What’s the best pinball machine for the money? Obviously that’s going to be a very subjective argument, and will probably depend on what kind of a player you are. I’m going to separate my advice into three sections, the one with the best ruleset for the money, the one with the best toys/stuff for the money, and the one with the best combo of the two.
Best pinball machine for the money (ruleset)
For the ruleset part, almost everything to be considered is going to be a modern stern. A few years you probably could have made the argument that some Bally Williams game were in the mix but the price inflation on those titles has taken them out of the mix. For rulesheet contenders, I would narrow it down to:
- Stargate, 2 wizard modes, 8 multiballs, 6 modes, around $2000.
- The Walking Dead, super deep rulesheet, $4500 used.
- Metallica, also super deep rulesheet, $4500 used.
- X-Men, also super deep rulesheet, $4000 used.
Winner, The Walking Dead. Developed by Lyman Sheets, it’s a great example of what can be done with pinball rules.
Best pinball machine for the money (toys)
For the toys part, it’s almost the opposite, everything that is going to be considered is going to be Bally Williams. The flip side is that most of the games with great toys are also very expensive, like the castle on Medieval Madness. For the toys contenders, I would narrow it down to:
- Star Trek The Next Generation, around $4000 to $4500 used.
- The Shadow, around $3000 used.
- Jurassic Park, around $3000 used.
And the winner would be the Shadow. It has the battlefield, the hidden ball trick, and movable ramp selectors, all for $3000. Jurassic Park has one of the coolest toys ever, the ball eating dinosaur but it isn’t enough to beat the shadow.
Best pinball machine for the money (combo)
For the combo part, I selected the following games from above:
- The Shadow
- The Walking Dead
This is a pretty tough choice, and my recommendation will basically be based upon budget. If you’ve only got $2000, go Stargate, if you’ve got $3000 go Shadow, and if you’ve $4500 go Walking Dead. I’m actually trying to find a Walking Dead machine myself.
Hopefully this rundown will help you make a good decision on buying a pinball machine. If you like this list, check out my Best Pinball Machines For Home Use list.