The Superhero Pinball Civil War

Posted by HLD 29 APRIL 2016

As we are all huge fans of superheros here at Home Leisure Direct, we have decided to celebrate the release of the Captain America: Civil War movie today with our very own Superhero Pinball Civil War. We rounded up all of the superhero themed pinball machines we could think of (which, surprisingly, was only 6 machines!) and matched them up against each other in a fight to the death to decide which pinball machine is the best superhero themed pinball machine ever made.


In order to judge this, we decided on a set of statistics we could work to to compare the superheros capabilities and their respective pinball machines. We used the statistics from a set of Top Trumps playing cards to compare the character’s superpowers, the character’s pinball machine scores based on their Pinside rating alongside our own personal rating, and finally, who we think would win in a real one-on-one fight.


Heat 1: Superman vs. Batman


This battle is fresh in our minds from the recent release of the Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice movie, but what will the outcome be from the statistics we’re using? We take a look at the Top Trumps score, the two pinball machines and the two superheroes’’ superpowers to judge who we think the ultimate winner would be of these two popular characters.


Superman’s otherworldly powers are numerous and include superhuman strength, super-speed, x-ray vision, ice breath, enhanced hearing, the ability to shoot lazers from his eyes and the ability to heal rapidly, to name a few. He is often seen as the definitive ‘good guy’, and a symbol of hope for all; fighting crime and evil for the good of humankind, although he’s had his dark moments. He’s been known to join forces with other superheros as the Justice League in times of need and has been an ally of Batman’s...until 2016 that is.

Quite surprisingly, Superman hasn’t enjoyed nearly as many illustrious pinball outings as some other superheroes on this list. Surprising given how Superman could be considered one of the most iconic superheroes of all time. The only machine to Superman’s name the early solid state 1979 release by Atari. Being one of designer legend Steve Ritchie’s earliest contributions to pinball, the game has remained a favourite amongst early solid state enthusiasts with a wide playfield packed with numerous shots and targets to make.



As all three of Christopher Nolan’s films have demonstrated, Batman is an iron-willed vigilante who definitely holds the upper hand in the gadget and intimidation department. What he lacks in otherworldly powers he makes up for with his collection of weaponry and gear, and what he lacks in being a public icon he more than makes up for in being a feared adversary for criminals around the city. It certainly made for an interesting match up in 2016’s ‘Batman Vs. Superman’ that puts the two head to head.

Batman Pinball

The pinball machine is definitely one of George Gomez’ more unique designs, including a great number of gadgets and features that Batman himself wouldn’t be ashamed of. A pivoting ramp, wrecking ball crane and smooth ball flow are just the beginning. This playfield also hides The Joker in his own staging area: only revealing himself to players during his multiball. Players won’t only be battling The Joker in their quest to defeat Gotham City. The Scarecrow will also challenge players throughout various modes.


One-on-One Fight

As far as this pinball contest goes, it’s almost unfair to compare these two totally different machines from two totally different eras, but it raises a question: Just where has the Man of Steel been recently when it comes to pinball? With his recent rise in movies, surely it’s just a matter of time before we see Clark Kent and his super alter-ego return to a pinball machine near us..?

As for a real fight, superhero fans have recently been treated (or not, according to some reviews) to the aforementioned Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice movie, where both character’s interests clash. In this movie, while both superheroes aren’t looking to kill each other, it seems clear that Superman would win in a fight to the death through his superior powers (laser eyes is the clincher), but is overcome by Batman’s cunning and use of Kryptonite - Superman’s one Achilles heel (and something his enemies happen upon all too often considering its origins).

PINBALL MACHINE WINNER (our opinion): Batman





Heat 2: Avengers vs. X-Men


Now this would be an interesting fight to watch. The more I think about this battle, the more I want a film to be made of it. Between these two tribes, I can’t think of any superpower that hasn’t been covered, although I also can’t think of a reason they’d be fighting. Regardless of that, for this fictional fight, we have selected the prominent characters from each pinball machine to battle, taking their individual Top Trumps scores and creating an average score covering the whole team.
Both sides have their strengths and weaknesses, and yes, the Avengers are outnumbered, but they do have a Norse god on their side. On the X-men’s team we have included Magneto as he is a prominent character on the X-Men pinball machine, and although he is usually seen as the X-Men’s nemesis, he has been known to join forces with them in the past, which is why we’ve included him on their side. So who will be the ultimate team? Superheroes or Mutants?
The Avengers

Avengers LE Pinball Machine

The Avengers are an able team of ‘The Earth’s Mightiest Heroes’, comprised of some of the most recognisable names in the Marvel universe: Captain America, Iron Man (who has his own machine featured in this list… He’s not trying to cheat!) and The Incredible Hulk amongst others. Together, the team of 6 band together to tackle the greatest threats to the planet. Whilst each member has their own individual strengths and weaknesses, the entire crew covers for each other, making for one formidable superhero team.

The Avengers pinball machine however was met with some divide by pinball fanatics. Whilst many players took to the awesome layout the game had to offer, others were a little less than impressed with the game technically. That didn’t stop the game from looking like an awesome machine though, with every character represented on the game’s play field. The Hulk can pick the ramp clean off the play field, and Hawkeye’s arrow makes for a fun ramp shot to go for.






X-Men Wolverine Stern Limited Edition Pinball Machine

In a world where humans and mutants are at odds and bigotry rules supreme, the team of mutants known as the X-Men have long stood for and fight for the equality between the two races. All born with superhuman abilities, the X-Men is made up of one of the most diverse range of talents assembled in a superhero team, from the optical powers of Cyclops, the weather controlling forces of Storm, and of course the razor-sharp claws on the knuckles of Wolverine. Many individuals have joined the X-Men over their long comic book career making them one of the largest and capable superhero teams out there, sometimes even teaming up with their enemies to conquer even greater evils posing a threat to the world.

The X-Men pinball machine is a fitting tribute to Marvel’s excellent comic, packing in more characters and villains into a single game than any other game we can think of. The team also brings some awesome features with them too. Magneto for example utilises his powers over magnetic fields well, flinging balls all over the playfield courtesy of his magnetic spinning disc, and the fierce Wolverine also proves to be a strong force to be reckoned with, taking up a large spot near the player.





One-on-One Fight

The one-on-one fight almost seems one sided in this case. After all, however could the band of 6 Avengers possibly take on the challenge of the enormous team that makes up the X-Men and their mutant abilities? Surely, the X-Men should take the fight purely on numbers alone with many more team members (and in some cases enemies!) helping to swing the fight in their favour.

The pinball machines are a much more grey area in this clash as unfortunately, nobody here at the HLD has had the chance to play either of these machines, so we’ll have to rely on the testimony and reviews of others for this round. Both machines feature some really awesome looking features (especially on the LE and premium versions of the machines) such as Magneto’s magnetic spinning disc on X-Men and The Hulk’s trademark strength in the Avengers who is able to lift one of the ramps clean off the playfield. Player testimony suggests that X-Men is the better feeling and better playing game of the two. This is especially given both machine’s release at a time when STERN could have been seen to be implementing cost cutting measures into their games.






Heat 3: Spider-Man vs. Iron Man


These two superheroes have such different skills it should make for an interesting outcome. With Spidey’s ability to come out unscathed from almost any situation due to his web shooting ability, speed, agility and ability to heal quickly, but will it be a match for Iron Man’s seemingly limitless gadgetry?


Stern Spiderman Pinball Machine - Full

As STERN’s Spider-Man covers the Sam Raimi trilogy of films, that’s the Spider-Man we’ll be using for reference. When Spider-Man swings high above the city, he’s certainly a far cry from the lowly and nerdy news journalist that he is day to day. When not paying the bills by writing columns about your friendly neighborhood superhero, Peter Parker’s alter-ego is one of the most agile, athletic and quick thinkers in our superhero lineup. Whilst he’s been known to let his feelings and inner demons get the better of him occasionally when it matters, he always pulls it through to save the city from the latest supervillain schemes, from the brutal strength and mind of Doctor Octopus to the lightning quick moves and unpredictability of The Green Goblin. Spider-Man has definitely done a great job at keeping the city safe, but is that enough to take on the awesome intelligence and firepower that Tony Stark’s Iron Man brings to the table?

The recently re-released STERN Spider-Man pinball machine from 2007 has established itself firmly among the modern favourites of avid pinball players. The game incorporates Steve Ritchie’s classic flowing gameplay with a whole host of exciting features seamlessly. Battling Spider-Man’s many enemies simultaneously, including the Green Goblin, Doc Ock, Sandman and Venom, Steve Ritchie has created a packed playfield that doesn’t feel restricting and rewards players for flowing gameplay through the Spider Arrows features. For this masterpiece of addictive, intricate and flowing gameplay, we’ve awarded this machine a score of 9/10. 


Iron Man

Stern Iron Man Pinball Machine

Tony Stark transformed into the superhero known as Iron Man after creating a powered suit of armor to evade kidnappers. This playboy/technological genius then developed this suit further to become the ultimate fighting machine and used it to help save the world time and again. Also a member of The Avengers, Tony Stark, as Iron Man, utilises his sharp wits and the power of his suit to overcome all manner of villains...and women.

When Iron Man was released by STERN in 2010, it quickly made a name for itself as being one of the hardest games to come out in recent years, and it gave even the most seasoned professional pinball players something to really test their abilities. In this blisteringly fast machine, Iron Man faces off against several opponents, including Whiplash and the dangerous Iron Monger who lurks beneath the playfield. Both of these enemies as well as others bring tricky shots to the game, some of which are made even more challenging with the addition of magnets to send your ball whipping away in random directions! It’s this challenge however that makes the Iron Man machine fun. Like Spider-Man, Iron Man was popular enough that Stern brought this game out of the ‘vault’ to re-release it for another production run! It’s fast, the game will punish you and will always have you coming back for that ‘one last game’.


One-on-One Fight

Whilst the Top Trumps stats paint these two as being pretty even on the surface, we’ve got to give this one to Iron Man. Iron Man’s simply awesome mechanical arsenal immediately gives him the offensive advantage, and whilst your friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man is much more adept at thinking on his feet, would that likely save him when competing against the genius mind and technological advantage of Tony Stark?

Just which machine is better though..? It’s one very tough contest! Whilst Iron Man would likely hold the upper hand over Spider-Man in one-on-one combat, due to his technologically genius mind and the sheer range of gadgets at his disposal, verses Spidey’s webs, both of these characters hold their own as amazing pinball machines, and both have enjoyed special second runs by STERN! Those who love their shots fast and fluid will find a lot to love in Spider-Man, whilst the brutal challenge of Iron Man has kept the pros coming back for countless games, and earned it a strong reputation on the tournament circuit.


PINBALL MACHINE WINNER (our opinion): Spider-Man





But there can be only one winner…

Out of the three winners we have so far, Spider-Man, X-Men and Batman, let’s take a moment to consider what could happen if these three huge names in the world of comics all got together for one big battle royale. What a spectacle it would be! Much like the match up between The Avengers and The X-Men, The X-Men should take it purely on sheer numbers alone. Even with the combined cunning and acrobatic agility of Spider-Man and the advanced gadgetry and tactics of Batman, there can only be one inevitable outcome… The X-Men should easily walk away with their heads held high. 


The battle of the pinball maches though tells a completely different story. Of all the machines facing off in the final, only Spider-Man has enjoyed the success of a second production run, and is a mighty fine game to boot. Players the world over have been drawn to this riveting Steve Ritchie design packed with ramps, toys, flow and of course comic book charm. You’ve got to hand it to the game: Anything that’s worth taking out of the vault has to be a worthy winner!

Spider-Man Vault Edition Pinball Machine - Full View

WINNER: Spider-Man!!!

So the dust has settled, and one superhero pinball stands tall over the others, but what do you guys think? Will Spider-Man hold on to his crown as the winner of the pinball civil war, or is another superhero pin just biding its time before making a daring entrance? Find out in the next exciting issue of… Sorry.

Leave a comment below on whether you agree with our result, and what superhero pinball machines you’d like to see in future!

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