Pinball: Superman

Let's not joke about "balls of steel", okay?

"The World's Most Powerful Pinball!"
Promotional postcard

Superman is an arcade pinball game designed by Steve Ritchie, with artwork by George Opperman and programmed by Eugene Jarvis. It was released by Atari in 1979.

As with other Pinball games of The '70s, Superman has a series of objectives but no overarching plot or goal beyond a high score. Light the top rollovers to raise the bonus multiplier, then hit the Metropolis dropdown targets to enable various bonuses. Shoot through the Fortress of Solitude or Luthor's Lair to return to the top of the board, and spell SUPERMAN to get extra points and light the Special.

Among Atari's meager pinball catalog, Superman is the one that has best stood the test of time, and is still enjoyed by players today for its fast, straightforward action and balanced gameplay. A Superman pinball is part of the memorabilia collection at the offices of DC Comics.

This pinball demonstrates the following tropes:

  • Bald of Evil: Lex Luthor.
  • Heroic Build: Superman, of course.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: During development of the game, Steve Ritchie and Eugene Jarvis figured out how to use a guitar echo chamber with the game to make a continuous background sound that intensified with the game action. For some reason, Atari management nixed the idea; Ritchie ended up using it on his next pinball, the top-selling Flash from rival Williams Electronics.
  • Punched Across the Room: Superman repeatedly does this to Luthor on the playfield.
  • Rewarding Vandalism: Knocking down the set of drop targets causes the saucer to award points, an Extra Ball, or a Special. The targets are directly below a skyline of Metropolis, suggesting that Superman (and the player) gets awarded for destroying the city...
  • Score Multiplier: Rollovers 1, 2, and 3 double the bonus, while 1, 2, 3, and 4 triples it.
  • Spelling Bonus: SUPER lights the outlane Special, MAN lights the outlane Extra Ball, and SUPERMAN awards 30,000 points.