It’s a question that comes up all the time, what are the top pinball machines of all time? A while back Pinside came up with their top 100 list, and that’s become the go to place for ratings, taking the crown from ipdb.org‘s Top 300 list. Part of that probably stems from the fact that ipdb requires user registration to see the lists while Pinside lists are available for everyone to see.
Is the list accurate?
Well, that kind of depends on what kind of player you are. If you are a player who likes theme, art, and toys above everything else, the list could be pretty accurate for you. If you’re a person who likes deep rulesets more than anything else, then the list probably isn’t very accurate in that manor. The list is somewhat weighted towards art/theme/toys more than rules, and the rankings reflect that for the most part. For instance, Tales of the Arabian Nights is, by most accounts, not a very good game for home use. It’s beautiful to look at it and is very cool, but after you play it a few times you start to realize that it doesn’t shoot the best and the rules aren’t very good overall unfortunately.
It also usually puts newer games above older games for the most part except for some of the all time greats. There are very few games from the 80’s on the list, and every time a new game comes out usually a game from the 90’s/early 00’s gets pushed out, making the list very heavy with recent games.
The other problem is that people have gone out of their way to ‘rig’ the rankings with false really low scores and high scores. I think the developers of Pinside were notified of the issue but to my knowledge nothing was ever done about it (other than the ability to flag a review). It was suggested that the top 10% and bottom 10% be dropped to make the reviews more accurate and I would tend to agree with that sentiment in order to filter out stuff outside the mean.
Should I trust their rankings with buying decisions?
I would say no, the best thing to do is to play the game first. If that isn’t possible, the next best thing to do is actually read the user reviews. Typically if a game has a glaring flaw, you’ll see it mentioned over and over again in the user reviews. Like in the Tales of the Arabian Nights reviews you’d probably see tons of references to poor rules. If the flaw is something you really care about, it’s probably going to be one of those games you’d better off just playing at a friends house and not owning.