Despite mobile devices in our pockets that deliver arcade-quality graphics any time you need a gaming fix, pinball machines, a seemingly antiquated form of entertainment, are still thriving, thanks in part to companies like Stern Pinball whose Stranger Things table introduces new features like video projections and a clever ball trap inspired by Eleven’s telekinetic powers.
Playing a pinball machine is a tangible experience that even the most powerful gaming console and the largest TV screen can’t replicate. There’s the sounds, both mechanical and electronic, the hypnotic flashing lights, the erratic motion of that shiny metal ball, and the feeling of the table shaking and vibrating beneath your hands and fingers perched over the flipper buttons. It’s a captivating experience, and one worth seeking out, even if it takes a little extra leg work to find an arcade stocked with excellent pinball machines.
Themed pinball machines tend to be more common these days; looking through Stern’s catalogue you’ll find tables based on properties like Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead. But Stranger Things seems especially apropos given the Netflix series is set in a time when pinball machines still dominated arcades. But even though the show takes place in the ‘80s, for its Stranger Things table Stern has included some of the most advanced technology ever built into a pinball machine.
Players battle an animated Demogorgon using a fold-down ramp that sends balls hurdling into its maw. (Image: Stern Pinball)
A hidden projector fills this screen with custom animations and clips from the Stranger Things series. (Image: Stern Pinball)
The table itself is completely saturated with Stranger Things graphics including all the characters from the series. (Image: Stern Pinball)
Classic pinball table elements like ramps and endless flashing lights are also included. (Image: Stern Pinball)
Several versions of the table will be available starting next year – Pro, Premium, and Limited Edition models – but it’s the latter two that will provide the most unique experience. In addition to ramps, pop-up obstacles, spinners, and all the interactive table elements that are common these days, the Stranger Things machine includes what looks like a miniature drive-in movie screen in the middle of the table, on which custom animations and clips from the series are displayed using a hidden projector. The centre of the screen also folds down like a castle’s drawbridge, creating a ramp that sends balls crashing into an animated Demogorgon that appears behind it. Yep, pinball machines have boss battles now.
Stranger Things’ Eleven also plays a big part in Stern’s new machine. The table includes a hidden electromagnet that recreates Eleven’s spooky telekinetic powers, grabbing and holding onto multiple balls before releasing them all at once challenging players to suddenly contend with a cluster of balls making their way down the table together.
The new machines all sound like the ultimate collectibles for Stranger Things fans, but if you’re interested it’s going to help your budget if you also happen to run an arcade that will give you a steady return on your investment. The Pro, Premium, and Limited Edition Stranger Things pinball machines will set you back $6,099 (£4,707), $7,699 (£5,942), and $9,099 (£7,022) respectively. That could pay for quite a few summers spent at Camp Know Where.
Featured image: Stern Pinball