Follow TV Tropes


Tropes in Pinball Games

Go To

This page is an index of Tropes frequently found in Pinball games, whether they're physical machines or digital games.

An article in this index will be about these things:

  • Gameplay mechanics, including mechanics borrowed from Video Games and Tabletop Games.
  • Characterization and setting tropes frequently appearing in game characters and settings.
  • Setting tropes that are used in many pinball games to the degree they are pretty much stock elements, or without which many games would be unrecognizable/unplayable.

Also see Pinball Tropes, for tropes specific to pinball games or named after Pinball in general.

NOTE: If a trope is specific to a particular pinball title, consider adding it to the game's Works page instead.

Pinball games and machines often demonstrate the following tropes:

  • 1-Up: In the form of an "Extra Ball". Unlike in video games, extra balls don't increment the ball counter; instead, a "Shoot Again" prompt appears. If there are multiple players present, the player who got the extra ball(s) will use it/them until they run out.
  • Announcer Chatter
    • Fun House was the first to do this. Rudy, a talking ventriloquist head, will frequently compliment players for good shots, tell players about scoring opportunities, and tease players during the course of each game. He even nicknames the individual players.
      • This would later be revisited for Red & Ted's Road Show, where the titular construction workers comment on your gameplay.
    • Advertisement:
    • Capcom's Flipper Football also has an Adult Mode, where the referee uses very colorful language and a number of swear words. "Hey! Let's talk about your sister!" It only gets better from there...
    • No Good Gofers has the two gofers (Buzz and Bud), who comment on the play, usually sarcastically. For example, when the ball drains down the right outlane, Buzz usually says "Hole in One! Ooops. Wrong Hole!"
    • The Party Zone features Captain B. Zarr, who comments while watching the ball with a fully rotating head.
  • Anti-Frustration Features:
    • In older solid-state pins, if you launch a ball and it drains without hitting any switches or targets, the game would feed it back to you for another go.
    • Much more common in modern tables is called a "ball saver"—an extra chance on that ball if you manage to lose the ball immediately after launching it. This started with "Flight Insurance" in F-14 Tomcat.
    • Advertisement:
    • A less common variant is the "Consolation Extra Ball" (a.k.a. "Pity Extra Ball"), where if you lose your first two balls quickly and/or without scoring much, the game simply lights the Extra Ball at the start of your third ball. You usually still have to make the shot to get it, though.
    • Some games, like Shrek, will even light a pity multiball on the third ball if the player has done poorly on the first two balls. Bram Stoker's Dracula will light Mist multiball on the third ball for free (on default settings) if you have not played it yet.
    • In many games from Data East, if the player gets to the last ball without having started multiball yet, the game will start multiball immediately after launch.
    • In more modern tables, if a particular target is out of order, it will be picked up by the game eventually and substituted for a similar target if a particular objective normally requires that target to be hit.
    • Some games have a solenoid in the left outlane known as a "kickback" or "laser kick": If the ball would otherwise drain down there, the solenoid will propel the ball back into the main playfield. These aren't active all the time, of course. Some other games have a "virtual kickback," where the ball drains as normal but the game immediately provides another ball as if there was a kickback. A few games have a mode that begins when a ball drains down an outlane, where the game gives another ball and asks you to clear a Timed Mission—clear it, and the game continues as if it never drained. Let time run out, and the flippers freeze, voiding the ball. Examples of this last one include:
      • The Wizard of Oz: "There's No Place Like Home" for the left outlane and "Toto" for the right outlane, triggered by hitting every switch in the corresponding outlane on the way down. "There's No Place Like Home" requires hitting a series of shots within 60 seconds (during which no other feature can be started); Toto requires hitting the center ramp within 10 seconds.
      • Whodunnit?: "Second Chance Slots" by going down an outlane, which sometimes starts the slot machine. If the left reel and center reel display the same image, the game serves another ball, which you get to keep regardless if you finish the Second Chance.
      • NBA Fastbreak: "Million-Dollar Shot" is activated if the last ball in the game drains down the right outlane. When this happens, a new ball is plunged, and you're given 10 seconds to shoot the center ramp and get the ball in the basket. Get it in there, and you get to continue playing your ball.
  • All There in the Manual: Many of the details about a game's plot or backstory is reserved for the game's operator manual.
  • Appeal to Novelty: Frequently invoked when a game introduces a new feature, gameplay element, or cool interactive toy. See the trope page for a list.
  • Arrange Mode: Many pins have a "Tournament Mode" that nerfs some of the higher-scoring elements and disables extra balls.
  • Artificial Brilliance: To an extent. The pseudo-random awards given in many pins really do deserve the "pseudo" in their name and will usually try to give you the most helpful award that it reasonably can (for instance, in Attack from Mars, if you have Martian Attack lit at the same time, you usually get a martian bomb for use in that mode). Seemingly just as often though, it will just give you a mediocre amount of points. On the other hand, if you're currently having a really good game, you're more likely going to get one of the less desirable rewards.
    • Perhaps even more genius is the Match feature, which is also pseudo-random and designed to pull in more money for the operator. For example, the match feature has a disproportionately higher chance of giving player a match if two have just played, so the other player will deposit money and they will both play again. See this article.
  • Attract Mode: Almost all games have attract modes similar to those in Video Games. Typical versions will play music, flash the playfield lights in a choreographed sequence, and play animations on the alphanumeric or dot-matrix display.
  • Betting Mini Game
    • Jack*Bot is Pin Bot with a casino theme. The whole game revolves around this trope, although you are always betting hypothetical points. For instance, you are given a chance to double-up the points you won on a casino game by shooting under the left ramp. The "Casino Run" Wizard Mode, which operates very similarly to the Bonus Round of The Joker's Wild has you spinning a slot machine and each time allowing you to take your "bank" of points (and maybe even extra balls and specials) or risk it. Getting a bomb on the slot machine or running out of time to shoot another hole costs you your bank.
    • Whodunnit? has slots which give out various awards, as well as a roulette mini-game where you can bet your points. Unlike Jack*Bot, you actually are wagering your already-earned score, making this a rare example of a pinball game where you can lose points.
    • The Sopranos has the "Executive Game" which is a game of seven-card stud poker where the bet increases dramatically for each card (a few tens of thousands for your first card, and then millions by the last card). You can lose points here.
  • Bigger Is Better: Hercules, a 1979 Atari pinball is the largest pinball ever made at 39" wide, 93" long, and 83" tall. It uses a billiards cue ball as its pinball. YMMV on the "better" part though, as it is considered a simple and mediocre game by most players.
  • Boss Banter: If a game has an antagonist and speech, expect a lot of taunting during the game.
  • Cap: Long before dot-matrix displays became commonplace, many tables had score displays that were limited to a set number of digits.
    • Even with modern dot-matrix displays, the score displays on some games will usually roll back to 0 if they go over the maximum number of digits that can be displayed. Most dot-matrix games will roll over at 10 billion points; Whodunnit? and Dirty Harry are examples of games where this is not very hard to do. The high score tables usually can display the full scores though.
  • Celebrity Star: Occurs fairly often, especially for games named after a celebrity, musician, or band.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: In modern pinball games, multiball locks are usually colored green, "shoot this shot" arrows are colored yellow, and extra ball lights are colored red.
    • In a different sense, there are some machines whose modes are all color-coded. Most of these machines were made by Stern. For instance, in Game of Thrones, lights for House Lannister are yellow, lights for House Greyjoy are lavender, lights for House Stark are white, lights for House Martell are green, lights for Blackwater Multiball are chartreuse, and so forth.
  • Combos, which usually involve completing a specific sequence of shots.
  • Competitive Balance: Machines made after flash memory became cheap and widespread mostly have at least one patch released after the machine itself for the purpose of Nerfing some things and giving other things Balance Buffs. This is attributable to the large amounts of pinball competitions, where balance is very important. One such example is AC/DC's Thunderstruck mode: Originally, all three Thunderstruck targets could activate the mode, but one patch reduced it to just one, which would switch left to right every few seconds.
  • Continuing is Painful: Bonuses, missions, combos, multipliers, and such reset if you lose a ball, unless the table has a "multipliers held" or similar function you can enable to preserve them for your next ball.
    • However, there are pinball tables in which any increased bonuses and multipliers that are earned stick around until a player's game ends.
    • Can be inverted with balls bought with buy-ins. The extra bought ball will usually have a relatively long ball saver, and many of the game's features lit.
  • Cut Scene: Games with dot-matrix displays will usually stop the action for a moment to show one.
  • Dancing Bear: In general, as pinball machines were originally marketed to operators, who would put them out in public for people to play, advertising for them tended to be more about unique gimmicks and other novelties than about the gameplay itself, as operators were not necessarily players and thus were more likely persuaded on these gimmicks and novelties than how good the game actually played. Rather than talk about, say, The Addams Family's intricate depth, its challenging yet fair difficulty, or its scoring oriented around Competitive Balance, it was easier to convince operators to buy the game because Thing comes out of a box and grabs the ball! Or hidden magnets swing the ball around in unpredictable directions!
  • Difficult, but Awesome: Nudging puts you at the mercy of TILT penalties, and even barring that is just difficult to control, but a well-timed nudge can save a ball that would've made a beeline for the drain otherwise.
  • Difficulty Levels: There are operator-adjustable preset difficulty levels on virtually any modern pinball, usually five: Extra easy, easy, medium, hard, and extra hard. Many settings can be customized individually, but these will quickly set all of them. These adjust things like the ball saver length (or the number of ball saves; you might get multiple or no ball saves), the number of times a shot needs to be made to start a mode or get an award, whether hit targets have "memory" between balls (a common trait of harder settings is to unlight hit targets when a ball drains), among other features in the game.
  • Do Well, but Not Perfect: "Nining-out" a game is a popular Self-Imposed Challenge, especially on older games. That is, getting a score as close as possible to without going over the maximum that can be displayed. A score that's slightly over a million points on a six-digit display probably will not save, though some games are nice enough to save this as the maximum displayable score.
  • Dynamic Difficulty: The replay value on modern machines is adjusted every so often based on recent scores gotten on the machine so that a certain percentage of scores will get a replay. Obviously, these tend to be much higher on privately-owned machines than public machines. And some tables will award a pity extra ball if the player did badly on their first (or first and second) ball(s).
    • On some machines, especially early DMD machines, the requirements for a certain feature (for example, the number of ramps to light an extra ball) might "reflex", varying based on how many times the shot gets made.
  • Easter Egg/Everything's Better with Cows:
    • Easter Eggs are often referred to as "cows"; actual bovine references are an industry Running Gag, first popularized by Williams Electronics and later adopted by other creators for fun. See the page for an extensive list.
    • A lot of the post-1995 Williams/Bally games also have a Midnight Madness mode if you start a game at midnight. Later becomes a Running Gag Inside Joke, with machines like Theatre of Magic having a non-secret mode called Midnight Madness. Still later, even virtual pinball would join the fun, with Sorcerer's Lair adopting this name for the Wizard Mode.
  • Endless Game: Almost every pinball. Averted by a few games like James Bond 007, Safe Cracker and Flipper Football, which use timed play.
  • Every 10,000 Points: Virtually any pinball machine will give you a "replay" (or sometimes an extra ball) for reaching a certain score, known on most games as the "replay value". Older pins usually have several of these.
    • 1986's High Speed was the first game to feature automatic replay adjustment, in which the replay score automatically adjusts based on the players' performances on location.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin:
    • Stern made a 1977 pinball called Pinball. It was made in both electromechanical and solid-state versions, though this was the case with many games released that year.
    • Pinball terminology, as a whole, is astonishingly direct and straightforward compared to terminology in video games and sports. A "drop target" is a target that drops when hit. A "plunger" is a spring that plunges the ball into play. A "replay score" is a score that allows someone to play the game again. An "extra ball" is a bonus ball on top of the balls normally played. A "Video Mode" is a mode played on a video screen. A good 70% to 80% of all pinball terminology is like this.
  • 1-Up: Extra Balls: These are usually rewarded for completing specific goals on any given table. However, some tables reward extra balls after reaching specified scoring plateaus.
  • Fanservice: Though it depended on the subject matter, many machines featured artwork of scantily clad females for no other reason than to have scantily clad females all over the machine.
  • Genius Programming: In an interview, Steve Ritchie called Larry DeMar, the main programmer of Williams' pinball operating systems, "the most powerful programmer in pinball".
  • Golden Snitch: Occurs sometimes, usually when the scoring rules for a game are insufficiently balanced. A prime example is The Machine Bride Of Pin Bot. The single highest shot on this table scores an immediate 1,000,000,000 — yes, one billion — points. The next highest point reward is a mere 50 million, which still is worth about as much as an otherwise well-played game.
    • On a lot of early solid state games, the key to getting a high score usually is learning how to light the spinner for 1,000 points a spin (instead of 100/spin, or in really mean cases 10/spin), or figuring out how to get a 5x bonus multiplier. Bonuses can often be the majority of your score; they can amount to well over 100,000 or even 200,000 on games that can only display six digits. Even better if you can do both.
  • Gone Horribly Right: This happened to Williams Electronics in The '90s; although pinball remained a popular money-maker in various public venues, distributors and retailers weren't buying new games — because the games they had bought in earlier years were still working fine and making money. Williams realized that their only way out was to invent a new form of pinball that would make existing games look antiquated by comparison; the result was the "Pinball 2000" platform and Revenge from Mars, which superimposed video displays over the playfield.
  • Have a Nice Death: Expect the Celebrity Star to pity you if you lose the ball.
  • Hey, It's That Sound!: Most of Williams' 1980s pins reused the sound effects from 1980's Firepower. According to Eugene Jarvis, he developed those sound effects, and were reused in their video games, including Defender and Joust.
    • Similarly, Data East's games using the BSMT2000 chip also reused sound effects.
  • Last Chance Hit Point: Whodunnit? has a variation of this; either outlane can be lit to start the slots when the ball drains. Matching two of the reels (but not all three) will give a Second Chance, where a ball is plunged back in and shooting one of the lit shots will match the third reel. Whether you match the third reel or not, it won't count as a drain and you get to keep playing on the same ball. Getting Multiball on the slots will save you from ending the ball too.
  • Loophole Abuse: Ubiquitous among skilled players on both the mechanical side and the "rules" side. On the mechanical side, players will often try to find low-risk shots or kickouts that can always (or reasonably consistently) be trapped on the flipper. On the "rules" side, sometimes there can be a single shot that is worth far more than anything else.
  • Luck-Based Mission: Still very much prevalent today, as even a wizard playing their favorite game can really drop the ball every once in a while, though there is quite a skill component on the mechanical side (being able to shoot shots) and knowledge component on knowing the table's rules. However, pre-1947 pinball games were almost entirely luck-based, as they had no flippers, and the notion led to pinball's ban for over twenty years.note 
    • As pinball pioneer Harry Williams was quoted as saying, "The ball is always wild!"
  • Macro Game: Prevalent in older games, but stopped as players' tastes changed. Most games after about 1993 did away with most gameplay-affecting macrogames.
    • Progressive jackpots that increased from game to game were popular on alphanumeric and early DMD games.
    • Some games would carry over Spelling Bonuses or counters from one game to another. To pick just three examples, Black Knight 2000 has the R-A-N-S-O-M letters carry from game to game, Super Mario Bros. carried over the number of castles destroyed, and Dr. Dude kept the Dude-O-Meter levels across games.
    • Older electro-mechanical games and early solid-state games with multiball often kept locked balls between players, out of mechanical necessity. If the first player locked a ball and then ended his turn, the second player could initiate multiball by "stealing" the locked ball from his opponent. Later pinballs avoided this by using "software locks" to keep track of separate ball locks for each player. Some later machines may still use "physical" locks with appropriate theme integration, but the software still keeps track of each player's progress, and is always ready to "do the right thing".
  • Mini-Game: "Video Mode", a basic Video Game controlled with the flipper and plunger buttons. Smaller playfields on the table (such as The Twilight Zone's "Battle The Power" section, or Black Knight's upper playfield) also count to a degree.
  • Nintendo Hard: Most beginners' experiences can be summed up as "hit a few things, ball makes beeline for the drain or ends up helplessly in an outlane within 30 seconds, repeat for two more balls."
  • No Antagonist:
  • No Fair Cheating:
    • Overdo the nudges and the game TILTs, which locks off the flippers until you lose your ball, and negates all end-of-ball bonuses. Older electro-mechanical pinball machines had no end-of-ball bonuses, so they would outright end the game then and there, regardless of whether or not you have any balls remaining.
    • Then there's the Slam Tilt to detect people trying to cheat the machine out of money, either by trying to trick the coin mechanism into thinking it accepted a coin when it hasn't, or outright trying to steal the coin box. It triggers a Non-Standard Game Over for all players and voids all credits in the machine. Slam Tilt also triggers in a literal manner if you are needlessly violent with the machine, such as physically lifting it up and slamming it to the floor. Either way, getting a Slam Tilt in any shape or form is a good way to get ejected from the establishment.
    • Averted with the "cheat" mechanic in Jack*Bot, where you can "cheat" at pretty much anything by repeatedly hitting the Extra Ball buy-in button. You can gain advantages in the casino games, the Casino Run Wizard Mode (you can usually negate one bomb in this fashion), and even increase your bonus multiplier at the end of the ball. The attract mode sequence will even tell you that you can do this. Of course, you still have to be careful not to TILT.
  • No Plot? No Problem!: Prevalent in early pinballs, due to technical limitations; the machine's theme would often have little to no bearing on the gameplay itself. Eschewed by modern pinball games, however, as software programming allows for more elaborate stories and rules to support progressively more difficult modes. There are still a few machines released well into the 2010's with no story though, most notably music-themed ones like AC/DC.
  • Not Quite Starring: Often invoked on Licensed Pinball Tables when a star is not available to record game dialog as their character.
  • Obvious Rule Patch: Most modern pinball games usually go through several ROM revisions to balance the game, and the changes made usually can be viewed as this.
  • Pinball Scoring: The Trope Namer. This generally applies, but is not exclusive to, newer tables.
    • As an early example of score inflation, Gottlieb's Ace High (1957) has a minimum scoring increment of 10,000 points. However, because Ace High has several ways for players to lose balls, this table's highest displayable score is 7,990,000 points.
    • This is certainly a Cyclic Trope. Until rolling score counters became commonplace in The '50s, pinball tables gradually increased the minimum scoring unit from 100 to 1,000 to 10,000 and then 100,000. When rolling counters were introduced, 3- and 4-digit scores became commonplace (though some early rolling counter pins would "paint on" some zeroes). This gradually increased to 5 digits and then 6. The transition from electromagnetic to solid-state games in 1977 picked up scoring-wise where the electromagnetic games ended, though in the early 80s score counters expanded to 7 digits and then when the score display was consolidated, to 8 digits. The 1991 game The Machine: Bride of Pin*Bot went really over the top with the possibility of getting a billion points, though the transition to dot-matrix displays accelerated this trope; most could display up to 10 digits and high scores in the billions became common. A few pins like Jack*Bot, Johnny Mnemonic, and Attack from Mars could display up to 11 digits with the knowledge that scores of 10 billion or more would be reasonably common (Johnny Mnemonic can display 12 digits; it will happily render scores in the hundred billions in either the main game or high score tables). Tales of the Arabian Nights dialed back a good game to being in the tens of millions of points, and most other pins up to the modern day have had scores of roughly the same magnitude. Stern's latest titles, such as The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones have started to make billion-point scores a reality once again.
    • Averted in The Wizard of Oz and Jersey Jack's other machines; the lowest score available is 1 point. Now that Stern is doing monitor displays instead of dot-matrix displays too, however, the sky is the limit, with both Batman '66 and Aerosmith having the more pronounced scoring Stern has implemented as of late in contrast to Jersey Jack.
  • Progressive Jackpot:
    • A few games (High Speed being the first, as mentioned above) have these which carry from game to game, normally as a jackpot, but earlier DMD games will have these as the award for completing the Wizard Mode.
    • The Party Zone has the Big Bang award.
    • White Water has a downplayed version of this in the White Water Vacation Jackpot, which does increment, but it starts at 200M and only increments at a rate of 10K per game where it's not collected; even if 1000 games are played without it being collected (pretty unlikely), the jackpot will only have increased to 210M. By comparison, older pins usually have jackpots that can vary by a factor of 3 or more and playing at the right time can be crucial to a high score.
  • Random Events Plot: Due to the non-linear nature of mode progression on most machines, if the game has a story at all, the sequences will almost always be interchangeable and independent of each other, even if they're based on an existing story. For instance, in Pirates of the Caribbean (Stern), you could be playing Liar's Dice with other pirates, then fight the Kraken, then go encounter Davy Jones and sink his ship, then go back to playing Liar's Dice. Or in The Flintstones, playing as Fred, you could be bowling at the Bedrock Bowl-O-Rama one second and chasing Dino around the house the next, or even both simultaneously.
  • Rank Inflation: Jackpots. When they were first introduced, even a normal Jackpot would usually provide about the same as the replay value. Eventually their significance declined and there were Double Jackpots, Triple Jackpots, and Super Jackpots. As an example, in "Multiball Madness" in Medieval Madness, even a Double Super Jackpot is worth only 800K to 2M when a replay on that game usually takes about 20-30 million.
    • The Champion Pub takes this to ridiculous extremes. The normal Jackpot is worth 100K. Then there are double, triple, quadruple... all the way up to Octuple Jackpot, Super Jackpot, Mega Jackpot, Ultra Jackpot, Turbo Jackpot, Maximum Jackpot, Cow of a Jackpot, and Jackpot Deluxe. That's 15 jackpot levels.
    • Psycho Pinball's Trick Or Treat table keeps inflating, and inflating, and inflating... it starts at seven million, and rises by five million each time it's hit. And it's not too difficult to loop it; 167 million has been reached before. That table also has a Double Jackpot (somewhat harder to loop), and a possible x7 playfield multiplier. The Wild West table has a jackpot that starts at a basic three million, but increases by 237,000 every time you hit a loop or drop a set of targets or any number of other things. At minimum it takes at least five jackpot raises before you can even obtain it.
  • Real Song Theme Tune: Usually done with licensed tables, but are occasionally thrown in to non-licensed tables.
  • Recycled In Space:
  • Recycled Set: Either done as a cost-savings measure, or when retheming an existing table for a special project.
    • Jack*Bot uses the same playfield layout that Pin Bot uses.
    • The Simpsons Pinball Party was re-themed as The Brain, a promotional pinball for a science museum.
    • Family Guy was re-themed as Shrek, as well as a one-off Good Morning America pinball.
    • Game Plan, a smaller pinball manufacturer from The '70s, did this frequently to save costs. Family Fun! and Star Ship shared the same layout, while Sharpshooter, Old Coney Island, and Sharpshooter II all used the same layout or a mirrored copy. The games were often released together, which highlighted how recycled they were.
    • The Gamatron conversion kit reuses the playfield from Flight 2000 with minor modifications.
  • Retraux:
    • Capcom's 1996 pinball Breakshot has the appearance of pinball from The '70s, even simulating electromagnetic score reels on the DMD.
    • Whoa Nellie! Big Juicy Melons is a boutique pinball that uses modern art and manufacturing techniques for an old-fashioned electro-mechanical game.
  • Rule of Three: Almost any pinball from The '80s and onward gives three balls on default settings (five balls was more common for older pins, since they didn't last as long). Most games also require the player to lock three balls to start multiball, and three is probably the most common number of balls in multiball.
  • Score Multiplier: Has been ubiquitous throughout the medium for decades. Bonus multipliers are probably the most common type, which will multiply the player's end-of-ball bonus. Playfield multipliers are also common, which will (usually temporarily) multiply all scoring while they are active. Some games, especially Stern Electronics' recent games, have shot multipliers - Any points scored on a specific shot will be multiplied. Stern became more extreme with this mechanic from ACDC and onwards, with the ability to stack multipliers upon multipliers, each of which have their own name. KISS (Stern), for instance, has Combo Multipliers, Playfield Multipliers, Song Multipliers, on top of the usual Jackpots, Double Jackpots, Super Jackpots, and such, all of which can be active at once. They also all stack via multiplication rather than addition, allowing for some truly ludicrous values for single shots with lots of descriptors behind them.
  • Self-Imposed Challenge: Quite common in tournaments to reduce play times, or to make an otherwise one-shot game more balanced by Nerfing that shot. Turning off extra balls is almost always done, and sometimes the software will be set to harder-than-normal settings. Other adjustments include putting extra-wide posts on the entrances of ramps and other shots to make them narrower (or in some cases, blocking them off or disabling their switches entirely), using "lightning" flippers (1/8 of an inch shorter than normal flippers) on games that don't normally use them, making the playfield steeper, replacing the normal balls with powerballs, or putting extra-bouncy rubbers on flippers. Most competitions, or games set for competition practice, will have their tilt sensors turned up very high as well.
  • Sequel Difficulty Spike:
  • Single-Use Shield: Some tables offer a kickback that puts the ball back in play if it's headed for an outlane, but it only activates once. It may be available for free after the current ball is launched, but either way, once it's used it often has to be earned back by completing certain objectives. Tales of the Arabian Nights will catch the ball with a "Shooting Star" and put it into the inlane below, while Stern's Star Wars has an "Escape" power-up that, when used up by way of a ball going into the right outlane, sends a replacement ball up the plunger lane.
  • Skill Shots
  • Smart Bomb: Data East games Jurassic Park and Last Action Hero have a Smart Missile feature (activated by a button on the back of the gun-shaped plungers) that has various effects depending on the mode that is currently running, but most of the time they have the effect of collecting all lit shots.
  • Songs in the Key of Panic: Variant — tables of the late 1970s-early 1980s often had the music rise in pitch and/or tempo the longer the ball was in play in an attempt to distract the player. It rolled back around to the original tune after a while. This 1979 Flash machine is a good (annoying) example.
  • Spectacular Spinning:
    • There are squares that you spin to score. They are called, appropriately, 'spinners'.
    • Some tables (such as Fireball or Whirlwind) also include spinning wheels on them that can alter a ball's trajectory.
  • Spelling Bonus: The purpose of "spot letter" targets, and the Trope Maker.
  • Timed Mission:
    • A favorite of the genre, and virtually any modern pinball has some modes that are timed.
    • A variant of this is the "hurry-up", a shot worth an amount of points that decreases the more time that it takes the player to shoot it. Variants include a hurry-up that sets the score for other targets afterwards, or a hurry-up that can be collected multiple times.
    • A few designers have attempted to create pinball games that are time-based, such as James Bond 007, Safe Cracker, and Flipper Football. Needless to say, none of them managed to catch on with the mass market.
  • Violation of Common Sense: What other genre of arcade games encourages you to smack and shake the cabinet in order to survive and score?
  • Wacky Racing: Been there, designed a table about that.
  • Wizard Mode: Popularized in The '90s, to the point of being ubiquitous today.

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: