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Posted on Sep 21st 2017 at 08:00:00 AM by (NeoMagicWarrior)
Posted under NES, Pinball

Most people do not think of the NES when they think of pinball. They would be very right to forget the small library of sub par pinball games on the otherwise heralded system...but SOMEONE has to play'em right? While it only has a few titles, the NES is certainly one of the places you could play.


Let's start at the beginning, shall we? Pinball was among the first games to be released on the system, being part of the prestigious "Black Box" set of games released by the big N in 1985.

Pinball is setup into two "tiers" of  table, each a separate screen and having a set of flippers. The screens would change as the ball would traverse the boundary between them, rather than scrolling. The top section features 2 orbits , a central bumper, a few lanes and a kickout scoop, while the bottom has some drop targets, 5 lane rollovers, 3 bumpers, 3 chicken rollovers, and another kickout scoop. The bottom playfield is much more interesting, but much more dangerous. There is also a bonus level, featuring everyone's favorite plumber trying to unlock a combination to rescue a damsel in distress, via a Pong-like minigame. Music is non-existent, but some neat sounds and a few small animal sprites help to break it up slightly.

Overall the game feels ok, with some of the angels being a bit weird to hit. The game has no nudging of any kind, so you are just sometimes at the mercy of a bad bounce, which some very rough physics do not help with. Overall, this is one of my favorite games on this list, simply from a simplicity standpoint.


It was not until 1990 that pinball enthusiasts got to sink their teeth into another title for the NES. In fact, the next 4 games all released in the same year! Developed by Hal Laboratories, Rollerball, "The Super Pinball Game That Will Excite and Amuse You", is also a multi tiered machine, similar to Pinball, with 4 highly populated playfields, including rollovers, slot machines, drop targets, and all the usual pinball goodness. The game has a ton to do no matter which level of the playfield you are on. Unlike Pinball, Rollerball features a full soundtrack of one song! The sounds are much better as well. The game is themed with a New York cityscape for some unexplained reason.

I have pretty mixed feelings on Rollerball. On one hand, it is a huge step up in quality from the black box Pinball, but on the other it just lacks the "fun" factor. climbing the playfields up to the top seems impossible, and once you get stuck on a lower level, you seem to never gain the upward momentum needed to get back up. You can do better elsewhere on this list.

Rock 'n' Ball

Rock 'n' Ball is a collection of pinball and pinball-like games, that when combined make a highly mediocre experience. It includes a standard pinball table, a "9-ball" flipperless game, then two battle modes, with one on a standard pinball table, and the other on soccer/hockey tables. Each mode has its own music tracks which, while lower quality that Rollerball, keeps things fresh. The physics leave a bit to be desired, but YOU CAN NUDGE THE TABLES! What Rock 'n Ball makes up for in variations, it loses in quality of the individual tables. Each one feels sparse and bland, and the brutal AI does not help in the slightest.

Rock 'n' Ball is a hard pass from me. Everything it tries to do is done better elsewhere, and in general, it just plays like a flat balloon. Skip this dollar bin title and splurge on literally any other pinball game.

Pinball Quest

Here is the odd ball out of the bunch. Pinball Quest isn't your traditional pinball game; the main mode functions as a sort of "Pinball RPG." You play as a pinball, trying to save a princess from a monster, and need to break through castle walls, defeat evil monsters, visit shops, and navigate puzzles and mazes all while playing pinball. The game features multiple stages and a plethora of things to hit. The physics still feel floaty, and the ball does not sit well on a paddle, but anything is better than Rock 'n' Ball! The graphics and music are passable , and the whole experience comes out above average. Lack of a save feature kinda stinks, but it is short enough to beat in a sitting if you try.

Overall I really like Pinball Quest. Other than Pinball, it makes it to the top end of the list easily with some solid and interesting gameplay. Sure anyone can rescue a princess, but can they do it as a pinball?!

Pin-Bot / High Speed

I'm lumping these two titles together for a few reasons: 1) They were both made by the same developer, Rare (Pin-Bot in '90 and High Speed in '91), 2) They are both recreations of real-life Williams pinball machines, and 3) They practically play the same outside of table differences. Both games play relatively like their real life counterparts (Disclaimer: I've only ever played a High Speed machine one time), although with some very screwed up physics. The scrolling effect in these games is interesting, as the flippers constantly stay on the screen no matter what is going on in the game, giving you a greater feel of control, and a better view of the the action.

I really like these two carts, especially Pin-Bot. They got the voices and nuances down pretty well, and even though the physics are poor, they are some of the best on the NES. The games also sound and look good, save for the grainy art style. All in all, they are a solid 3/4 out of 6 games on the system.

So the NES isn't really where you should go looking for pinball games...you shouldn't order a steak at a chain restaurant, but people still do and they are fine after the food poisoning goes away. There are still some solid titles worth checking out (and a few liquidy ones too), and overall Pinball on the NES is and enjoyable alternative if you can't get to a real machine...or any other game system with pinball games...or a computer...or just a crumpled piece of paper you can bat around with a stick. You get the idea.

Till Next Time!
(Note: I skipped my usual of adding tons of pictures, instead focusing on Youtube links. The feel of these games in motion is sometimes more important. Special thanks to NESGuides on Youtube for the videos!)

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While I never really got into the pinball games on the NES, I did get pretty nostalgic when I watched Nintendo Pinball and Pin-Bot.  Pin-Bot is alright, but at the time I remember thinking this was as close to real pinball we were gonna see on outside of Pinball Petes, and I guess Pinball because it is well...  NES Pinball, which being a black box game really holds a special place in my memories, and usually gets us older folk talking about out first experiences with the NES.  I still remember seeing all the black box games lined up on pegs at the local Kmart.  *sigh*
I played a ton of High Speed when I was trying to beat as many NES games as I could. It took a lot of patience. One thing you didn't mention about High Speed is that they programmed enemies in it that would shuffle across the playfield and interfere with your ball if they connected with it. They were super annoying.

Pinball Quest I round very satisfying. Was a very cool concept and relatively well well executed.

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