A complete history of pinball; from the first machine to now!

Find out about the history of pinball, the most legendary of all games machines!

Pinball is the most iconic of all arcade games of all time - and it has a pretty colourful history to match! The history of pinball is incredibly intriguing and it really shows a journey through American life during the 20th century. Here, you can find out how pinball machines went from creation, to national outlaws, to the beloved classic they are today...


    • Pinball in its most basic form began as a ‘tabletop game’ in the late 1700s - it wasn’t until the 1930s that it was developed to become a coin operated, upright machine with such intricate mechanical workings and electricity.
    • The birthplace of modern pinball is Chicago and historically, most of its major manufacturers have been based there (in fact the only company in the US still producing new pinball machines in based in the Chicago suburbs).
    • The pinball machines of this era had wooden legs and wooden rails on the sides of the machine,not like today's modern marvels of chrome and steel.


  • From the 1940s to the mid 1970s, pinball was banned in lots of major US cities, including Los Angeles, New York City and Chicago - that’s because it was considered a ‘game of chance’ rather than a ‘game of skill’ and thought of as gambling. In New York the ban was held up as strongly as prohibition, with the police force even carrying out raids on residences where they thought pinball machines were stocked and their owners were arrested!
  • In the same way speakeasies secretly gave people somewhere to drink alcohol, pinball machines could be found in the backrooms of many ‘adult’ stores and was a little bit more difficult to find!


  • The game at the time was actually a lot less skillful, as the ‘flipper’ mechanism that makes pinball so tricky hadn’t been added yet - players had to literally move and tilt the entire table in order to move the ball around! This was only updated in the mid-1950s, when the tables began to look more like we know and love them today.


  • Pinball machines came to be a sign of youth culture and rebellion due to their outlaw nature, and you can often spot them in films either filmed or set during the 1970s, used to symbolise the rebellious nature of a character that explains why The Who’s ‘pinball wizard’ was actually one of the most major bad boys of the 70s, something that may be lost on the youth of today! Pinball machines were only made legal again the majority of the USA after a young magazine editor played pinball in front of the New York City Council and demonstrated the skill needed to succeed in the game - they were allegedly so impressed with the skills on show they made up their minds there and then to overturn their ban.


Bally Rolling Stones 1980 


  • The 1990s saw a pinball resurgence - after they had been legalised, playing them was no longer considered cool and they fell out of favour. The technology available in the 90s, along with the decision to start branding pinball machines to reflect popular films, tv series or games meant they once again became the most popular installation in arcades across the world.  In fact, the best selling pinball machines of all time is the Addams Family special which was released in 1991 - it’s become a classic!
  • Nowadays, pinball machines still attract crowds in arcades and pubs, and rare vintage models have become incredibly sought after. That’s what we specialise in finding here at Games Room Company - we completely restore these classic machines so they’re in full working order, to give your games room a major hit of nostalgia!

Probably the best selling pinball of all time - Addams Family


Find your perfect pinball machine here!


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