The Best Pinball Machines: Marvel Edition

Posted by Scott 10 JUNE 2015

You may be surprised to know that there aren’t as many Marvel-themed pinball machines out there as you might think. In fact, the following list of the “best of” Marvel tables actually represents about 80% of all Marvel-themed tables out there.

That’s surprising, isn’t it? Superheroes have played a major role in pop culture for decades, yet it has only been in the last ten years or so that they have been given the pinball treatment. You have Stern Pinball to thank for that.

There is no denying Stern’s contribution to the legacy of pinball. Not only have they kept pinball alive for the past fifteen years (and almost single-handedly, at that), but they have also obtained the licensing rights to major franchises, such as The Simpsons, Transformers, and, of course, characters in the Marvel universe.

So without further introduction and in no particular order, here are Home Leisure Direct’s top picks for Marvel pinball tables. Spoiler alert: all but one of them are manufactured by Stern Pinball. 


Spider-Man Pinball Machine

Out of the tables featured in this list, perhaps Spider-Man is the only one that has a shot at being on top 10 lists of modern pinball machines. Stern did a fantastic job with this table. It was designed by a team led by Steve Ritchie, a legend in the pinball industry, so you know it’s just got to be good! Steve Ritchie is responsible for games like Black Knight (1980), T2: Judgment Day (1991), and Star Trek: the Next Generation (1993).

The Spider-Man game was released in 2007, one month after the film Spider-Man 3 came out. The table brilliantly takes advantage of this fact—it combines elements from all three movies in the Tobey Maguire Spidey trilogy, particularly in the use of each film’s villains.

The rules of the game are simple yet highly entertaining. Your goal is to defeat each of the four bad guys featured on the table—Green Goblin, Doc Ock, Sandman, and Venom—in order to initiate “Battle Royale,” where you once again have to battle all four villains simultaneously. And that’s not even the table’s wizard mode.

This game shows off the kind of gameplay and innovation which has made Stern successful, and it definitely represents the feel of Spider-Man from the movies—intense and full of action.

The Amazing Spider-Man

Spider-Man Pinball Machine Playfield

Stern’s version wasn’t the first time we encountered Spider-Man in a pin game. That honor goes to The Amazing Spider-Man that came out all the way back in 1980. It was manufactured by Gottlieb and designed by a man named Ed Krynski, an innovator and designer of more than 200 tables and an inductee into the Pinball Hall of Fame.

The Amazing Spider-Man had to have been one of Mr. Krynski’s best. It absolutely rocks! You get to play with four flippers on the playfield: one in the upper left, and three at the bottom. The rules are standard for that time period, but with four flippers and a well-balanced table, that’s all you need in order to have a fantastic time! Stan Lee himself was a proud owner of this game.

This table features stunning artwork done by Gordon Morison, who was directly inspired by the Spider-Man comics at the time. This was a table of “firsts” for Gottlieb. It was their first table that had an attract mode, and it was the first in their “Star Series 80” collection, which featured pop culture characters of the new decade (well, “new” at the time, anyway).

Iron Man

Iron Man Vault Edition Pinball

This 2010 release from Stern was designed by John Borg, who has worked on many of Stern’s tables. Iron Man combines stories and villains from the first two Iron Man movies.

You will spend a lot of time battling against Whiplash and the drones from the second film, but the primary feature of this table is the Iron Monger toy that rises out of the center of the playfield, looking menacing and awesome. You have to bash the Iron Monger a number of times to defeat him, but watch out for the magnet between his legs—Iron Monger will drop the ball dead center down the playfield between the flippers. What a jerk!

This table is mean and difficult. It plays hard and fast, and you lose hard and fast. But that’s why it’s so popular among pinball players and arcade owners alike. The outlanes are brutal and there are no ball saves. On top of that, Whiplash has his own magnet, and he flings the silver ball back at you in unpredictable patterns. This game is nasty. And fun. Lots of fun.


Stern X-Men Pro Pinball Machine

What a pleasant surprise Stern gave us with this one! Though it was released in 2012, well after the X-Men trilogy of films, this table is instead inspired by the retro look of the X-Men from the comics of their heyday in the 80s and 90s. It looks amazing.

Once again, John Borg led the design team for this one, and it has some similarities to the Iron Man design. Like Whiplash, the prominent Wolverine figurine has a magnet that sends the ball flying uncontrollably. There is also a magnetic spinning disc that makes life difficult for you during multiball. Nightcrawler targets pop out of the playfield, much like how Iron Monger does, and the overall game tone is frantic and unpredictable.

This table features three flippers (one in the upper right), a movable ramp, and a unique premise, where the player has to assemble the X-Men team to fight against Magneto. The more X-men the player collects, the more opportunities the player will have for big points during battle with Magneto (4-ball multiball mode). There are a lot of cool ideas and toys in this one!

Honorable Mention

And that’s it. Really. It’s a short list, right? We warned you.

But if you are still craving Marvel pinball tables and you’re okay with playing virtual pinball instead of the real thing, there is a wealth of Marvel pin games still out there waiting to be discovered by you.

Thanks to the incredible team of Zen Studios, you have the opportunity to play many more Marvel-themed pin games. Tables such as The Infinity Gauntlet, World War Hulk, Fear Itself, and Civil War are based on comic book story arcs. Individual superheroes also get their own tables, even those characters who don’t have their own films yet like Deadpool, Moon Knight, and Doctor Strange. But the heavyweights are represented to, from Fantastic Four to Guardians of the Galaxy to the entire team of Avengers.

These tables are definitely worth checking out if you’re okay with virtual pinball. If not, then you still have some very fun, real tables to choose from, and Stern doesn’t show any signs of slowing down in the direction they’re headed. More incredible tables are sure to arrive in the very near future. What will Stern churn out next?   

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