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Sure, it’s easy to make a pinball machine based on a blockbuster movie, hit TV show, or other successful IP, but what about turning to more niche themes? True crime, intolerable celebrities, religion, and politics are just a few categories companies could target for pinball machines, and fans have some pitches for ideas that fit the bill.
We come across some really weird, dare we say, degenerate, theme suggestions when compiling our Hype Index rankings, so we thought we'd highlight a few of our favorites.
Here are ten degenerate pinball machines fans would actually play.
Kim. Khloe. Kris. Kylie. Kourtney. Kendall. These six names produce visceral reactions in people. They could be superfans of the sisters’ brands, makeup products, and fashion lines, or they’re exhausted by being forced to Keep Up with the Kardashians against their will since their names appear everywhere in pop culture.
Matriarch Kris Jenner is never one to miss a business opportunity, though, so it’s only a matter of time before she gets “Kardashian” on a pinball machine. Send the ball into a plastic surgery chamber where it emerges with bigger curves. Stop a riot between police and activists by triggering Kendall to hand a cop a Pepsi. And once it’s game over, be taunted by a callout of Kim saying, “Get your f**king ass up and work. It seems like nobody wants to work these days.”
Turning a tragedy into entertainment skews unethical and exploitative, but that hasn’t stopped consumers from indulging, so why not turn the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster into a race against the clock pinball machine.
Opening with the nuclear meltdown and explosion and with the goal of saving as many as possible, players can choose whether to fight radiation that expands across the playfield, evacuate the city, or send their ball into the upper playfield where they can open valves to drain the water beneath the reactor, risking heavy exposure to radiation and ending their game.
Jack the Ripper
One of the earlier recorded serial killers in history, Jack the Ripper terrorized the streets of Whitechapel in London when he murdered five sex workers in the late 1800s. Given that true crime is so popular in this era - imagine Redditors trying to solve these murders - and the fact that Jack the Ripper lives on in movies, TV shows, books, and board games, how about getting him into a pinball machine?
Players take on the role of a Victorian investigator patrolling the impoverished district, ready to hunt Jack through alleyway lanes and down city street lanes after he strikes. Stop Jack and change history.
Scientology is a set of beliefs established by the author L. Ron Hubbard, but most people refer to it as the religion that boasts having celebs like Tom Cruise and John Travolta as members, and a scientology pinball machine would be just as eccentric as Mr. Cruise jumping up on Oprah’s couch. Flipper buttons double as e-meters, the soup can-looking devices members hold while they’re being asked personal questions to rid themselves of toxins from their past, aka being audited. Concentrate on scoring high and ascending spiritual levels while being asked questions like, “do you have a secret you are afraid I'll find out?” and “are you a pervert?”
The closest we might have gotten to seeing this religion turn into a pinball machine was if the 2000 movie Battlefield Earth - based on L. Ron Hubbard’s novel featuring themes from Scientology such as “all psychiatrists are evil” - did well enough to merit its own machine. Hey, it’s not unheard of for a bad movie to inspire a good pinball machine.
United States Congress
If there’s anything we learned about the recent Speaker of the House election that lasted 15 rounds, it’s that Congress loves to play games, so let’s elect to represent them via a pinball machine.
Players fight to take the majority based on their own political preference, and they can also utilize shady shortcuts on the playfield for political and monetary gain, but if not used discreetly, other players can trigger an impeachment against them. For an extra challenge, play Old School Filibuster Mode in which - true to the original tactic of using long speeches to delay action on legislation - players have to speak constantly while manning the machine in order to block others from playing.
“Happy little trees.” These words encapsulate the late American painter Bob Ross, who hosted The Joy of Painting from 1983-1994. He taught viewers how to paint and subsequently brought them joy with his beautiful paintings, calm demeanor, and his signature hair perm. Let’s continue spreading Bob Ross’s joy with his very own pinball machine.
The LCD turns into a literal blank canvas and switch hits collect paint brushes and colors. Target areas on the canvas and shoot lit shots to perform various brush strokes on it, uncovering a random painting. Clean your brush by activating “beat the devil out of it” mode. Land the ball in a tree hollow to receive assistance from Peapod the Squirrel. And when the ball hits the drain, a callout from Bob reminds us, “We don’t make mistakes. We have happy accidents.”
With over 2.5 billion monthly active users and more than 500 hours of video being uploaded every minute, it’s safe to say YouTube has carved out its space in the digital world. Why stop there? Time for it to carve out its space in the pinball world.
Stern will reach the Gen Z crowd with a machine catered to the dream of becoming a YouTube creator. Acquire the most followers to become the #1 YouTube channel and make the most money. Hit “Like and Subscribe” drop targets to earn ad revenue, and target orbits for videos to go viral. Do all of this while being live streamed on their YouTube channel, and for a bonus round, watch and “react” to a video of yourself playing.
With a portion of the country having legalized marijuana, and the rest of the country on their way (hopefully), it’s time for a weed-themed pinball machine.
The default is indica mode, offering something slightly relaxing, but activate “head high” mode by hitting sativa drop shots, sending the ball into a special vertical playfield in the backbox. Grow a cannabis plant in the upper playfield and hear callouts from iconic stoners like Cheech & Chong, Seth Rogen - his infectious laugh is enough - and of course start the game with Snoop Dogg’s “smoke weed everyday.”
The frosted-tipped Mayor of Flavortown is a restaurateur, a chef, a NYT best selling author, an Emmy winner, and even a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, so it’s time to immortalize him with his own pinball machine. Turn the plunger into a literal bus to Flavortown so players hungry for action can send their ball into Guy’s over the top playfield full of his contributions to the culinary world.
Collect chiles, an entire head of garlic, boneless chuck, ground beef, ground Italian sausage, chili powder, cayenne pepper, hot paprika, beans, and a lager beer by way of drop shots to cook up some of Fieri’s signature Dragon’s Breath Chili, triggering a dragon toy breathing smoke and a Guy Fieri callout. “FLAVORTOWN!”
Thanks to the 2021 film Willy’s Wonderland, we have this glorious scene of Nicolas Cage enjoying some pinball (fun fact: this machine was custom-made for the movie and based on the 1982 Gottlieb table, Devil’s Dare!). Acting or not, anyone with that much passion and enthusiasm deserves their own pinball machine.
Cage’s filmography offers nothing but inspiration for a pinball machine. A National Treasure heist theme sees players navigate a security-laden playfield to steal the Declaration of Independence. A Gone in 60 Seconds theme is a no-brainer for Stern, given Eleanor, the car featured in the climax of the movie, is a Mustang. The Rock takes players to Alcatraz to end a siege, complete with a bonus round where multiple green beads full of poisonous gas are released into the playfield.