Every pinball machine on this list is one that I'd like to obtain. While cost is often the deciding factor, at some point space becomes an issue. This is part of the reason why I'm building the virtual machine, because there's no way I will be able to own everything on my wishlist. So, on to the list...
Most Likely To Acquire (in order of preference)
These are games that I'm most likely to acquire based on a combination of fun factor, personal appeal, and price.
Jurassic ParkI've played plenty of games made by Data East, a pinball manufacturer who hit their stride in popularity during the late 80s/early 90s. I've never really cared for Data East pinball games...they feel inferior in quality and design to Williams & Bally machines. It's hard to describe a "feeling" about playing a pinball machine; it's a subjective observation about the speed and flow, the audio, the artwork and layout of the table, the quality of the parts. Jurassic Park, however, is one of Data East's best, and is a worthy addition to any game room. From the T-rex that bends down and eats your ball off the playfield, to the pretty lights and audio taken right from the movie, this one is thoroughly enjoyable. And the price is right - you can generally find a nice one between $1500 and $2000. Data East games are prone to more problems due to less-than-stellar engineering, so it is a challenge to keep this game maintained properly. Still I feel it's more than worth the effort.
Based on the movie (not the TV shows), Stargate was made by Gottlieb. Though I feel the same way about Gottlieb as I do about Data East, I really like this game. Being a fan of the movie, I like the artwork and audio, not to mention the the giant pyramid in the playfield and the animated glider that emerges from it, and the large Horus and Anubis statues that raise and lower to block shots. I wouldn't want it as my only machine, but in a collection where it can be part of a rotation, it's actually quite fun. One of Gottlieb's best. I'd like to pick one up before the price increases. I've seen them go for as little as $1300, but it seems like this machine is getting harder to find.
For some people this game is hit and miss. I happen to like it. I wasn't really into the movie, and it's a curious choice for a license, but due to a good design it works. One nifty feature is the lower playfield. Using the same window that was used to display the hologram in Creature From the Black Lagoon, Congo has a gorilla visible through the window that the player uses to bat the ball around. It's much more functional than a hologram and something I wish they had put in CFTBL. The deciding factor in placing Congo on this list is price; the game can go for as little as $1300, offering a lot of bang for the buck.
Star Trek: The Next Generation (STTNG)
I'm a fan of the TV show, and this is a good game. It's consistently rated in the top 5 at the Internet Pinball Database.(IPDB). Designed for Williams by Steve Ritchie (a revered designer by pinball fans), the game has so many many missions and modes that you may never see them all. You can mod the machine by adding more spaceship toys that light up. And it has 6 ball multiball! Audio is taken right out of the TV show. Unfortunately this game is a beast to maintain - they seem to break down a lot. When you combine maintenance with price, it moves this game to the bottom of my Most Likely To Acquire list, but is still a machine I hope to get someday. If you don't mind doing maintenance (and I don't), at $2500-$3500 you get pretty good value.
Holding Out Hope (in order of preference)
These are games that may be possible to acquire if the price is right.
Lord of the Rings (LOTR)
I've had my eye on this machine since it came out new in 2003. The sticker price back then was $3500 for a new one, and if you are fortunate you can still pick up a used machine at that price. Although I've never been a huge fan of Stern Pinball, I've played this machine many times, and found it to be very enjoyable. Since the Lord of the Rings books are my all-time favorite and I loved the movies, it's an easy addition to the list. There are lots of different modes to play for in the game, and its popularity continues to climb, as it has cracked the top 10 of the IPDB.
Indiana Jones: The Pinball Adventure (IJ)
Raiders of the Lost Ark is my favorite movie, so it's no surprise that Williams' Indiana Jones: The Pinball Adventure would be near the top of my list. It features some neat toys, deep rules, and great art & sound. Stern later made their own Indiana Jones and it pales in comparison. The only thing holding this one back is price; it runs between $3500 and $4500.
Twilight Zone (TZ)
What makes a pinball machine based on an old black-and-white TV program desirable? The answer to that question is a man named Pat Lawlor. Mr. Lawlor has been called the "Father of Pinball Design" due to his work on several machines for Williams back in the 80s and 90s. Twilight Zone is one of two Lawlor machines that are consistently rated in the top five pinball machines of all time (The Addams Family is the other), and TZ consistently occupies the #1 spot. Lawlor still works with Stern to produce titles such as Shrek, Monolpoly, Nascar, CSI, and Ripley's Believe It Or Not.
TZ has several cool features, with lots of toys on the playfield, magnets in the game, and a "powerball" which is ceramic, is lighter and faster, and is not affected by the magnets. It has a deep set of rules and attractive art and sound, and there are several really cool mods for it, like a light-up Robby the Robot and Clock Tower LEDs, lights for the slot machine, and so on. Maintenance is an issue with so many things that can and do go wrong. Price can vary between $3500 and $6000 based on the condition of the machine and the mods installed. The good news is there are lots of TZ machines out there, with well over 15,000 produced.
Theatre of Magic (TOM)
I've loved this game for a long time. Combining the mystery of magic with a pinball machine seems like a no-brainer. With beautiful art and some neat toys, like the rotating trunk and the spinning tiger saw, this at first seems like a cool game. Soon, however, boredom can set in as you pound the trunk over and over with the ball. I've seen several games in which the trunk stopped rotating or was shattered. These things keep it from being at the top of the list, but I'd still love to have one anyway, and the price ranges between $2800 and $4500.
Highly Unlikely (in order of preference)
These are games that I will probably never own unless I win the lottery.
Tales of the Arabian Nights (TOTAN)
Considered the finest Stern ever made (except for maybe Lord of the Rings), Spiderman has managed to crack the top 20 on IPDB. Designed by famous ex-Williams designer Steve Richie (see STTNG above), it plays fast, has cool toys, and looks great. There's something here for all skill levels, and there's even a highly sought-after "black" model. At a price between $4500-$5500, it's also the most affordable entry on the Highly Unlikely list.
Tales of the Arabian Nights (TOTAN)
Another game I've loved for a long time. Gorgeous art, brilliant audio, a spinning lamp, and an angry blue genie make this one of the finest games ever released. It seems others agree with me, as TOTAN is usually in the top 5 at IPDB. The price reflects this as well; when I first started looking at pinballs, this one could be had for $3000. Now people are asking $5000 - $6000 for this machine, pushing it well beyond my reach.
Monster Bash (MB)
Another Universal Monsters game, this one is a blast and the roommate and I would definitely like to own it. It combines the Universal Monsters theme with a rock band theme. If you're thinking that sounds similar to CFTBL, you are right. The difference is game play - Monster Bash is far more entertaining from a player's perspective than CFTBL. Good luck finding a Monster Bash for less than $6500, though.
Although I've never played it, I'm very intrigued by this game, which is another creation of Pat Lawlor. Instead of worrying about your ball draining, there's a time limit that counts down, and you must hit shots to add time. There's also a "board game" feature on the backglass that is completed as you meet certain objectives, and at certain points during the game, a coin is released that rolls down the glass towards you, which you must try to catch while still playing! This coin, when inserted into the coin slot, triggers a special mode. The game is not without its detractors, but it's so radically different from a standard pinball experience that I'd love to have one. Unfortunately only 1148 units were produced, making it extremely rare and fetching prices in the $5000-$7000 range.
Medieval Madness (MM)
Considered the Holy Grail of pinball machines. I am not as big of a fan as other people are, as it seems a bit repetitive to me: hit the trolls, knock down the drawbridge, enter the castle, destroy it, then repeat. The game does feature some cool toys though, like the pop-up trolls, a dragon, and the exploding castle, and the humorous audio is hilarious. But at an average asking price of $8500 I feel it's way too over-priced for the experience.
Big Bang Bar (BBB)I've never seen one of these machines, let alone played one. My desire to own one is based purely on the novelty of the machine. It's practically unheard of to have an adult-themed pinball; Elvira's innuendos and cleavage in Scared Stiff are about as racy as you can get, and even the few Playboy machines produced have been fairly tame. But Big Bang Bar changes that, with an alien cantina theme, half-naked tube dancers, and a playfield feature called "Ray's Ball Busters", that is definitely not for kids. It could be the worst game ever made, but it's still intriguing.
The downside is that only 14 prototypes were built by Capcom in 1996 before they ceased pinball operations. In 2007, Illinois Pinball licensed the rights from Capcom and produced another 191 machines. This makes BBB very rare and highly collectible, fetching prices over $10,000.
I hope you enjoyed the list, it was a lot of fun to put this together. There are a few other machines that I find intriguing, including Shrek, Batman The Dark Knight, and Pirates of the Caribbean, but for the most part the games in the list are those that I dream of having in my gameroom, ready to be played anytime the mood strikes me.
Note: all images and production numbers were taken from the IPDB website.