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15 Greatest Pinball Firsts

Pinball Firsts

Pinball is one of our oldest, and greatest, American past times, which is why we’re doing a list of the 15 Greatest Pinball Firsts. Even though it was illegal for years because politicians saw it as a form of gambling (ok, so some of it was), it eventually became known as a game of skill and the rest is history. Even though pinball machines aren’t as popular as they were decades ago, they’re still one of the most entertaining things you can play for a few quarters. Have you ever wondered which machines started the trends we see in later year pinball machines? Well, wonder no more pinheads. We’re going to take a look at the 15 Greatest Pinball Firsts.


15

First split-level playfield

Black Knight (1980)
 
 

You can play on two different planes on the same machine? Yep. Black Knight started the split-level trend in current machines. That's why it's on our list of 15 Greatest Pinball Firsts.

 
Black Knight
14

First pinball to cost 50 cents

Black Hole (1981)
 
 

50 cents? WTF! The others cost a quarter. But if you wanted to play on Black Hole's lower-reversed playing surface (another first), you had to pony up for the privilege.

 
Black Hole
13

Interactive 3D backglass

Scared Stiff (1996)
 
 

Elvira's boobs weren't the only thing worth staring at on this pinball machine. The spinning interactive backglass was also pretty neat to watch.

 
Scared Stiff
12

First movie licensed pinball machine

Wizard! (1975)
 
 

The movies may have sucked (The Shadow, etc.), but the pins they were based off of rocked. Thank 1975's Tommy for starting the trend.

 
Wizard!
11

First talking pinball machine

Gorgar (1979)
 
 

Welcome to the wonderful world of taunting, which is what Gorgar did with its limited vocabulary. Gorgar paved the way for speech-infused pins.

 
Gorgar
10

First hologram

Creature From the Black Lagoon (1992)
 
 

Creature From the Black Lagoon had a great hologram feature in the middle of the playfield. Only problem was, you could drain a ball watching the hologram instead of the action.

 
Creature From the Black Lagoon
9

Swing out cannon that players fire

Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)
 
 

A cannon that you have to fire at the right time to get the bonus? OK, we're down with that. Like Arnold, the cannon came back in other pins.

 
Terminator 2 Judgement Day
8

First electronic multi-ball, animated display, solid state table to feature multi-ball

Firepower (1980)
 
 

Firepower had a lot of firsts, the biggest being the electronic multi-ball feature, which turned crazy action with one ball into stress inducing panic with multiple balls.

 
Firepower
7

First with three inch flippers

Hayburners II (1968)
 
 

Flippers weren't always three inches. But when Hayburners II used them, it created an industry first. And an industry standard. That's why it's on our list of the 15 Greatest Pinball Firsts.

 
Hayburners II
6

First Dot Matrix Display

Checkpoint (1991)
 
 

The first DMD pinball was Checkpoint, paving the way for all new kinds of crazy features that could be implemented into pinball machine displays.

 
Checkpoint
5

First machine with a tilt feature

Broker's Tip (1933)
 
 

Even back in the '30s, people were trying to get that extra edge playing pinball. Broker's Tip put an end to cheat based scoring, and it has been pissing us off ever since.

 
Broker's Tip
4

First to offer extra balls

Flipper (1960)
 
 

If five balls weren't doing it for you, Flipper let you earn an extra one, increasing your play time. It has been an industry first that has been used in just about every pinball machine since.

 
Flipper
3

Backboard replaced with LCD monitor

Wizard of Oz (2012)
 
 

Stern may still be cranking out machines left and right, but Jersey Jack Pinball is paving the way for the next generation of pins with their clever and creative Wizard of Oz. The LCD monitor idea is an awesome one.

 
Wizard of Oz
2

First to use bumpers

Bolo (1936)
 
 

They may not look like the bumpers of today, but they started an industry trend that will never stop.

 
Bolo
1

First to use flippers

Humpty Dumpty (1947)
 
 

Let's face it, pinball would suck if it didn't have flippers. Humpty Dumpty turned pinball from a game of luck into a game of skill, that's why it is the #1 entry in our list of the 15 Greatest Pinball Firsts.

 
Humpty Dumpty

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