13 Totally Radical 1970s Era Williams Pinball Machines

13 Totally Radical 1970s Era Williams Pinball Machines
Published on
February 18, 2023
Read time:
4
minutes

The 1970s were an interesting era for pinball. It would serve as the last gasp of the electro-mechanical (EM) era of pinball, with computerized solid-state machines making their way into the market by the middle and end of the decade. While already a storied pinball manufacturer, Williams Electronics was solidly behind its prime competitors Bally and Gottlieb in this era. Bally was generally quicker to adopt this new solid-state technology, releasing a slew of all-time classic titles like Paragon, Future Spa, and Playboy in the latter half of the decade. Gottlieb, while slower to adopt and release tables featuring solid-state technology, continued a comparatively torrid pace of releases. During the 70s, Williams Electronics would only release about 95 games compared to 113 for Bally and a whopping 153 for Gottlieb.


Still, though, Williams Electronics was able to put out a whole bunch of classic pinball games that still hold up today. In this post, we take a look at the 13 best Williams Pinball machines produced in the 1970s.

What was the Williams Electronics Company?

Williams Electronics Company, also known as Williams Manufacturing Company Williams Electronics, Inc. and eventually WMS Industries, Inc., was one of the leading manufacturers of pinball machines in the world. Founded by Harry Williams in 1943, Williams was one of the companies most responsible for growing the pinball market into what it is today. By the 1970s, Williams was still mostly churning through old-style EM machines and would eventually achieve notable success into the 1980s and 1990s as they transitioned to solid-state and computerized technology. Williams would eventually acquire Bally/Midway in 1988, before going closing down its pinball division in 1999 due to high losses and declining interest in the marketplace.


Related: check out our guide to the Best Bally Pinball Machines from the 1970s.

Grand Prix (1976)

  • Game design: Steve Kordek
  • Artwork: Christian Marche
williams grand prix pinball 1976


The 1976 Williams Pinball machine, Grand Prix, is a pinball player's favorite game for many reasons. The simple but addicting game design by Steve Kordek with artwork by Christian Marche is based on a racing theme that is extremely satisfying to play. The drop targets activate the extra ball and replay lights, while the spinners elevate the bonus. The kick-out saucers let the player collect and rebuild the bonus, making this a relatively simple but very fun and engaging game. But arguably most important, Grand Prix offers a couple of the most satisfying spinner shots in all of pinball (one on each side of the playfield, even). Grand Prix is an excellent example of a well-designed Williams pinball machine from the 1970s that continues to be enjoyable for players today.


Gorgar (1979)

  • Game design: Barry Oursler
  • Software: Paul Dussault
  • Artwork: Constantino Mitchell, Jeanine Mitchell
williams gorgar pinball machine 1979


In 1979, Williams created the Gorgar pinball machine, which was designed by Barry Oursler and featured artwork by Constantino Mitchell and Jeanine Mitchell. Gorgar was an early solid state pinball machine and was extremely popular for its time, selling over 14,000 units. The game is set in a dungeon of sorts (more accurately a monster's lair) and features a variety of targets, including a spinner, drop banks, stand up targets, and a magnet. Gorgar was also notable for being the first talking pinball machine; it featured a voice synthesizer that would say phrases like "Gorgar speaks!" among other iconic phrases. Today, Gorgar is considered a great value game and is highly sought after by pinball collectors for its art package, sound design, and place in pinball history.


Wild Card (1977)

  • Game design: Steve Kordek
  • Artwork: Christian Marche
wild card pinball game williams 1977


The Williams pinball machine Wild Card was designed by Steve Kordek and released in 1977. It is a somewhat rare game, as it was the last single-player EM machine manufactured by Williams. The artwork was done by Christian Marche. The game is themed around poker and casino games, and only about 901 were produced in total. The playfield features an inverted J shot on the right which can be quite fun to shoot, as well as a spinner which is where most of the points can be found. However, the spinner can also be dangerous if not careful, so it's a risk/reward mechanic. Overall, Wild Card is a well-designed pinball machine from the 1970s that is definitely worth checking out if you ever have the chance.


Spanish Eyes (1972)

  • Game design: Norm Clark
  • Artwork: John Craig
spanish eyes pinball machine williams 1972 EM


The 1972 Williams single-player EM pinball machine, Spanish Eyes, is iconic in pinball tournament circles. It's known for its colorful maximalist artwork and center pop bumper located between the flippers. The game was designed by Norm Clark and the artwork was done by John Craig. Williams pinball designers also introduced 24-volt DC power for the first time which gives the flippers and pops a noticeable power boost which adds a lot of speed and dynamism to the game. There's lots of risk reward for an EM game and while it has the appearance of a classic luck box there are more tactics and strategy involved than you'd think. All in all, it's a great example of 1970s Williams pinball at its best.


Aztec (1976)

  • Game design: Steve Kordek
  • Artwork: Christian Marche
aztec pinball backglass williams 1976


The 1976 Williams EM pinball machine, Aztec, was designed by Steve Kordek and features artwork by Christian Marche. It is very similar to other Williams EM games of this period, like Grand Prix. Another super satisfying spinner shot can be found on the left side of the playfield. Like Spanish Eyes, Aztec also features DC-powered pop bumpers for extra zip. If you love EM scoring sounds, Aztec can be really enjoyable to play as you rack up bonus points. This game has lots of features for its era - extra balls, specials, an alley shot, a juicy spinner, a center extra ball target, and double bonus. The art package may be slightly problematic by modern standards but it is kind of par for the course in this era of pinball.


Doodle Bug (1971)

  • Game design: Norm Clark
  • Artwork: Christian Marche
williams doodle bug pinball game 1971


The 1971 Williams EM pinball machine, Doodle Bug, is a classic example of early 1970s pinball design. The game was designed by Norm Clark and features artwork by Christian Marche. The game is a single-player concept with a lot of creative ideas present in the playfield layout and mechs. The gameplay centers around activating the "doodle bug" a captive ball seated just under the playfield that moves back rapidly back and forth when activated, scoring points. The game is also known for its unique flipper layout with gaps between the tops of the flippers before the slings. If you like to play competitively, this is a great game to practice your flipper skills on.


Argosy (1977)

  • Game design: Chris Otis
  • Artwork: Christian Marche
argosy williams 1977 pinball game


Argosy is a unique pinball machine from 1977, designed by Chris Otis and with artwork by Christian Marche. It's mostly on this list due to its interesting playfield layout which introduces some novel shot geometry and risk / reward decisions to make during gameplay (the upper lane rollover shot can be very important to high scores). Argosy can be a good game for tournament play, but it can also be slightly harder to master than some of the other games from this era.


Triple Action (1974)

  • Game design: Steve Kordek
  • Artwork: Christian Marche
williams 1970s pinball triple action game


Triple Action is a great example of a classic 1970s pinball machine. The game was designed by Steve Kordek, with artwork by Christian Marche. Triple Action is a single-player game, with colorful artwork that stands out in a collection. The center spinner shot is fun to shoot and echoes modern takes on the mech like Avengers Infinity Quest and JJPs Guns n' Roses. Triple Action also has an old-school film theme that is fun for movie nerds.


OXO (1973)

  • Game design: Norm Clark
  • Artwork: Christian Marche
OXO williams pinball machine 1973

OXO is a 1973 Williams pinball machine that is based on the classic game tic-tac-toe. The primary goal of the game is to make three Xs or Os on any line in the center playfield grid for an extra ball and bonus points. The game has a pretty symmetrical layout with simple rules that can be deceptively challenging to achieve. OXO was designed by Norm Clark and the artwork was done by Christian Marche. The artwork is colorful and quirky, which was typical of Marche's art packages in the 1970s.


Time Warp (1979)

  • Game design: Barry Oursler
  • Software: Paul Dussault
  • Artwork: Constantino Mitchell, Jeanine Mitchell
williams time warp pinball banana flippers game

Williams Time Warp pinball was released in 1979 and was designed by Barry Oursler with software by Paul Dussault. The game artwork was created by Constantino Mitchell and Jeanine Mitchell. Time Warp pinball is a classic example of an early solid-state game with a layout that features 5 pop bumpers, 2 sets of drop targets, and some other satisfying shots to go for. We (and we're not the only ones to do so) would posit that Time Warp is probably underrated among the pinball community, particularly given its lower price point on the market today. One of the features that sets Time Warp apart is the inclusion of banana flippers which add a ton of variety to the shots in the game and allow the player to put a wicked spin on the ball.


Contact (1978)

  • Game design: Steve Kordek
  • Artwork: Christian Marche
williams contact pinball machine 1978

The 1978 Williams pinball machine Contact is an interesting game for a number of reasons. First, it's an early Williams solid-state game. Second, it's a wide-body game. Third, it has 4 flippers with dueling double flippers at the bottom of the table. Because it's a wide body with a fairly open playfield design, it can play slowly compared to other games you may be accustomed to. However, despite its slowness, Contact can be a good table to practice your stage-flipping skills on! Despite producing over 2,000 of these games, it's one you're not likely to see in a local collection.


Disco Fever (1978)

  • Game design: Tony Kraemer
  • Software: Randy Pfeiffer
  • Artwork: Christian Marche
williams disco fever pinball 1978


If you're a fan of disco or 1970s culture, then you'll love the 1978 Williams disco-themed pinball machine, Disco Fever. Designed by Tony Kraemer, with software by Randy Pfeiffer and artwork by Christian Marche, the game features curved banana flippers, which were only used in two games total (the other being Time Warp, mentioned earlier in this list). The cool retro electronic sounds and disco theme make it a ton of fun for an early solid-state machine. Rules are simple but can be challenging to consistently rack up a top score.


Stellar Wars (1979)

  • Game design: Steve Ritchie
  • Artwork: Constantino Mitchell, Jeanine Mitchell
  • Software: Paul Dussault
stellar wars pinball 1979 williams electronics game

The Williams Stellar Wars pinball machine was designed by famed pinball designer Steve Ritchie and released in 1979. The game is a wide body design with some challenging precision shots, including a captive ball, center drop target bank, and multiple spinners. The two mid-line bumpers above the outlanes add some randomness, speed, and luck to the game and clearly feel like a classic Steve Ritchie touch. The game also includes artwork by Constantino Mitchell and Jeanine Mitchell, as well as software by Paul Dussault. Stellar Wars is one of Steve Ritchie's earliest games and is considered an underrated classic in the pinball community.