Thirty years ago, X-boxes, Playstations, Nintendo consoles, and PCs weren’t household fixtures like they are today—so how did the youth of those days entertain themselves? Well, there were a few ways but one of the most popular and no doubt the most fun, was heading to the arcade and playing what might just be one of the most iconic games of the 20th century: pinball.
Just uttering those two syllables fills us with nostalgia, so allow us to accompany you along a journey down memory lane with this round-up of three of the coolest retro pinball machines!
Big Indian – 1974
Before it was officially released, this game was named ‘Chief’, and later ‘Big Injun’. Early prototypes of this pinball machine were produced as ‘Big Injun’ but the Encyclopedia of Pinball Vol 1, there were many Native American employees in Gottlieb’s wiring and assembly plant who complained that the name was offensive. This stalled production for close to three months before it was released as ‘Big Indian’.
The best part about Big Indian? It allowed four players per game.
This game’s designer, Jeff Brenner, left Gottlieb before this game was produced. In an interview with the international pinball database, he shared some information about Atlantis:
I designed this game at the request of Wayne Neyens and Judd Weinberg, who wanted me to design a single-player version of Sheriff…Noteworthy on this game was my concept of awarding a scoring premium for hitting two adjacent drop targets simultaneously. I always had wished it had been used again, as it was very rewarding to the player, whenever it occurred. To emphasize the feature, I wanted it produced with bullseye circles which spanned each pair of adjacent targets as I had done on the whitewood original prototype, but Judd Weinberg decided that the blue and white fish design fit the theme of the game better so they went with that. I have read the comments of some of the other players on IPDB as well as players I talked to on location, and all agreed that this was a rewarding feature
Blackout – 1980
If the playfield layout of this game looks familiar, it’s because an identical one was also used in Rowamet’s ‘Heavy Metal’ and ‘Taito do Brasil’s 1983 Vortex’.
Blackout was a unique game changer in the world of pinball machines, as it was the first one to use computer-controlled general illumination. The process used a “G.I. Relay” which was mounted to the backbox floor, and cut power to all playfield lamps during the “BLACKOUT” sequence.
It was also the first machine to only use two bolts instead of four to attach the backbox to the cabinet. This would become the industry norm for all future pinball games.