Pinball (NES)

Game Review

Pinball Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Dave Letcavage

Ball out?

Back in 1985, when Nintendo launched the NES in North America, there were a slew of games released with to-the-point titles like Baseball, Golf, and the game of the hour, Pinball. At the time, inviting these simple, accessible games into your home was almost life changing, and we have great memories bouncing around our heads of how they brought family and friends together around the TV. But these days, while dropping back in may put nostalgic fuzzies in your stomach for a short time, there just isn’t quite enough meat on the table to recommend inviting anyone new to the party.

Pinball consists of one table made up of two levels. When the ball drops into the drain of the top screen, the view switches over to the lower half – but drop into that drain and it results in a lost ball. There are bumpers, rollover games, kickout holes, and other fun little ways to rack up points, but it’s all very simple and basic. The weight of the ball feels solid and the flippers are responsive, but if you’ve been exposed to games like Zen Pinball 2, we have to imagine you may be more than a shade underwhelmed by Pinball’s primitive nature, as things can feel rather uneventful in comparison to the design of modern offerings.

Default controls find you using any direction on the D-pad to flip the left paddle and pressing the A-button for the right. Using the pad as a button was something we didn’t care for, but did get used to it after a couple of games — it would have been nice to have the paddles default mapped to the triggers or shoulder buttons when using the GamePad. On a positive note, playing this one on the GamePad accompanied by something on the television is a much better experience than being completely one-on-one with it. Additionally, inviting competition into the mix via the game's two-player mode adds a little electricity to the proceedings.

There is even a bonus stage that invigorates the gameplay from time to time. When the ball finds the kickout hole on the lower section, you’re whisked away to a stage starring Mario, in which he must move left to right with a girder beam, keeping the ball bouncing into the air. It’s kind of like single-player, vertical Pong with dense gravity. Partaking in this mini-game can increase your score substantially, which makes it an essential practice to topple any standing high scores.

Like many games from the NES launch window the audio and visuals are very limited. The sound effects are fun enough, but there is a complete lack of music, which can sometimes feel like it’s slowing down the gameplay – there were a few occasions where we couldn’t help but to zone out and feel disconnected because of this. Visuals don’t offer much appeal, either, but because everything is placed on a black background, the colours do pop in a nice way. Overall, Pinball doesn’t do much to stimulate the senses.

What it comes down to is that Pinball functions well, but doesn't offer much variety. Anyone looking to revisit an old favourite will probably enjoy their time setting and toppling high scores. Where it gets hard to recommend, is to the people that haven't previously spent any time with this one; when you can download Zen Pinball 2 from the eShop and have the option to only purchase the tables that you're interested in — which are much, much more full of life — this title loses much of its appeal.


There just isn’t that much to say about Pinball. It’s a small piece of history, teaching us what home console video games were, before they knew what they could be — a lesson that can fully be learned by most in one sitting. Nothing here is bad, in fact, the game functions quite well; it's just repetitious, lacking variety and overshadowed by better options on the eShop. Those who were around when the NES launched and have fond memories of Pinball will surely find enough value in this purchase, but anyone else would probably fare much better going with a modern alternative instead. There is fun to be had here, but it's not going to be a lock for everyone.

From the web

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User Comments (33)



Azooooz said:

I remember this game when I was a kid. I used to sit hours playing it and get a new top score every time. Ah, such memories.



Philip_J_Reed said:

Great review, and I can't disagree with it. Having said that, it was one of my first NES games, and I remember spending entire weekends playing this with friends. At the time I adored it!



antonvaltaz said:

Did this influence Pinball: Revenge of the Gator on the Game Boy? The table layout and the idea of the multiple screen single table seem very reminiscent to me...



Burning_Spear said:

It seems like a waste of time for Nintendo to have ported this when you can get a Zen Pinball table for less money.



Yosher said:

Memory value aside, I kind of wonder sometimes why Nintendo bothers with old games like these pinball ones when there's obviously better, more modern versions about, while there's also much more obvious choices to put out onto the VC. I can't see this attracting many people to be honest.



JebbyDeringer said:

I use to play this game, It was a fairly decent time waster at the time but I'm not sure it would be worth anyone's time today except maybe for Nostalgia. It's solid but very simple and weak as far as pinball goes.



edcomics said:

Gotta have it on the 3DS. I find NES Pinball to be extremely fun and relaxing. I have no need for it on the Wii U since my original copy and NES work fine. Having it on the go would be really nice, though. Make it happen, Nintendo!



3Daniel said:

One of my fav pinball titles. I never cared for the zens series. But id rather hav this on 3ds.



DRL said:

@Philip_J_Reed - Thanks man. I had fun with this one for review, but only in short bursts. I remember it being a ball as a kid!

And to the rest of you mentioning the 3DS, YES, this would be much better on the go. Nice for short bursts of play.



TreesenHauser said:

I have a blast with this each time I play. Worth noting that once you pass 100,000 points the challenge increases when the flippers go invisible on ya.



rjejr said:

Are any of the people buying this for $5 the same people who complain how crappy $1 app games are and that Nintendo should never make crappy app games b/c it would dilute their brand?




Sadly, the only games I can tolorate from the NES are Super Mario Bros and Super Mario Bros 3 ....



Marioman64 said:

i have this for my ereader and it's addicting and awesome. i mean, what other pinball game has a top and bottom half board? if i fall off the top I still have a chance to live



SomeBitTripFan said:

I do love this game. I wouldn't say it's worth $5, especially considering the price of the Zen Pinball tables, but it's actually a rather fun game.



Tasuki said:

I remember this game as a kid. I never owned it but I did rent it a few times. Hopefully they will bring this out on 3DS soon.



Magrane said:

Great review, Dave! You pretty much nailed it on your description, balancing the retro gamer perspective with someone fresh-faced approaching it. Calling it for the potential replayability factor on the 3DS also cemented how I felt about this game: fun, straightforward but not much else to bring to the bring to the table.

Is Zen's Pinball recommended by the NL audience? Is that from Nintendo or some other publisher?



Magrane said:

I also had many hours playing this game as a kid, thinking I think that there was more to it as the high score grew bigger.



MegaWatts said:

"There just isn’t that much to say about Pinball. It’s a small piece of history, teaching us what home console video games were, before they knew what they could be — a lesson that can fully be learned by most in one sitting."

I most certainly couldn't have summed this up better myself. You're a real craftsman with words, @DRL. I completely agree with what you're saying; I think Pinball would attract my interest on the basis of it being what it is (a now somewhat archaic rendition of a pinball video game), but I highly doubt I'd have as much fun with it as I would have done back in the late 80s.

Great review!



andreoni79 said:

Nintendo should let Zen Studio create some Nintendo themed tables: Mario, Zelda, Metroid, Donkey Kong, Kirby, Pokemon... € 3 each and we'll buy them all!



Freelance said:

Weird comments in here. Just because it's an OLD pinball game doesn't mean it can't be just as good as more modern pinball games. The Pro Pinball series, arguably one the best pinball games ever, is now almost 20 years old, yet they still manage to play and look just as good as today's pinball games. Yes, that includes Zen. You'd never believe they're old games.

Revenge of the 'Gator is also just as good as I remembered it, and that's even older than Pro Pinball. The classic Amiga games, Pinball Fantasies, Pinball Illusions, etc, are still pretty good.



jgibson75 said:

Being a huge fan of pinball (especially of the virtual nature, since I don't get many opportunities to play the real thing these days), I remember owning this on NES. Even back then, I didn't enjoy it much. Pinbot on NES was a much better pinball game.



SwerdMurd said:

@jgibson - Agreed. While I respect its existence, the lack of nostalgia (and general hum-dummery of the game itself) makes this a prob-shouldn't-buy.

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