Gottlieb was the dominant pinball manufacturer for a long time, from the 50’s through the late 70’s. When it came to the older EM games, nobody made better games than Gottlieb. When things changed over to digital, Gottlieb sadly fell way behind very quickly. It was a combination of Bally making really good licensed games with Gottlieb having boardset issues that caused them to slowly fall behind.
They did make some gems though, and I’m going to run through their best games from 1978 to present.
This 1995 classic was in my opinion the best game they made in the DMD era. Featuring 2 wizard modes and a mini wizard mode, it has a ton of depth and multiballs (8) to keep you busy. It has some pretty cool modes as well that offer a lot of strategy.
Probably the biggest drawback is that depending on your skill level, it can become pretty easy after a while. The flippers on DMD era Gottliebs allow you to cradle the ball really easy, making the pyramid shot easier than it should be.
It’s the only Gottlieb game in the Pinside top 100 list.
#2) Joker Poker
One of the best classic card game pinball machines, you try and form hands by shoot different banks of drop targets. It’s very intuitive and easy to play, and has a really good ‘one more game’ pull to it.
It’s a game that you can put anyone in front of and explain the rules in like 15 seconds, which is a great game for new players.
#3) Black Hole
Black Hole was a very innovative game when it came out. The first game with a lower playfield under the normal one, it was a cool concept that is still fun today. Frankly, it’s hard to think of a lower playfield that’s actually better than Black Hole’s.
It’s also a pretty hard game, if you can’t do well on the lower playfield, it will shoot it right down the outlane. The upside down nature of the lower playfield makes it tough as well.
#4) Big Hurt
This game gets no respect because it’s sports related, but I really feel it’s one of the best games they made. Basically, you play 9 innings of a game trying to score runs and make it to the wizard mode, The World Series. There’s a moving glove that goes back and forth, trying to rob you of home runs. Sometimes you’re even trying to hit the glove in some modes. It’s just overall a very solid game, one of the best sports pinballs you can buy.
Genie is a BIG game. The playfield feels like you’re playing several different games, as it’s kind of sectioned off, especially the top left portion. It’s also a pretty hard game in my opinion, my games never seem to last very long on it. The art and the variety of things to do make it one of the best Gottlieb games in my opinion.
Are there any other modern Gottlieb games you think should be on this list? Like Bone Busters, Lights, Camera, Action, Super Mario Bros, etc? There are a lot of games in Gottlieb’s catalog that have a cult following, like Cactus Jack’s. Unfortunately, most of their games are rarely seen on route or even in people’s collections, making it difficult to even play them.