sure that all the machines here live up to their price tags.
AtGames is well-known for releasing excellent arcade hardware, and its digital pinball machine lives up to that legacy as well. The 32-inch display is housed in an authentic-feeling case (64 x 42 x 19 inches) covered in some amazing artwork. There are 22 games included in the machine out of the box, but you don’t have to stop there. The Legends Pinball machine can connect to the internet and access the Legends Arcade Platform (it costs a subscription of $20 a month though). This allows you to download even more pinball games to your machine, and even bring over PC games, ensuring there’s always something new to try if you get bored.
But the online functionality doesn’t end there, because there’s also online multiplayer. You can watch a friend play and even chat with them through the cabinet, meaning you can enjoy this machine with others whether they live down the street or hundreds of miles away.
Based on the classic pinball machine Attack on Mars from Midway, Arcade1Up delivers a home-friendly digital machine with more to offer than meets the eye. While the outside screams Attack on Mars with art faithful to the original game, the machine includes 10 different pinball games from Zen Studios in total—it will take you a while to get bored with the selection here.
When it comes to the actual hardware, Arcade1Up went above and beyond to capture the feeling of playing on a real pinball machine in a smaller (59.5 x 36 x 20.5 inches) form factor. There’s haptic feedback for the bumpers, stereo sound, and a high-quality screen which helps make the machine feel more authentic, while still reaping the benefits from being digital. It’s an excellent middle ground of size, features, and price.
For Marvel fans, Arcade1Up gathered a collection of great, digital pinball games inspired by the likes of Marvel’s most famous heroes. From Spider-Man to Wolverine, every Zen Studios game accurately reflects the personality and stories of that character (albeit, from the comics instead of the movies), which is sure to be a treat for any fan. There are 10 games in total, with the exterior art mashing all the characters together for a wonderful showcase of Marvel’s creations.
The machine doesn’t skimp out on the little touches either. Haptic feedback, stereo sound, and an indented screen all contribute to ensuring the machine feels as good to play as possible for the money. And measuring at 59.5 x 36 x 20.5-inches, it shouldn’t be too tough to fit this in a living room.
The final machine in Arcade1Up’s line-up whisks you off to the world of Star Wars for 10 Zen Studio-created digital pinball games based on movies and characters from the beloved saga. Whether it’s Han Solo or The Force Awakens, these games ensure fans get their fill of galactic pinball with the excellent hardware expected from Arcade1Up (such as the quality construction, stereo sound, and haptic feedback for the buttons). The exterior art pays tribute to all three trilogies, and at 75% the size of a normal pinball machine (59.5 x 36 x 20.5-inches), it’s great for fitting in your home.
One of the greatest advantages of digital pinball machines is being able to switch what game you’re playing, so why stop at just 10 or 20 when you could have hundreds? That’s what Prime Arcades offers, for much a higher price than the rest of the digital machines on this list. This full-sized machine (74 x 45.5 x 23.5-inches) comes with 946 games installed, all of which have their own visuals and intricacies to enjoy. If you want to ensure you’ll never run out of new pinball games to play, Prime Arcades offers a pretty sweet deal here.
And the hardware is no joke either—with steel side rails, stereo sound, and even a coin slot if you want to charge to play (it’s set to free play by default), this machine lives up to its price tag. And the exterior, while not based on anything specific, still looks excellent with well-drawn art and vibrant colors.
While we’ve mainly covered digital machines so far, maybe that’s not enough for you. If you want a genuine pinball machine you’d find in an arcade, then Stern Pinball does give you that option—just be aware, it’s not cheap. With multiple machines covering franchises and groups from Avengers to The Beatles, Stern has a little something for everyone, and the available catalog is constantly changing.
These games are full of small details that can’t be reproduced with a screen, so you know you’re getting your money’s worth here. The artwork is beautiful, the chassis is high-quality, and the machines are large and in charge—certain to grab everyone’s attention the second they walk into the room. Stern machines typically measure around 76 x 58 x 29-inches, so you’ll need to dedicate a decent amount of space for these.
Actually purchasing the machines can be a bit complicated; Stern provides a list of various distributors you can find in your local area and sells a few online through its website as well. They’re expensive, large pieces of tech so it’s only natural you need to jump through a few hoops to get your hands on one. Stern also makes more affordable machines built for home use, but they’re still extremely expensive often exceeding the $4,000 price tag.
If you want to truly control your pinball experience, without going through the hassle of completely starting from scratch, then GameRoomSolutions offers some excellent DIY kits. These kits come with the basic framework you need to create a pinball machine, leaving room for you to add on whatever you want.
Depending on whether you’re getting the tabletop (24-inch screen), mid-size (27-inch screen, pictured above), or full-size (43-inch screen) you have a lot of options when ordering from the color of the cabinet to pre-applied artwork. Of course, this is going to require a lot of work once the kits come in as well. You need to put all the pieces together, along with providing displays, computers, buttons, and speakers. GameRoomSolutions allows you to create exactly what you want out of a pinball machine, but you still need to put the work and money in to make that a reality. Fortunately, there are breakdowns of exactly what you need to purchase and the compatible sizes listed on each kit’s product page.
Basically, if you’re not interested in diving deep into the world of modifications and custom jobs, then steer clear of this one. While the low prices are attractive, it’s not a complete package—if you love tinkering with this stuff though and have the money for it, you’re sure to have a blast here.
Now you know your options for picking up a new machine, but if you don’t care about that then the used market can be a great resource as well. If you take a look on sites like eBay and Craigslist, you can often find people selling genuine pinball machines for lower prices. Of course, the normal risks of buying used products (especially used tech) still apply here, so if you can test the machine in person before purchasing that’s definitely preferable.
And remember, Pinball machines have lots of moving parts that crash together, which in turn leads to higher maintenance needs. If you’re going down this route you’ll need to be more cautious, but if you play your cards right then you can score some great deals. You can even purchase machines that have been out of production for years now if you’re a fan of the classics.