From Game Console to Pinball Machine: 12 Video Game Themes Fans Want to See 

From Game Console to Pinball Machine: 12 Video Game Themes Fans Want to See 
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From Game Console to Pinball Machine: 12 Video Game Themes Fans Want to See 
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From Game Console to Pinball Machine: 12 Video Game Themes Fans Want to See 
Published on
February 8, 2023
Updated on
May 6, 2024
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HBO is having a moment thanks to the success of their Sunday night drama The Last of Us, based on the 2013 PlayStation game that sees a smuggler named Joel escorting a teenager, Ellie, across a post-apocalyptic country full of zombie-esque threats. Only four episodes in and it’s received critical acclaim and a growing fanbase, so it’s only a matter of time before we see other video game adaptations pop up in TV and film and, hey, why not in pinball, too? 

A piece of IP with a large following is a way to expose fans to new mediums, and putting these video game themes into pinball machines is a good way to draw in younger generations. 

After all, what’s more relevant today to a 12-year-old? Fortnite or Rush?


pokemon pinball machine

It was 1996 when a pair of video games for the Nintendo Game Boy called Pokémon Red and Pokémon Blue were released. Players caught, trained, and battled the titular Pokémon - essentially little monsters with different abilities and strengths - against other Pokémon. This simple game turned out to be one of the highest-grossing media franchises of all time, spawning more video games, trading card games, anime TV shows, movies, merch, and toys. Yet no pinball machine (sorry, Pokémon Pinball for Game Boy Color doesn’t count). What Pokémon needs to be caught to make this happen? 

Hunting mode transforms the playfield into a Pokémon-filled world where pinballs are swapped out for Poké Balls, and players can aim them at Pokémon with hopes to collect them and build out their inventory. Battle mode highlights an arena setting where players choose one of their Pokémon to put into a battle. Hit the right drop targets or ramp shots to trigger hidden abilities, like Pikachu sending his lightning rod across the playfield. Try resisting screaming, “Gotta Catch ‘Em All!” as the theme song blares during battle. 

Bonus - with the popularity of Pokémon Go, could you imagine the things Stern could do with Insider Connected tie-ins? Collect each pin from different locations!

Sonic the Hedgehog

sonic the hedgehog pinball machine

Sega Genesis owed a lot of their success to a little blue hedgehog named Sonic. Debuting in 1991, the speedy Sonic was the platform’s main competitor to Nintendo’s Mario. Flying through levels while collecting rings and battling Doctor Eggman, Sonic the Hedgehog was a fan favorite and became Sega’s prize franchise and one of the best selling video game franchises. There was even a 1993 pinball-centric spinoff called Sonic Spinball.

Inspired by Sonic Spinball, pit Sonic against Doctor Eggman in a pinball machine whose playfield leads to Eggman’s fortress atop an active volcano. With a blue-colored pinball representing a curled up Sonic, players send him through lanes, rails, and the iconic loops to collect rings and Chaos Emeralds. Send Sonic into a Tails toy where his two-tailed fox buddy can fly him to an upper playfield. 

Or maybe we scratch this idea and put this fan-made Sonic Spinball pinball machine into mass production! Fun fact - the creator of the Sonic Spinball machine, Ryan McQuaid, works for American Pinball.

Super Mario Bros.

super mario bros pinball machine

Video games would be nothing without the Italian brothers known as Mario and Luigi. One of the greatest video games of all time, not to mention one of the best selling, these overall-wearing plumbers changed gaming forever when they were released in 1985, and they continue to dominate the landscape with their long-running game series, TV shows, and even feature films. Gottlieb manufactured a Super Mario Bros. pinball machine in 1992, but the casual game is due for an upgrade. 

Navigate the Mushroom Kingdom by sending the ball through the iconic green pipes, targeting drops to collect coins and eat mushrooms to grow bigger, and performing skill shots to gain more lives. Replace bumpers with Koopa shells, and make way to the upper playfield (or maybe an updated take on a video mode) to take on Bowser in his castle. 

Legend of Zelda 

legend of zelda pinball machine

Another Nintendo classic, The Legend of Zelda takes place in the fictional and medieval-inspired Hyrule and sees the elfish protagonist Link seek out princess Zelda and defeat the demon king, Ganon. First released in 1986, the series now has 19 entries and counting, with a few entries considered some of the best video games out there. Perhaps a special tune on the Ocarina of Time will conjure up a pinball machine.

Traverse an open world playfield to collect rupees and weapons. Toggle through collected weapons to change the impact of the flippers, and just for frustrating fun, the flippers can “break” when overused, just like Link’s weapons. Section off the playfield with water, air, sand, and volcano elements, and collect the Master Sword to get to the ultimate wizard mode to defeat Ganon.

Resident Evil 

resident evil pinball machine

Raccoon City, the isolated mountain city wiped out by the T-virus outbreak and now home to zombies, creatures, and other unspeakable evil, is where players call home in Resident Evil. Released by Capcom in 1996, it is their best selling franchise, as well as the best selling horror game series. 

Spooky Pinball would benefit to add this survival horror hit on their to-make list. A creepy score, a dreadful backglass, and killer monster toys are just a few ways this pinball machine could scare up an audience.  

Call of Duty

call of duty pinball machine

This first-person shooter was released in 2003, and while first focusing its games on World War II, subsequent games put players in the Cold War, futuristic wars, and even fighting in the present day. Guinness World Records verified the series as the best selling first-person shooter game series. It’s also the most successful video game franchise made in the US and the fourth best selling video game franchise of all time. 

It seems like Activision is already a fan of pinball, given that Call of Duty: Cold War features an easter egg arcade room that features one of the maps from a previous Call of Duty game as a pinball machine. Multiple modes could shift the playfield between the various Call of Duty wars and battles, or maybe a real canceled title would do better as a pinball game, like Call of Duty: Roman Wars


halo pinball machine

Master Chief, the protagonist of the Halo series, and his first-person shooting in the Human-Covenant War helped Xbox make a case for itself. Its success led the military sci-fi franchise to 15+ games, graphic novels, animated movies, and a live-action TV show. 

A pinball machine pumping out the game’s Gregorian chant theme music would draw any fan’s attention. Toggle between modes to explore space or to board ships and fight the enemy. With a deep story that features a complex history, a Halo pinball machine would be a great way to expand that world’s narrative and learn something new. 


fortnite pinball machine

The most Gen Z game on this list, the online video game Fortnite was released in 2017 and gained popularity thanks to its three game modes: a Battle Royale where 100 players fight to be the last one alive, a Save the World mode where players fight zombies and try to survive, and lastly a sandbox mode where players can get creative and make their own arenas, worlds and game modes. Battle Royale became a cultural phenomenon, even responsible for getting Fortnite dances trending. 

Find the loot llama to start a secret multiball mode, upgrade weapons with combo shots, explore different maps via modes, and, staying true to its origin, connect online for a multiplayer experience to really push pinball forward.


castlevania pinball machine

Dracula takes center stage in Castlevania, the 1986 Nintendo game that sees vampire hunters seek out Dracula in his castle. The franchise released new games for almost 30 years, not to mention comic books and an animated TV show. It’s known as one of Konami’s most successful franchises. 

Transforming Dracula’s castle into a pinball machine would entice any vampire hunter. Great graphics and the original music provide a horror/gothic atmosphere. Hit drop targets to open Dracula’s coffin, let light in, and perform other attacks. Pepper the playfield with the notable bosses Queen Medusa, Mummy Man, Frankenstein and Igor, the Grim Reaper, and of course the Count, himself. 

Grand Theft Auto

grand theft auto gta pinball machine

In the way of every teen who wanted to play Grand Theft Auto when it came out in 1997 was a parent who didn’t want their child playing a violent game as a criminal rising in the seedy underbelly of the city. The success of the open world video game opened the franchise up to a dozen plus other games, making it one of the most popular gaming franchises. 

It’s criminal that there hasn’t been a GTA pinball machine yet. Target cars to steal, people to kill, and get your ball into hideouts when the police helicopter toy makes its round. Complete the ultimate mode to be made criminal kingpin. Sure, maybe not the most family-friendly theme, there would be a market for it!  

World of Warcraft

world of warcraft pinball machine

It’s no coincidence this game is abbreviated as WoW, given that one might utter that word when they look at the impact of this massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) released in 2004. In World of Warcraft, orcs, taurens, trolls, elves, dwarves, and other characters populate the world. Play solo or with others to complete quests, fight monsters and conquer dungeons. 

Choose your race and class to unlock special modes or scoring opportunities throughout the game (think Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or Game of Thrones). Shoot the scoop to enter a dungeon and kill the bosses with some well-timed combo shots to get the super jackpot.

Dragon’s Lair

dragon's lair pinball machine

Innovative when it was released in 1983, Dragon’s Lair edged out its competition by using laserdisc to deliver graphics superior to any other game in the arcade. It flew too close to the sun, though, given that no home system could handle said graphics, so abridged versions were released under different names. The premise had the knight Dirk the Daring saving Princess Daphne from a dastardly wizard’s castle protected by an evil dragon. 

While fans wait for the Indiegogo-funded movie to come out - with Dirk being voiced by Ryan Reynolds - why not build hype and interest by releasing a Dragon’s Lair pinball machine? Rumor has it there’s an officially-licensed machine in development in Italy. It’s a great theme and hopefully there’s a killer video mode that showcases the once too powerful graphics.