The 10 Best Steve Ritchie Pinball Games, Ranked

The 10 Best Steve Ritchie Pinball Games, Ranked
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The 10 Best Steve Ritchie Pinball Games, Ranked
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The 10 Best Steve Ritchie Pinball Games, Ranked
Published on
January 20, 2023
Updated on
May 6, 2024
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Steve Ritchie has made some epic pinball games. He's often in the running for best pinball designer of all time, alongside other industry greats like Pat Lawlor, Keith Elwin, Barry Oursler, Brian Eddy and others. But which ones stand out as the best of the best? Before he releases his first game for Jersey Jack, let's take a journey through his ten best games.

Who is Steve Ritchie?

The Master of Flow. Original voice of Shao Kahn (Mortal Kombat). The King of Pinball. Steve Ritchie is an all-time great in the world of pinball and arcade games and has been active in designing games since the 1970s.

Currently, Steve Ritchie is a pinball designer for Jersey Jack, having joined Jersey Jack Pinball in 2022. Prior to that he spent many years working for Stern Pinball, Williams Electronics, Midway Games, and Atari.

He's known for designing games with a ton of flow as well as fast, sometimes brutal gameplay. He's also known for some of his voice work on games like Black Knight, No Fear: Dangerous Sports and AC/DC.

His games have introduced features like magnetic ball save, video mode, wizard mode, multi-level playfield design, and lane change (among many others) to the pinball industry.

Steve's last game was 2020's Led Zeppelin machine, from Stern Pinball, which would end up being his last design for the company. While he was working on the design for James Bond just before his departure, George Gomez ended up starting over with a fresh design, rather than try to piece together what Ritchie started.

The 10 Best Steve Ritchie Pinball Machines

Steve Ritchie has game design credits for roughly 27 pinball machines dating back to 1977's Airborne Adventure, so this was a tough list to make. There are some personal favorites that didn't quite make the top 10, but we had to draw the line somewhere.

For this ranking, we'll again turn to our (patent pending) Pingorithm® Score system. The Pingorithm® Score represents an aggregate rating (and totally definitive) rating for a pinball machine, based on several publicly available databases. Scores are based on a 1-10 system, with 1 representing total crap and 10 representing the best pinball game ever made.

Star Trek: The Next Generation (Williams, 1993)

star trek the next generation best steve ritchie pinball
  • Manufacturer: Williams Electronic Games, Inc.
  • Game Design: Steve Ritchie
  • Artwork: Greg Freres
  • Software: Dwight Sullivan, Matt Coriale
  • Pingorithm® Score: 8.421

Star Trek: The Next Generation is a pinball machine that is based on the TV show of the same name. It is a wide-body machine, which means it is larger than a standard pinball machine. Wide-body pins come with their own unique characteristics, which some players enjoy, and others do not. Fortunately, Star Trek plays faster than what most wide-body machines are known for, and it makes creative use of the extra playfield space with satisfying ramp shots and some unique mechs.

Although STTNG has some flaws (it's known to break a lot, and the outlanes tend to be super hungry), it is incredibly enjoyable to play when it's dialed in and working properly. It features challenging mode-based play, as well as great callouts and theme integration with many actors from the TV show reprising their roles for the callouts.

Spider-Man (Stern, 2007)

spider-man best steve ritchie pinball machine
  • Manufacturer: Stern Pinball, Inc.
  • Game Design: Steve Ritchie
  • Artwork: Kevin O'Connor, Margaret Hudson, Mark Galvez
  • Software: Lyman F. Sheats Jr.
  • Pingorithm® Score: 8.263

In our view, Spider-Man is a fairly underrated modern Stern pinball machine from Steve Ritchie. It was helped a lot by its re-release several years later with a new comic-oriented art package. But, thanks to code and rules by Lyman Sheats, the game is a ton of fun to play. Shots are fun and satisfying, and there are a lot of achievable multiballs that take pages from other historically popular games like Attack from Mars. Looking at the game today, Spider-Man feels way ahead of its time.

AC/DC (Stern, 2012)

AC/DC best steve ritchie pinball machine
  • Manufacturer: Stern Pinball, Inc.
  • Game Design: Steve Ritchie
  • Software: Lyman F. Sheats Jr.
  • Pingorithm® Score: 8.253

Ready to rock and roll? AC/DC is a simple yet totally awesome pinball game designed by the legendary Steve Ritchie and coded with all of Lyman Sheats' pinball wizardry. Its classic fan layout has been given an edgy makeover for its rocking theme, making it powerfully replayable thanks to deep code and the impact of Ritchie's flow-heavy design aesthetic. If you're looking for something that channels Terminator 2 vibes but cranked up to overdrive - then get ready to hear some serious shredding with this game!

Star Trek (Stern, 2013)

best steve ritchie pinball machines star trek stern
  • Manufacturer: Stern Pinball, Inc.
  • Game Design: Steve Ritchie
  • Software: Lonnie D. Ropp, Tanio Klyce, Waison Cheng
  • Pingorithm® Score: 8.245

Stern's Star Trek is the second Star Trek themed pinball machine produced by Steve Ritche, coming 20 years after his original take on the series, 1993's Star Trek: The Next Generation. This version is themed after the 2009 reboot film with Chris Pine, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldaña, and others. It has 3 flippers, a really fun center bash toy, and ramps that shoot like butter. While there are some nods to design choices that were made in the 1993 game, this Star Trek also stands on its own and is a joy to shoot.

The Getaway: High Speed II (Williams, 1992)

the getaway high speed II best steve ritchie pinball game
  • Manufacturer: Williams Electronic Games, Inc.
  • Game Design: Steve Ritchie
  • Artwork: Doug Watson, Mark Sprenger
  • Software: Dwight Sullivan
  • Pingorithm® Score: 8.067

The sequel to Steve Ritchie's game from 1986, High Speed II, is similar to the original game. In both games, you drive your car as fast as you can and avoid the cops.

But the execution on this one is superior to the original in just about every way. 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 around the metal track quickly for a large point payout.

This game is fast-paced, like most Ritchie games. It also has a lot of flow and is easy to learn and play again, and again, and again. If you're a fan of High Speed, or racing-themed pinball machines, you'll love this game too.

Black Knight: Sword of Rage (Stern, 2019)

black knight sword of rage best steve ritchie game
  • Manufacturer: Stern Pinball, Inc.
  • Game Design: Steve Ritchie
  • Artwork: Kevin O'Connor
  • Software: Tim Sexton
  • Pingorithm® Score: 7.953

To be completely honest, we were surprised when the Pingorithm® placed 2019's Black Knight: Sword of Rage, so highly on this list. After all, it was widely derided by much of the pinball community and its production run was comparatively short for most Stern games.

Black Knight: Sword of Rage completes the Black Knight trilogy of pinball games that started back in 1980 with the original Black Knight and that was followed by 1989's Black Knight 2000. It features a typically tough Ritchie playfield layout, exceptionally well-done artwork, and a killer custom soundtrack by notable guitarist Scott Ian (Anthrax).

For those that love the Steve Ritchie design aesthetic, or mode based play, we can see why this game would resonate. For most in the hobby though, game features and code were lacking on release and many felt the playfield was a bit barren. It can sometimes feel like a Steve Ritchie deep cut - super fans love it, but it's not always the most accessible title for more casual players.

High Speed (Williams, 1986)

best steve ritchie pinball games high speed
  • Manufacturer: Williams Electronic Games, Inc.
  • Game Design: Steve Ritchie
  • Artwork: Mark Sprenger, Python Anghelo
  • Software: Larry DeMar
  • Pingorithm® Score: 7.933

Although High Speed would eventually be dwarfed in just about every respect by its successor, 1992's The Getaway: High Speed II, the first High Speed is still quite a notable entry for 80s pinball machines. Its simple, approachable rules and satisfying shooting is enhanced by one of the best early pinball soundtracks of the time.

High Speed plays fast as most Steve Ritchie games do, and features a lot of top notch sound and callout work alongside the music. Helped revitalize the pinball industry in the mid 1980s as they faced steep competition from video games.

Terminator 2: Judgement Day (Williams, 1991)

best steve ritchie pinball machine terminator 2 judgement day
  • Manufacturer: Williams Electronic Games, Inc.
  • Game Design: Steve Ritchie
  • Artwork: Doug Watson
  • Software: Dwight Sullivan
  • Pingorithm® Score: 7.928

Is Terminator 2: Judgement Day Steve Ritchie's best pinball machine? Definitely not, as made clear by this list! But is it his game with the best theme integration? A case could be made!

Playing Terminator 2: Judgement Day feels like stepping into the world of the hit film, with Arnold at your side as you battle to take down the evil Skynet and the shape-shifting T-1000.

It's generally fun to shoot, and the rules are very approachable, however can feel a bit repetitive on repeat plays. This particular game is notable for being the first to incorporate a video mode into gameplay.

Black Knight 2000 (Williams, 1989)

best steve ritchie pinball machine black knight 2000
  • Manufacturer: Williams Electronic Games, Inc.
  • Game Design: Steve Ritchie
  • Artwork: Doug Watson
  • Software: Ed Boon
  • Pingorithm® Score: 7.874

Black Knight 2000 is the follow-up to 1980's Black Knight, also designed by Ritchie. It essentially takes the best components of the original game (multi-level play, great callouts, fast, flow centric play) and puts it on steroids. Black Knight 2000 is often seen as a better location game than a game for your home collection as like other games of this era, the rules aren't particularly deep, so you'll wind up taking a fairly linear path in order to get high scores. But if you're a Steve Ritchie fan, or have a larger collection, it's a great game to have in your lineup.

Star Wars (Stern, 2017)

best steve ritchie pinball games star wars stern
  • Manufacturer: Stern Pinball, Inc.
  • Game Design: Steve Ritchie
  • Software: Dwight Sullivan, Waison Cheng
  • Pingorithm® Score: 7.859

The 2017 edition of Star Wars can be an incredibly polarizing game. Due primarily to its lack of creative theme integration and artwork (hampered no doubt by the requirements of the licensor), somewhat barren playfield, and confusing as anything multiplier rules.

All that said, it's a game that exudes Steve Ritchie style. It plays fast, it's challenging, exciting, and rewards repeat play. While confusing, the multiplier rules give the game a ton of depth and different ways to play it. Not always the most approachable or enjoyable game for new players, which is a shame given the draw of its theme.

Underrated Steve Ritchie Pinball Favorites Outside the Top 10

  • Game of Thrones
  • No Fear: Dangerous Sports
  • Rollergames