Ranking the 33 Best Pinball Machines from the 1990s

Ranking the 33 Best Pinball Machines from the 1990s
Photos by
Ranking the 33 Best Pinball Machines from the 1990s
Graphics by
Ranking the 33 Best Pinball Machines from the 1990s
Published on
August 9, 2022
Updated on
June 20, 2023
Read time:
No items found.

Image Gallery

Was there a better decade for pinball and all time great pinball machines than the 1990s? It feels like almost every year, particularly early and midway through the decade, has multiple bangers that would be the jewel of a game room collection even today.

Bally/Williams in particular seemed to be firing on all cylinders, which makes what happened later in the decade (pinball almost going out of business entirely) all the more tragic.

It feels like the designers and the manufacturers had finally gotten to a point in the evolution of pinball where it was possible to create fully featured, highly theme integrated "worlds under glass" (to borrow a popular phrase from Kaneda's Pinball Podcast). Deeper rules, voice acting, callouts, artwork, game design, ramps, multiballs, it was all coming together.

Some of the machines on this particular list include some of the best selling pinball games of all time, or just themes that we think are a lot of fun for the era.

We've also included a list of notable titles that you may expect to be on a list like this one, but for various reasons, didn't make it into our top 33. Of course you may disagree with our rankings, but that's one of the best parts of pinball appreciation - everyone can have their own subjective opinion!

Arcade games more your style? Have a peek at our guide to the 11 Must-Play Arcade Games of the '90s.

Looking for a roundup of the most affordable used pinball machines you can buy today? We've got you covered.

The 33 Greatest 90s Pinball Machines, Ranked

Attack from Mars (Bally, 1995)

attack from mars best 90s pinball machine

In Bally's all-time classic Attack from Mars, the objective is to defend the world from an onslaught of attacking, slightly funny but still totally murderous aliens. You do this primarily by blowing up their flying saucers before they have the chance to destroy historically important cities and monuments. Mayhem ensues along the way.

Attack from Mars is easily one of the top pinball machines of all time, not just of the 1990s. The game is a great shooter, making excellent use of the popular fan playfield layout with one of the best center playfield bash toys in the flying saucer, iconic callouts, and an approachable, easy to understand ruleset. Even today, it's a game that a lot of newer pins struggle to live up to. Blowing up a saucer (especially if you have a shaker motor attached) is a shot that never, ever gets old.

This machine proved popular enough to get remade by Chicago Gaming Company in 2017, so today you can find classic Attack from Mars tables from 1995 in the used market, as well as newer production versions produced only a few years ago.

Medieval Madness (Williams, 1997)

In Medieval Madness, your objective (similar to Attack from Mars) is to destroy the castles of a group of evil feudal overlords on the way to the big bad of the land. Along the way you my start a peasant riot, encounter Merlin, and fight some trolls. Totally normal stuff for the time if you ask us.

Medieval Madness frequently goes head-to-head with Attack from Mars for the best pinball game of all time. Medieval Madness, Attack from Mars, and Monster Bash are all considered to be the insta-classics of this generation. Attack from Mars holds the one spot in our list purely due to a preference for the theme, but we wouldn't fault anyone for ranking Medieval Madness above AFM.

Medieval Madness is one of the best examples in all of pinball of theme integration between the artwork, hilarious callouts, and playfield toys. The castle destruction shot is one of the most fun shots to hit in all of pinball. The way the castle shakes and trembles after destruction has really yet to be repeated.

Rules are straightforward, but the game can still be challenging to master as you generally pay for missing shots. Medieval Madness is another game that was remade by Chicago Gaming Company in recent years.

Monster Bash (Williams, 1998)

In Monster Bash, your goal is essentially to collect each of the Universal Monster characters (Dracula, The Mummy, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Frankenstein, Wolfman, and Bride of Frankenstein) and their instruments so they can jam out together while you play a final multiball.

Another all-time classic table, eclipsed only slightly by Attack from Mars and Medieval Madness. Excellent use of artwork and playfield toys with another approachable ruleset and player friendly fan layout. Very similar in approach and play style as Attack from Mars and Medieval Madness, which is partly why the three are often grouped together. That and Lyman Sheats being on code for all three games.

If there's anything that brings this game down compared to the others, it's that it can be a little easy to play, and because of that can get somewhat more repetitive to play over a longer period of time.

Also remade by Chicago Gaming Company in recent years.

World Cup Soccer (Bally, 1994)

world cup soccer 94 1990s pinball machine

Look, we'll level with you. Most pinball people wouldn't have 1994's World Cup Soccer (or more affectionately known as "dog soccer") anywhere near their top 10 of the era, let alone solidly within the top 5. But it's our list, and we love this game.

The game holds a certain nostalgic factor for at least this writer, as at the time of its release, he was a six year old kid, just getting into soccer for the first time. And it just so happened the World Cup was hosted in the United States that year and he may or may not have gone to a game and Alexi Lalas with his crazy red hair may have been a hero type to said writer.

Anyway World Cup Soccer is a fun theme released as an officially licensed tie-in to 1994's World Cup football competition. The objective is exactly what you think it should be - traveling around the United States and qualifying to take on international teams like Russia, Germany and Saudi Arabia in matches (done during multiballs). Along the way, you shoot against a live, moving goalie, collect fans, awards, and more. All in all, a hell of a time.

Lots of fun to shoot, the multiball can be difficult to qualify depending on how hard the scoop is to hit, theming and sounds are top notch, and additional features like a magna-save and spinning soccer ball add an extra special touch. Everything feels super achievable but still sometimes just a little out of reach.

White Water (Williams, 1993)

White Water is one of those totally original themes that really only could have come out in the 90s. There's no way it works in today's license dependent market.

Essentially, as a player, you're navigating a zany river with river guide Wet Willie on the way to his ranch. Along the way, you'll encounter whirlpools, secret caves, navigate river hazards, and have run-ins with a large animatronic Big Foot.

There's a lot going on in this table with upper and lower playfields, 3 flippers, a left outlane kickback, multiple creatively designed ramps (insanity falls is particularly fun to shoot). It feels cramped and fast, but with still quite a bit to explore and achieve at the same time. Getting to multiball and timing the jackpot shot is one of the greatest feelings in pinball. Doing it with a 5x playfield bonus running is just a thing of beauty.

Art package and sound design are particularly good for this era. Easily in the running for the best Dennis Nordman game of all time, but that's an article for another day.

The Addams Family (Bally, 1992)

Today, The Addams Family pinball probably enjoys a legacy reputation that now kind of outshines its actual legacy as a playable and lasting game that you want as a bolted down part of your home pinball collection.

Addams Family, released in 1992, was, and still is, the best selling pinball machine of all time. To equate it to the world of movies and box office returns, it'd sort of be like if Titanic, released in 1997, was still the top grossing movie of all time today, in 2022, with no hopes of any modern movie overtaking it in the near future.

Addams Family, designed by the legendary Pat Lawlor, has some of the best theme integration of almost any machine ever made. The art from the movie was in the game, sounds and songs were in the game, characters were in the game (complete with the likeness of their live action counterparts), voice callouts were provided by lead actors Anjelica Huston and Raul Julia, and its The Thing toy is iconic.

The game is a joy to shoot, approachable, and touring the mansion is still one of pinball's most talked about achievements. Even today, it's known as a pretty solid owner in an arcade or other location.

But, in a home environment, it can get a little old. After repeated plays, it may not be the machine you come back to over and over again, particularly once you beat it. This is why it falls on our list. Its reputation is timeless, but its gameplay perhaps isn't.

Twilight Zone (Bally, 1993)

Twilight Zone is another of those 1990s games that fairly or unfairly, is put on a pedestal by some in the community. And don't get us wrong, it's a great game. There's so much to shoot for, the theme integration is top notch, and even measured against modern tables, it's a super creative game.

In this game, you're thrown into the world of the hit TV show from the late 1950s / early 1960s where you interact with various elements, characters and other references to the show while collecting a series of awards on your way to the final wizard mode.

It's a packed game, and if you like your Pat Lawlor tables, it's probably the most maximalist version of his work you're going to get. There's a gumball machine, magnetic flippers on an upper mini playfield, a working analog clock, and all the weird shot geometry you can handle. Legend says it was the most over cost budget machine made at the time, and we believe it.

But there's something that doesn't totally click for us on this game. It can be hard to get into a flow, not all the shots work, and especially for new players, the rules can be a little opaque. But overall it is quite fun to play, and it has some very ardent fans in the community, so your mileage with this title may vary.

The Getaway: High Speed II (Williams, 1992)

The sequel to Steve Ritchie's 1986 game, High Speed. The Getaway: High Speed II has pretty much the same general concept as High Speed - drive your car as fast as you can and avoid the cops whenever you encounter them.

But the execution on this one is just on a completely different level. Right off the bat you'll notice the supercharger feature at the center of the playfield, which when activated, triggers a magnetic ball accelerator which whips your ball at super speed around the metal track for a large point payout.

You'll probably also notice the physical gear shift mechanism on the coin door, another piece of the machine that helps with the "I'm driving a fast car" immersive feeling.

The game plays fast as a Ritchie game tends to do, has oodles of flow, and the rules are both accessible and exciting for multiple plays. Think of it as an upgraded High Speed, if you're a fan of that table.

Creature from the Black Lagoon (Bally, 1992)

creature from the black lagoon best 90s pinball machine

At Kineticist, we're also big film buffs, so Creature from the Black Lagoon (themed loosely after the 1954 movie of the same name, but really more about the experience of going to see The Creature from the Black Lagoon at a 1950s drive-in theater, which is why we love it) gets a bump on our list.

The game-play if we're honest is just so-so. There's not a ton of flow, some really dangerous shots, and relies a little too heavily on a few other key shots to really be able to progress in the game.

But man, the theme is a joy - from the art package to the callouts and the mode design, it's got it all.

For serious players, it's probably a lower tier game for a collection, as people frequently tire of this title after a little while, but for collectors and film fans, it's kind of a must have.

Cirqus Voltaire (Bally, 1997)

For a short period of time in basically the mid-90s, John Popadiuk was on a roll. He was the real-life, pinball equivalent of the "he's on fire!" mode in NBA Jam. From World Cup Soccer (1994) through Cirqus Voltaire (1997), Popadiuk was behind some of the most innovative and interesting machines in pinball, which also includes Theater of Magic (1995) and Tales of the Arabian Nights (1996).

Unfortunately he'd never really come back to these heights (more on that another time) and is now basically blacklisted from the industry.

In Cirqus Voltaire, you enter a fantastical neon tinged carnival world where your core objectives are to complete marvels (modes) and defeat an evil ringmaster (similar to destroying a saucer in Attack from Mars) on your way to joining the circus.

Tons of flow and some really neat toys. Known for its DMD display embedded in the back of the playfield instead of in the backglass like other tables from this era.

Scared Stiff (Bally, 1996)

Scared Stiff is the sequel to the 1989 classic, Elvira and the Party Monsters. Much like Getaway: High Speed II, this iteration eclipses the first in almost every way. The gameplay is simple and approachable, but can be hard to master - getting to the end game can feel like a major achievement.

Not as much innovation on this table as others on this list, though the crate lock is extremely satisfying to hit and the spinning spider wheel in the backglass is a nice touch.

What really sets this game apart from the first version, and lots of other games on this list, is the quality of the callouts by Cassandra Peterson herself, and the overall level of humor present in the games design. Sure, if we're getting granular, some of the humor is a little sexist and may not age as well as was intended, but it fits with the character and the era.

Tales of the Arabian Nights (Williams, 1996)

Tales of the Arabian Nights, or TOTAN, as it goes by in most competitive pinball circles, is another Popadiuk classic. In this game, you're completing the 7 Tales of the Arabian Nights and battling an evil genie. From a rules and shot layout perspective it's very very similar to his other games from this period. Popadiuk as a designer kinda has one note, but he knows how to play that note better than just about anyone else.

Theme integration is generally top notch, and it probably holds up in collections more for this aspect than a lot of the gameplay. The spinning lamp shot can be fun - sort of like a juiced spinner when it's dialed in right, but otherwise most of the mechs are pretty generic.

Congo (Williams, 1995)

Congo is part of a grand tradition of terrible movies that turned out to be great pinball machines (see Johnny Mnemonic and The Shadow, below). This is just a fun game to shoot, with a strong dose of creativity displayed on the playfield between the lower playfield with a Gorilla toy that doubles as an extra set of flippers, and the volcano multiball shot. Its 3 flippers and varied shot layout adds a lot of diversity to a typical playthrough.

Makes you feel like you're on a jungle adventure, which adds to the fun of this game.

Johnny Mnemonic (Williams, 1995)

Just like Congo, Johnny Mnemonic is a card-carrying member of the terrible movie but pretty good pinball machine club. Designed by George Gomez, Johnny Mnemonic is a fast playing flow crazy shooter with arguably one of the all time great mechs in the form of the magnetic data glove and CyberMatrix ball lock.

For this writer, Johnny Mnemonic evokes feelings of one of Gomez's more recent works, that of Stern's Deadpool, released in 2018.

This game also has a uniquely frustrating video mode and artificially high scoring, which makes it an very satisfying machine to blow up. One of the few 90's era Williams games where it's possible to still get a deal on.

The Shadow (Bally, 1994)

The Shadow is an underrated Brian Eddy designed pinball machine based on the 1994 movie by the same name featuring none other than the likes of Alec Baldwin, Tim Curry, and Ian McKellen. Like others on this list, The Shadow is full of flow, plays fast, and has some really unique features and satisfying shots to hit. The upper mini playfield is one of the best ever done in pinball, and the magnetic ball locks and player controlled diverters are unique and add a new dimension to the game.

Besides being a ton of fun to play, The Shadow is also notable for not having any pop bumpers!

Theater of Magic (Bally, 1995)

The last of the Popadiuk games on this particular list, in Theater of Magic you're working to complete a series of magic tricks before a grand finale of sorts (small wizard mode). Theater of Magic is notable for its theme integration, callouts, and its magic trunk mech. The magic trunk breaks allll the time. But when it works it's really neat. On one side is a magnet grab, which you shoot to start one of the game's multiballs. On another side is a scoop, which is used for starting modes. The trunk rotates to different sides depending on where you are in the game.

Besides that, there's a lot of flow to this game and getting a high score is very satisfying and also a little difficult depending on how the game is set up. If you played Theater of Magic in a lineup next to Cirqus Voltaire, Tales of the Arabian Nights, and World Cup Soccer, you'd definitely start to see some of the similarities. Magnets, crazy ramps, center bash toys, and mode based play.

Indiana Jones: The Pinball Adventure (Williams, 1993)

Indiana Jones: The Pinball Adventure is highly sought after by pinball collectors, and frequently requested as a remake candidate for Chicago Gaming Company's Bally/Williams remakes.

It's a wide-body, but surprisingly, doesn't suffer from a lot of the same problems that other wide-bodies tend to - like slow gameplay, clunky shots, or a wide-open playfield. It shares some similarities to Star Trek The Next Generation in that regard.

There's a ton to shoot for on this table and theme integration is incredibly well done across all three original movies. Compared to modern pins with all their licensing issues, it feels like a unique treat to have accurate representations of most of the main characters from the movie on the playfield and the backglass art.

This is a rare pinball machine to see these days outside of home collections, though fortunately there have been several virtual versions created, including on the latest version of Zen Studios PinballFX series.

Breakshot (Capcom, 1996)

Breakshot is a severely underrated (and under-produced with only about 1,000 copies ever made) pool-themed pinball machine from Capcom. The layout is inspired by classic EM era tables with no ramps and digital sounds that mimic EM machines.

Breakshot also features a unique center playfield toy with three saucers behind a metal pop-up insert which functions like a newton ball when raised and you're ready to start multiball. Hitting the newton ball feels almost like you're hitting the break in a game of pool (hence the name!).

Lots of fun to play in competitions as there's some good risk/reward decision-making involved, plus lock stealing which always adds an interesting dynamic.

Has lots of replay value, so it's a good game for a home collection among some longer playing options.

Royal Rumble WWF (Data East, 1994)

90s pinball machines wwf royal rumble

As a recently converted wrestling fan, I have a bit of a soft spot for Data East's Royal Rumble. This pinball machine ranks near the top of Data East's game output, alongside Guns n' Roses. The rules aren't super complicated - essentially you're collecting wrestlers and completing modes on your way to multiballs and the wizard mode.

Royal Rumble is a wide-body pin, and some feel it would have been better off as a regular sized pinball machine as the sides of the playfield, particularly the lower third, are a little empty.

If you grew up in this era, even as a non-wrestling fan, you'll probably recognize a lot of the wrestlers, their callouts, and some of the artwork. It can be a pretty big nostalgia trip! And if you didn't, well, we still think it's a lot of fun to shoot and there's enough diversity in the gameplay to keep a home owner interested for long stretches of time.

Baywatch (Sega, 1995)

Is Sega's Baywatch a great game? Debatable. Is Baywatch a great theme for a 90s kid who grew up watching show reruns on cable TV. Absolutely. Few things in pinball beat hearing that iconic theme song play when you step up to the machine. It's peak 90s cable TV.

To be fair, the game is also pretty fun to play and has a unique shot layout from Joe Balcer and Joe Kaminkow with a ton of flow and high scoring. This game is part of Sega's run of games with larger than normal DMD displays, so the animations have some draw to them as well. If you're not a fan of the theme, this may not be a great choice for your home collection.

Demolition Man (Williams, 1994)

Another underrated wide-body on this list. Demolition Man gets a bit of a bad rap for the theme and for being a little ramp heavy (and thus one-note) in its gameplay.

But if you overlook some of that and just focus on how fast and fun it can be to play, then you'll see why we ranked it where we did on this list. Oodles of flow and hitting lots of combo shots is very satisfying. The game is focused around achieving a series of multiballs, which is a bit unique for the time and adds an appreciated element of excitement to a typical game. The claw mech is neat, and the trigger handles can be an interesting way to experience the game.

Can be easier and less expensive than other pinball machines on this list to track down, which aids its cause.

Terminator 2: Judgement Day (Williams, 1991)

Look Terminator 2: Judgement Day is mostly here for the callouts and general theme integration. Not Steve Ritchie's best game (he has a lot of those, so even a middling game from him is often superior to most other designers' best).

Fun to look at, fun to experience, but gets a bit tiring to play frequently. The cannon shot (later revisited in Stern's AC/DC) is one of the most unique (and fun) components of this particular pinball machine.

If it wasn't for the Arnold callouts, this game may have wound up lower on this list. So if you're not an Arnold or T2 fan, your mileage may vary on this pin.

Jack*Bot (Williams, 1995)

The last in the line of Pin-Bot machines, Jack*Bot is essentially a reskin of the original PinBot from 1986, but with an added casino/gambling component and an excellent mini-wizard mode, Casino Run.

Like in Pin-Bot, most of the gameplay is focused on getting multiball by opening up the visor at the top of the playfield, and hitting the eject hole for various awards. In Pin*Bot, however, hitting the eject hole means you complete a mini casino game (like Keno, Dice, Slots, and Poker) for a random allotment of points. Completing all of the casino games qualifies you for Casino Run, a 1 ball timed mode with unlimited ball save, where the objective is to build your bank and cash out before time runs out or you lose the slots-like game on the display.

Could be one of the best risk/reward games in all of pinball and has pretty high replay value overall.

Star Trek: The Next Generation (Williams, 1993)

Star Trek: The Next Generation is a Williams wide-body pin that is not without its flaws. For one, it's notoriously difficult to keep running, so if you have this at home or on location at an arcade, you'll probably be spending a lot of extra time in repair mode.

But when it's working, it does such an amazing job of throwing you into the world of the Star Trek: The Next Generation TV show. It's fun to shoot, has some challenging mode based play, and great callouts/theming. The cannons on each of the slingshots are so much fun to shoot and rather iconic for this table.

Can be a bit of a drain monster, so rewards good nudging skills, shot accuracy, or knowing how to set up your pinball machine so that it's easier to play.

Who Dunnit (Bally, 1995)

Who Dunnit is a 1995 Barry Oursler and Dwight Sullivan game themed around a noir style murder mystery. In the game, you play as the detective, collecting clues, questioning suspects, and figuring out who committed the crime. Along the way you may get in a car chase and engage in some light gambling. All in a days work.

Gameplay is a little meh at times, but the theming and highly original approach to the game puts it on this list.

Guns n' Roses (Data East, 1994)

Most people in the pinball hobby will call Guns n' Roses Data East's best game. And it's certainly up there, especially for a wide body machine.

There's a lot to shoot for on this pinball machine and some really fun ways to attack it. But, like some of the other games on this list, I think you really have to be a fan of Guns n' Roses the band to be a huge fan of this table. And if you're not, like this writer, then it gets a little lost on you.

Depending on how well the game is set up and dialed in, hitting the ramp shots can be a difficult proposition, which considering how important they are to gameplay, kinda brings this table down a few notches.

Bram Stoker's Dracula (Williams, 1993)

Bram Stoker's Dracula mostly makes the list for theme integration, callouts, and its unique mist multiball feature, where the player has to hit a floating captive ball as it moves across the playfield with the help of some fancy under playfield magnet work. Otherwise gameplay and rules are a little shallow, and it doesn't have as much replay value as some of the other pinball machines on this list.

Starship Troopers (Sega, 1997)

I wouldn't call Starship Troopers top tier 90s Sega, but its close. Great theme integration and some fun toys and mechs like the Brain Bug bash toy popup. Plays fast but can get a little grindy at times, and there isn't a ton of depth. If you enjoyed the movie Starship Troopers, you'll probably enjoy having this game in your collection for at least a short stint, if not longer.

NBA Fastbreak (Bally, 1997)

NBA Fastbreak is a unique game for its basket based points system. Lots of fun to shoot and the basket shot and backbox mech add a different level of gameplay to this machine. Excellent callouts and theme integration. Elevates itself just beyond novelty status thanks to the fast and flowy playfied design by George Gomez.

No Fear: Dangerous Sports (Williams, 1995)

No Fear: Dangers Sports could be Steve Ritchie's most flow-heavy game as you're rewarded for hitting a lot of ramp and orbit shots, and there's not a lot of danger on the playfield that will end a ball faster than normal. Usually on the B or C tier of 90s Williams games, but we think it's a lot of fun to play.

Rollergames (Williams, 1990)

If Rollergames had been released in the 1980s it probably would have made our 80s list instead as this is almost the employment of 80s pop culture cheese. Not the deepest game, but we love the theme, artwork, and sounds.

The X-Files (Sega, 1997)

The X-Files is kind of a basic Sega table, but it's a fun play. The file cabinet bash toy with hidden trap door for final ball capture before multiball is basically what puts this game on this list.

Flipper Football (1996)

Flipper Football is 100% just for me. They produced like 5 of them (that's sarcasm, they actually produced 750), and I've only ever seen it on location once while traveling in Europe. The art is cringe, and gameplay is shallow compared to just about any other game, but something about it kept me coming back for more, even among a pretty deep lineup of games. Would be a pretty unique piece of a pinball collection, even if it mostly served as a conversation starter.

Notable Omissions - The Second Class of the 1990s Era Pinball Machines

Notable games left off this list for various reasons (I reserve the right to change my mind at a later date)!