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Jeff Bakalar's Top 10 IPs That Should Immediately be Pinball Machines

Let us continue to indulge Jeff Bakalar as he thinks of pinball, and only of pinball, for his 2020 list.

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Jeff Bakalar is an Editor at Large at CBS Interactive and one of CNET's youngest and brightest YouTube stars. He's currently featured as a permanent rotating chair guest-host on The Giant Beastcast. Follow him on Twitter if you want to keep abreast of which pinball machines he's currently spending his child's college funds on.

I know, I know. You came here expecting to read about my top 10 video games of the year and you’re getting some fantasy pinball list instead. Alex asked me if I’d do another list this year and I agreed and then proceeded to do something totally different than what we discussed. Life’s not very fair, is it?

But fuck, that’s just the kind of year it’s been, right? OK, fine. You want some games? I really liked The Last of Us Part II, Hades, and Paper Mario: The Origami King. Happy? Great.

One day I’d love to design a pinball game, and while I realize theme decisions are based on what’s going to sell well, resonate with multiple generations of potential players, and, most importantly, what’s going to get people to keep popping in quarters, there is something really satisfying about coming up with pinball themes that have a close to zero percent chance of ever being made.

A few things to keep in mind while you read through this: most pinball games abide by a similar set of rules and mechanics. While no two games are the same, they almost always have multiballs, game modes, spinners, drop and stand-up targets, objectives and usually some kind of mechanical gimmick (or toy) that is more or less the game’s defining feature. For example, Funhouse has a possessed ventriloquist dummy’s head mounted in the playfield (You know, for funsies!).

So for my list I’ll be providing a short synopsis and overview of the game and include ideas for a featured toy, main objective/game modes, multiballs, callouts (sound effects, usually voices) and anything else worth describing. This here handy image does a good job of labeling all the parts of a game if you need a guide.

For example, if I were describing The Addams Family game, it would look like this:

The Addams Family

Insert coin sound: Gomez shriek

Main Objective: Start various modes via the electric chair shot all while collecting G-R-A-V-E and G-R-E-E-D stand-up target shots.

Gimmick/Featured Toy:

  • A working revolving bookcase
  • Thing hand that grabs the ball with a magnet
  • Electric chair scoop

Modes:

  • The Mamushka
  • Train Wreck
  • Bear Kicks
  • Mansion rooms and more

Other multiballs: Collect G-R-E-E-D, Thing multiball, Séance multiball

Notable callouts:

  • “Gomez!”
  • “‘Tish!”
  • “Dirty Pool old man, I like it!”

So come along and join me on a ride through the ridiculousness of dream pinball designs:

10. Giant Bomb’s The Giant Beastcast pinball machine game

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Listen, this is my list and I’m doing whatever the hell I want. So if I want to design a fantasy pinball game around our podcast with inside jokes that only a select few are gonna understand, I’m gonna do that.

With that disclaimer out of the way, Beastcast pinball is a traditional two-flipper game with a deep rule set yet a total lack of organization or flow. Player can select to play as their favorite host before plunging and can earn Austin Walker or Ron Funches as a guest.

Insert coin sound: “SPACE JAM!”

Main Objective: Collect five podcast hosts in time to start the show, no pee-pee breaks.

Gimmick/Featured Toys:

  • Each host is represented with a full 3D statue on the playfield, each with four moving mechanical parts of articulation
  • A plunged ball passes through the face of a sound mixer, bouncing off knobs and levelers before it enters the main playfield
  • Spinning chair toy sits in front of pop-bumper pit and increases all jackpot bonuses when spun

Modes:

  • Dan Ryckert mode: just hold the ball with a flipper and do nothing for an instant jackpot
  • Postcard hunt: Find all the lost postcards by hitting the B-E-A-S-T drop targets and the C-O-R-R-E-C-T-I-O-N-S stand-up targets, completing mode lights extra ball
  • Pop-bumpers randomize an active Transformer which decides playfield bonus X
  • Reach 100 on the Sims plumbob spinners to start Popcorn Abby Multiball
  • Time.is jackpot earned by hitting any two targets at the same time

Other multiballs: Corrections! multiball, Dr. Halo multiball, Kiss-on-the-cheek multiball

Notable callouts:

  • “Woooooaaaaawwww!”
  • “Smoke on the street!”
  • “Faaaantastic!”
  • “I’d be an in-play racquetball.”
  • “My name is Margaret and I’m from Australia!”

9. Ska show pinball: the 5th? wave!

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We’ll have to ask the amazing Skatune Network for music accompaniment here.

Insert coin sound: "Schik-a-schik"

Main Objective: Collect and load-in the 11 bands on the bill for tonight’s show. Make sure not to break anything because we’re all sharing the equipment!

Gimmick/Featured Toys:

  • Full black and white checkerboard flooring in lower playfield
  • Concert stage and “skanking pit” built into the rear
  • “Skanking guy” and “Skanking girl” spring-loaded toys on opposite sides of the playfield
  • Beat up U-Haul trailer locks balls for “Load-in Multiball”

Modes:

  • Circuit breaker mode: consecutive orbit shots to ensure the power in the venue stays on! Completing mode will light extra ball
  • Spit valve savior: drain all the brass instruments to complete the mode and lock in a descending jackpot
  • Light the stage: you got asked to control the lights for the band, hit consecutive shots so they don’t look like idiots up there
  • $5 cover: This place isn’t even a real venue, hit the orbit spinners to collect money from everyone who showed up
  • Collect buttons in outlanes and patches in inlanes

Other multiballs: Merch multiball

Notable callouts: Mostly just various ways of doing that "schik-a-schik" sound, with an occasional "Pick-it-up!" for good measure.

8. Die Hard

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Finally, the first Christmas movie to get a pinball machine.

Insert coin sound: “Welcome to the party, pal!”

Main Objective: Eliminate all the terrorists from Nakatomi Plaza and save as many hostages as possible.

Gimmick/Featured Toy:

  • Each plunged ball breaks pre-shattered candy glass at top of playfield, which is pulled back together with fine fishing line
  • Fully sculpted and lit Nakatomi Plaza sits in the back-center of the playfield
  • Two working elevator doors that sit in front of left and right ramp
    • Left elevator houses “Now I have a Machine Gun, Ho-Ho-Ho” drop-target
  • Sgt. Al Powell’s destroyed police car crashed into a pop-bumper
  • SWAT team tank sculpt
  • Pack of cigarettes and Zippo lighter built into apron

Modes:

  • Get my detonators! Hit consecutive shots to stop Hans from getting his detonators
  • Rooftop showdown: avoid helicopter spotlights by hitting lit shots
  • Collect cigarettes to add to Bonus X because everyone in this movie is actively smoking a fucking cigarette
  • Air duct challenge: hit air duct railing ramp shots to increase jackpot multiplier
  • Shut Up, Ellis: Hit walkie-talkie spinners to shut that douchebag up because that shit head doesn’t not know what kind of man you are, but you do.

Other multiballs: Twinkie multiball, Special Agent Johnsons multiball (no relation)

Notable callouts:

  • “Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker!”
  • “No shit Hans, what do you think I am, stupid?”
  • “The quarterback is TOAST!”
  • “Tell me you got that!?”
  • “Hans, bubee”
  • “I love you too, Roy”
  • "I was in junior high, dickhead"
  • “Let’s see you take this under advisement, jerkweed.”
  • “I read about them in Time Magazine.”

7. Ghost pinball: Life Eternal

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Here’s a totally selfish pick, but for what it’s worth the band’s lead singer Tobias Forge totally wants a game made. Whether or not the band’s brand has the pull to sell games is another story, but I wouldn’t rule this out as something that could never actually happen.

Look, the band continues to crank out banger after banger, so making this one that celebrates the entire discography seems like a no-brainer. I love how Jersey Jack’s Guns ‘N Roses allows you to perform a song mid-game, so let’s borrow that model for Ghost pinball: Life Eternal.

Insert coin sound: Doomy church bell

Main Objective: Satan wishes to collect all of the various frontmen that have graced the band. Collect Papa Emeritus I-IV, Nihil, and Cardinal Copia while completing select songs from the band’s library.

Gimmick/Featured Toy:

  • “Underworld” game that sits below the playfield, visible through a transparent stained glass floor
  • Large Square Hammer “slams” ball into underworld
  • Big giant satanic rat, glowing red eyes follow the ball
  • Imitation pyro effect in pop-bumper pit
  • Stained glass plastics throughout
  • Authentic Papa costumes scattered throughout: Cardinal hat, robes and staff.

Modes:

  • Solo survivor: Hurry-up mode to keep a solo going (player selects solo at start). Complete one solo to light extra ball
  • Activate Nameless Ghouls via left and right pentagram spinners
    • Collect band members to capture a Papa
    • Collect all Papas to make satanic offering
  • If You Have Ghosts: find and collect all hidden ghost shots while this amazing Roky Erickson cover song plays
  • Complete two full songs to unlock disco dance party during “Dance Macabre”

Other multiballs: Nameless Ghoul multiball

Notable callouts: “Belial, Behemoth, Beelzebub, Asmodeus, Satanas, Lucifer!”

6. My Cousin Vinny

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OK. After reading my number six dream pinball game, the first thing out of your mouth may in fact be “c’mon, man.” And that’s a valid response. Totally fair. But hear me out.

Part of this exercise is to be so ridiculous that it just might be crazy enough to work. And for that reason, I think MCV could make for an absolutely killer pin.

Insert coin sound: First Coin “Two Yutes.” Second Coin “Two what?”

Main Objective: Complete all witness questioning before two innocent boys get the electric chair for a crime they did not commit.

Gimmick/Featured Toys:

  • Main playfield theme is the Alabama courtroom, but sectioned out are scenes depicting the “mud in the tires” car with its wheels spinning and other locations on Main Street like the Pool Hall entrance.
  • Sack of Suds storefront complete with getaway tire marks
  • Alabama Dept. of Corrections bus collects and locks balls for Contempt Multiball
  • Gavel mechanical left outlane kickback

Modes:

  • Jerry Callo: complete three orbits to ensure the Judge doesn’t discover that the real Jerry Callo is dead
  • Factory whistle hurry-up: complete three lit shots to silence the factory whistle and light extra ball for a good night's sleep
  • Plead entry mode: Hit “Guilty/Not Guilty” spinner shots to answer a very simple question
  • Find a suit mode: hit flashing shots to search for suit (mode is endless because the suit store is closed. They had the flu. The whole store.)
  • Collect $200 from JT: hit pop-bumpers to start Pool Hall Hustle. Complete lit combos to collect jackpot (jackpot wrapped around a bunch of smaller jackpots awarded for lower combo score)
  • Grits hurry-up
  • Biological clock hurry-up: hit various shots to change the subject with Mona Lisa Vito
  • Hit 7-5-R-1-4 drop-targets to start Trick Question multiball
  • Complete Witness Questioning and collect Final Evidence to unlock Mona Lisa Vito's Testimony

Other multiballs: Positraction multiball

Notable callouts:

  • “I-*clap*-dentical!”
  • “Fry ‘em”
  • “It’s called disclosure ya dickhead!”
  • “Imagine you’re a deer…”
  • “Everything that guy just said is bullshit!”
  • “How many fingers am I holding up now, dear?”
  • “Are you sure about that five minutes?!?”
  • “I shot the clerk?!”
  • “I’m positive”
  • *and owl screech*

5. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

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I just think 14 seasons worth of this show means it can appeal to a huge range of fans and let's be honest, that opening credits music alone would be enough.

Player can choose between two main objectives at the start of the game with left and right flippers.

Insert coin sound: “Dayman!”

Main Objective(s): a) Help Charlie hide Paddy’s seriously terrible deficiencies and gross health violations so that the bar receives a passing grade, or b) Complete “The Nightman Cometh” acts in succession

Gimmick/Featured Toys:

  • Rotating stage depicting a scene from “The Nightman Cometh,” complete with light show, curtains and fog machine
  • Rest of playfield represents Paddy’s Pub, complete with bar and high-top pop-bumpers
  • Cricket dumpster in rear opens/closes to lock balls for Dumpster Multiball
  • Half eaten can of cat food built into apron
  • Replica of Dennis’ Range Rover submerged in water

Modes:

  • Find Frank’s gun by hitting 100 pop-bumpers
  • Paint-huffing mode: forces Charlie to complete tasks in reverse order
  • Pay the Troll Toll: Troll scoop shot starts three-shot succession hurry-up, completion lights extra ball
  • Collect the gang’s names to start their respective modes:
    • D-E-E drop targets starts wild bird chase (completing shots awards timed descending jackpot)
    • C-H-A-R-L-I-E stand-up targets awards red-thread corkboard jackpot
    • M-A-C drop-targets starts “ocular patdown” mode
    • D-E-N-N-I-S stand-up targets starts, well, The Dennis System of course.
      • Starting all gang modes lights “Pay Tribute” replay
  • McPoyle spinners trigger milk bonus
  • Toe knife mode: Hit shots and prevent Frank from cutting himself
  • Waitress Mode: penalizes player for hitting flashing shots

Other multiballs: Boiled denims multiball, Wade Boggs Challenge multiball (only 1 flipper will work)

Notable callouts:

  • “Shut up you bird!”
  • “Ohhhh goddamnit Charlie!”
  • “Be gone with you!”
  • “Cat in the wall!”
  • “Rum ham!”
  • “God smites those who love fun, so God hates pinball!” (we’ll get him to record this I hope)

4. Hackers pinball: The Gibson

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OK, here’s where you start to think to yourself, “oh god this is just dumb shit that Jeff likes a lot getting turned into pinball machines.” Well yeah, that’s what this list is all about, but there’s not gonna be a hockey pinball game on this list, I promise!

Insert coin sound: “Hack the Planet!”

Main Objective: Collect and upload each hacker’s virus and take down the Gibson.

Gimmick/Featured Toys:

  • Entire playfield is a translucent acrylic with lit graphic projection from below that resembles the Gibson flythroughs from the film
  • Lockdown bar features small QWERTY keyboard for entering passwords from your arsenal (you can’t get any help from us).

Modes:

  • Hit 200 spins on Razer and Blade spinners to start “Hackers of the World Unite” hurry-up
  • Hit G-I-L-L dropdown targets to start “screw over Special Agent Gill” mode
  • OTV attack mode: chase lit shots to stop Acid Burn from taking over the TV station, completion lights extra ball
  • Pop-bumper bonuses stabilize tankers at sea and prevent them from capsizing
  • Technicolor rainbow mode: Collect all instructional manual books including the ugly red book that won’t fit on a shelf
  • Collect everyone’s viruses to start “Fight the Plague” mode which will unlock “Hack the Gibson” mode

Other multiballs: Cyberdelia multiball, Da Vinci multiball

Notable callouts:

  • “Razor and Blade?! They’re freaks!”
  • “It’s my subway defense system”
  • “Yo, Joey is buggin’!”
  • “I’m Zero Cool”
  • “It’s in that place where I put that thing that time”
  • “The Phantom Phreak? The king of Nynex?”
  • “We have no names man! No names!”

3. The Fifth Element

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I will help pay to fund the creation of this game.

Insert coin sound: “Supergreen”

Main Objective: Collect the four element stones and get Leeloo to the temple in time to defeat Mr. Shadow.

Gimmick/Featured Toys:

  • Korben’s cab replica in playfield, hole in roof holds ball locks for Air Taxi Multiball
  • Flhoston Paradise hotel lobby replica with stairway ramps
  • Zorg™ ZF-1 replica (good for righties and lefties)
  • Monodshawan pop-bumpers with RGB LEDs and realistic “waddle”
  • Three spinning Mangalore bust targets
  • Leeloo Dallas and Korben Dallas multipasses built into apron
  • Save Ruby Rodd: hit consecutive shots to keep Ruby and his broadcast alive

Modes:

  • Leeloo reconstruction: collect five shots to reconstruct Leeloo
  • Yellow Circles: hit the yellow stand-up targets to cash in Autowash Jackpot! Complete mode to light extra ball
  • Light and collect Earth, Fire, Wind, and Water elements to unlock “Race to the Temple” mode
  • Plava Laguna performance: hit multiple targets to complete her solo, increase jackpot for synced shots
  • Air ship escape: Hit combos to escape the air ship before it explodes
  • Activate the stones: once modes are complete, activate stones by completing shots. Hit L-E-E-L-O-O to begin final ultimate weapon creation

Other multiballs: Multipass multiball (obviously), Big bada boom multiball

Notable callouts:

  • “I am a meat popsicle”
  • “Chicken. Good.”
  • “T-t-t-t-t-he Fifth Element!”
  • “You’re a monster, Zorg” “I know”
  • “Bada! Big! Big bada boom!”
  • “Aziz, light!”
  • “You know I have a show to run? And it must POP POP POP!”
  • “Finger’s gonna kill me”
  • “Gemini!”
  • “She knows it’s a multipass!”
  • “Bzzz-zzzzzz!”

2. Beetlejuice

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I guess there are a few classic Burton films that could get the pin treatment--we already have 1991’s Batman from Data East. And sure, there might as well be a Nightmare Before Christmas game too, but I think Beetlejuice edges it out as the second-best possible Burton franchise ripe for a pinball adaptation.

Insert coin sound: “I’m the ghost with the most, babe.”

Main Objective: Beetlejuice has escaped the model. Defeat all of his traps and send him back to the afterlife for good before he tries to marry Lydia.

Gimmick/Featured Toy:

  • Mini-model of Winter River in upper playfield with mini-flippers and balls
  • Beetlejuice snake railing runs along the side of the left ramp
  • Sandworm tunnel ramp on the right side
  • Mechanical and rotating Beetlejuice “Umbrella-head” carousel elevates from below playfield for specific modes
  • Shrimp cocktail pop-bumpers with animatronic tail fingers
  • Delia’s sculptures with moving arms to hug/lock balls for multiball

Modes:

  • Day-O dinner mode: complete the dance around the table to light extra ball
  • Hit consecutive combo shots to read Handbook for the Recently Deceased
  • Polaroid Frenzy: Hit flashing targets to help Lydia take pictures of the ghosts who cut holes in her mother’s sheets
  • Awake Beetlejuice: Help Adam and Barbara dig up BJ via coffin scoop shot
  • Otho Seance: Hit lit shots to Battle Otho’s seance as he tries to summon Adam and Barbara
  • Shake Señora: bonus jackpot mode

Other multiballs: Juno multiball, Maxie Dean multiball

Notable callouts:

  • “We’ve come for your daughter, Chuck” starts snake-railing multiball
  • “Daaaaay-O”
  • “I too am strange and unusual”
  • “Barbara, I don’t think we survived that crash”
  • “Nice fucking model!” *honk honk*
  • “What do we have here tonight, kids?”
  • “If you don't let me gut out this house and make it my own, I will go insane and I will take you with me!”

1. Pee Wee’s Big Pinball Adventure

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Shoutout to Twitch user dirtytea who suggested this to me in a recent pinball stream I was hosting. Once I heard it a dozen ideas flew into my head. This one’s a no-brainer. Actually, how the hell is this not a game yet?

Insert coin sound: Pee-Wee’s “huh-hah!” laugh

Main Objective: Collect all locations from the film, defeat Francis and recover your stolen bike.

Gimmick/Featured Toys:

  • Dream sequence bike rotating platform that lowers below playfield during specific game modes, of course accompanied with Danny Elfman’s “clown nightmare music.”
  • Various Rube Goldberg-ian toys themed along with the opening “Breakfast scene.”
  • Small miniature Alamo
  • Tiger-emblem from bike emblazoned on top of three pop-bumpers
  • Classic Danny Elfman score throughout

Modes:

  • Madame Ruby: Hit flashing shots before Madame Ruby takes your entire jackpot
  • Hitchhike Mode: Combo ramps to catch a ride with someone who cut one of those little tags off a mattress
  • Pet shop rescue: Free the animals from the Pet Shop fire by hitting lit shots (please don’t forget the snakes)
  • Large Marge mode: hitch a ride via either orbit and then tell everyone Large Marge sentcha
  • Hollywood lot fiasco: Hit flashing shots to make your way through the studio backlots
  • Tequila! Complete bartop dance and avoid getting murdered at a biker bar

Other multiballs: Dinosaur park chase multiball

Notable callouts:

  • “I’m a loner, Dottie. A rebel.”
  • “I know what you are but what am I?”
  • “Paging Dr. Herman”
  • “Simone!”
  • “Was the worst damn accident I’d ever seen!”
  • “There’s no basement at the Alamo!”
  • “The stars at night are big and bright! Deep in the heart of Texas!”
  • “I’m trying to use the phone!”