Pinball: The Empire Strikes Back

The Force was not with Hankin

"The movie of the year is now the pinball of the year."
—Advertising flyer

The Empire Strikes Back is a Physical Pinball Table produced by Hankin Manufacturing. It was released in 1980 exclusively in Australia, and is believed to be the very first Star Wars licensed pinball game ever.

The game depicts several key scenes from the movie, with particular focus on the Imperial assault on Hoth. Guide the Snowspeeders against the AT-ATs looming overhead, hit the Rebel insignias to increase the value of playfield targets, then shoot down the four TIE Fighter rollovers to increase the bonus multiplier. Hit the Darth Vader drop targets on the two sides of the playfield to raise the value for Dagobah and Bespin, then visit Yoda and Lando to claim the points.

Pinball buffs will recognize the playfield as a hybrid of Williams Electronics' Firepower and Bally's Space Invaders. The game plays reasonably well, though weak flippers (a common problem for Hankin games) mar the experience somewhat. Unfortunately, the license was not enough to save the company; Empire became the last game Hankin released before closing its doors.

With only 350 tables produced and distributed in Australia, it is an extremely rare treasure for die-hard collectors.


The Empire Strikes Back pinball demonstrates the following tropes:

  • Everything's Better with Dinosaurs: A pterosaur can be seen flying over Dagobah.
  • Incendiary Exponent: Nearly everything on the playfield is in flames, including the clouds of Hoth.
  • Koosh Bomb/Stuff Blowing Up: Koosh Bomb explosions liberally pepper the playfield.
  • Malevolent Mugshot: Darth Vader's masked visage appears all over the game — on the pop bumper caps, the playfield drop targets, the sides of the cabinet, and the mirrored backglass itself.
  • Serial Numbers Filed Off: Blatantly invoked with the playfield layout, which uses the top half of Williams' Firepower and the bottom half of Bally's Space Invaders.
  • Space Is Air: Every single spaceship is shown leaving a swooping red-and-orange exhaust trail, including the Rebel Snowspeeders, Imperial TIE Fighters, Luke's X-Wing, and the Millennium Falcon.
  • Units Not to Scale: The AT-ATs, which tower over the horizon and appear capable of circumnavigating Hoth with just a few dozen steps.
  • Wreathed in Flames: On the backglass, Darth Vader is standing in front of a set of flames.