Six Weird Pinball Video Games

Regular readers of this blog will have noticed a lack of games posts over the past few weeks. Sadly, it’s not because I’ve been attending E3, the biggest event in the gaming calendar. Neither, unfortunately, has my absence been caused by playing games from the Steam Summer Sale, when every gamer with a computer can acquire a huge backlog of tremendously cheap games, and then spend the rest of the year failing to get through them all.

I have instead been spending the time adding a few history lessons on pinball playing and pinballl machines to our site, which you can peruse at your leisure on our Pinball Buying Advice page. There are a lot of useful links for the prospective pinball buyer, including videos and written articles. While I can’t claim to be an expert on the topic of pinball (we have other people on staff with knowledge that far outstrips my own), I can claim to be something of an expert on video games.

With that in mind, as well as the fact that I currently see pinball tables when I close my eyes and try to sleep, I thought I’d talk this week about pinball video games. Specifically, some of the weirder ones.


Video game pinball is nothing new; pinball games were released on the Atari 2600, for example. (“Video Pinball” is a terrible name, but it was a simpler time). 33 years on from that time, however, there have been so many pinball video games that there were bound to be a few missteps and weird ideas. Perhaps one day I’ll write up a complete history of video game pinball, though if the fevered dreams about multiball and multiplier ramps don’t stop, I might first need to consult my doctor about getting a new brain medication prescription.

Until such a complete history can be compiled (under strict psychiatric supervision), here is my list of six of the weirder notions in pinball video game history.

The Pinball of the Dead


I know, I know. It seems like every article I write on this blog features at least one “Something of the Dead” game. We’ve had The House of the Dead, The Typing of the Dead, The English of the Dead (if you missed that one, it’s worth learning about), and now finally The Pinball of the Dead. Hopefully I haven’t missed any other spin-offs.

Released solely on the Game Boy Advance, The Pinball of the Dead is another Sega game about zombies. It’s a relatively normal pinball game (aside from the fact that zombies wander freely around the playfield and get in the way of your ball), which obviously owes a lot to the classic Devil’s Crush, commonly held to be the best pinball video game ever. The gameplay’s not really up to scratch, and there are only three tables to play, but it’s worth giving it a spot on this list just to give credit to Sega for managing to squeeze another type of game out of the same license, as they seem inclined to do. I’m just waiting for the ultimate cross-over franchise: Sonic of the Dead.

Actually, a quick Google* search shows that it already exists. You really can find everything on the internet.

Austin Powers Pinball

“Groovy”, “shagadelic”, etc. etc. Insert your own quotations here.


Released on the PlayStation and PC, Austin Powers Pinball is a shameless, half-baked and generally pointless game that’s unworthy of the CDs on which it was printed. Unlike the actual Austin Powers pinball machine, which is at least mediocre, the video game incorporates plot points from the first two movies while managing to exclude both the humour and fun.

Austin Powers Pinball is a classic example of a game without merit. It’s a complete waste of a licence, a game in a genre with no connection to its source material and is lazily programmed, repetitive, unimaginative and dull. I abhor the notion that video games are responsible for any of society’s ills, but if there’s any game guaranteed to make me go crazy and become a danger to those around me, it’s Austin Powers Pinball.

I’d rather play The Little Mermaid 2: Pinball Frenzy than this. At least that’s not a licence that makes you expect something worthwhile.

If you really want to see for yourself, the below video highlights just how mind-bogglingly dull and half-baked the game is.


Pokémon Pinball


Now, this is a bit more like it. Nintendo love to milk their franchises, leading to oddities like Pokémon Snap (where you have to take photos of Pokémon), Mario Golf (the name explains it, I think) and Donkey Konga (a DK-related bongo game), but the general rule is that they’re always fun. With that in mind, Nintendo managed to not only make a Pokémon game based on pinball, but made it one of the best pinball games of all time.

The focus of the game, being pinball, is to score as many points as possible. The ball moves realistically and the physics are believable, but there’s a secondary motivation: the old catchphrase “gotta catch ‘em all”. Hitting different targets allows you to catch different monsters and evolve them into new forms, and so gradually build up your collection. This gives the game an ongoing objective and a reason to keep playing, and although Pikachu turns up just a bit too often, it’s still got a great pinball feel.

Pokémon Pinball is definitely one of the weirder pinball games out there, but that just seems to prove that pinball video games are enhanced by trying something new. After all, if you just want a traditional pinball game, you’re much better off buying a table and getting the real thing.

Pokémon Pinball and its sequel, Pokémon Pinball Ruby & Sapphire, feature bonus stages where you have to hit a Pokémon with the ball sufficient times to catch it within the time limit. Thus:

You can’t tell me that doesn’t look fun. Well, you can. But don’t.

Akira Psycho Ball


For those of you who don’t know, Akira is the epitome of Japanese animated movies, based on an epic series of comic books (or “manga”) and taking place in a dystopian cyberpunk future where biker gangs have taken over. It’s been described as “a text that illustrates youth frustration, alienation, aesthetics and the human ageing process as well as embodying the reification of evolution”. Of course, the natural progression of such a highbrow and meaningful piece of art is to convert it into a pinball video game.

Despite the irreverence towards the source material, Akira Psycho Ball is a decent pinball game in itself. There are four stages, inspired by various parts of the movie, and clearing stages earns you a short clip from the movie. There are secret rooms, psychic battles and multi-ball challenges to overcome, all while trying to stave off the panic that it’s all going to end horribly like the movie does, and you’ll become a giant amorphous psychic blob. Well, maybe that’s just me.

Something of a rarity, Akira Psycho Ball is a collector’s piece now, having not seen much of a general release. I think that could be related to the terrible, terrible name. Honestly, it blows my mind to think that people get paid to come up with names like that.

Here’s a video of the game’s two-player mode:

It sounds to me like the commentator is saying “Red player, BLAH” repeatedly, which I’m sure could become annoying quickly. Can anyone shed some light on what he’s actually saying?

KISS Pinball


The band KISS have managed to immortalise themselves in pinball form on several occasions, both virtual and real, since the first was released in 1978. None, however, have managed to sully the name of KISS and pinball quite like KISS Pinball on the PlayStation.

Developed by Wildfire Studios (who produced such famous titles as Danny Phantom Ghost Frenzy and Balls of Steel, and went on to produce Austin Powers Pinball), KISS Pinball is commonly held to be one of the worst games ever made, scoring a pathetic 26/100 on Metacritic and earning the scorn of reviewers and players alike. Famously, it earned the criticism “KISS fans will be disappointed by the distinct lack of KISS, and pinball fans will be disappointed by the distinct lack of pinball” from GameSpot.

If you want to see some people sucking terribly at the game (through no fault of their own) you can check out this review from Continue? on YouTube:

If you watched all of that, you may slightly understand just how bad a game KISS Pinball really is. If you’ve actually played the game, I’m sorry for your loss.



I knew I was forgetting at least one game when I wrote about Crazy Ideas that Became Video Games a little while back. Odama is surely that game.

The aim of the game is simple: use your army to defeat the enemy army on a series of stages. However, those stages are set up sort of like pinball tables, and you have to use the controller to knock a giant pinball-type ball into the enemy soldiers while screaming instructions at them through the included microphone. Did I mention that it’s set in feudal Japan?

Despite being a completely insane idea (which came from the brain of Yoot Saito, creator of Seaman, not coincidentally), Odama is a lot of fun, though quite uncannily hard. Operating the pinball flippers, moving the cursor around with your controller and shouting instructions into the microphone is the gaming equivalent of patting your head and rubbing your stomach at the same time, while riding a unicycle and trying to solve quadratic equations.

Initially, the plan was to use the DK Bongo controllers to operate the flippers, but this feature was apparently dropped for being too crazy. Still, it qualifies as a pinball game in some ways, and so I think we can safely say we’ve found the weirdest pinball video game ever created, as well as one of the hardest.

For further insanity, check out this video review:

If you don’t have time for that, I’ve provided a picture that (I feel) sums up the game’s difficulty admirably:


It’s a lot of fun, I promise...

So, those are six of the weirdest pinball video games ever made. Despite the difficulty inherent in making a physical, mechanical game play well on a computer or console, it hasn’t stopped people trying.

What are your favourite pinball video games? Are you a fan of Devil’s Crush on the TurboGrafx-16, or Pinball Dreams on the Amiga, or does your knowledge of pinball gaming extend only as far as 3D Pinball - Space Cadet, which was included for free with Windows in the late 90s? Let me know! You can get in touch with me through the comments below, via Facebook, Twitter, Google +, or email [email protected].

Written By: Dave Morgan

*other internet search engines are available

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