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Pinball / Stranger Things

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NOTE: Due to the prevalence of Late-Arrival Spoilers for seasons 1 and 2 of the show, all spoilers are unmarked.
The Pro model.

Stranger Things is a pinball table designed by Brian Eddy and released by Stern throughout 2020 (after being revealed near the end of 2019). It is notable as the first pinball machine that Eddy has designed in over twenty years (his last one was Medieval Madness in 1997).

The premise is based on the first two seasons of the Netflix series of the same name, with the player going through several key events from both of their stories in order to save Will and keep the denizens of the Upside Down at bay. Crucial to this is the Demogorgon, which sits in the center of the playfield and must be fought in several dedicated modes, as well as the Demodogs. Furthermore, at any moment the player can get transported into the Upside Down itself, requiring careful shooting to return back to reality. Getting past all of these will lead to the Final Showdown to close the gate between the worlds once and for all.

In addition to the Demogorgon toy, the game's Premium and Limited Editions are notable for their innovative use of a projector as a gimmick. Certain parts of the playfield (most prominently a large screen that hides the Demogorgon from view) are transparent and have context-specific visuals projected onto them to contribute to immersion. The same models also feature a "telekinetic" ball lock that holds balls on the back wall through magnets. Every version of the game has an optional Game Mod (sold separately) installing UV lights that activate during certain modes (usually related to the Upside Down or the creatures that came from it), revealing hidden aspects of the playfield artwork.

This game contains examples of:

  • Adjustable Censorship: Added in version 0.94, though all it does is remove the semi-hidden mode "Bulls@!t".
  • Attack Its Weak Point: Shooting the Demogorgon's mouth serves as a more expedient way to finish its modes.
  • Attack the Mouth: This is the most effective way to hurt the Demogorgon.
  • *Bleep*-dammit!: "Bulls@!t" uses partial Symbol Swearing whenever the titular word is shown on the display, even though the actual audio is uncensored (and the Adjustable Censorship option simply removes the mode entirely).
  • Brand X: The Premium version's backglass depicts Dustin with a candy bar labeled "CHOCOLATE", referencing him feeding Three Musketeers bars to Dart in the series' second season.
  • Camera Abuse: Tilting displays an animation where a Demodog attacks the camera.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: "Bulls@!t" is a frenzy mode where every single hit causes a "bullshit" soundbite to play.
  • Combos:
    • If a lit shot is involved in any combo, its value is doubled.
    • Just like in Attack from Mars, a 5-way combo is necessary to start "Final Showdown".
    • "Operation Mirkwood" incrementally ups the value of each shot by a million points if they're part of a combo.
    • As of version 0.90, making every shot in "Save Will" as a single combo awards 50 million points.
  • Difficult, but Awesome: Getting the ball into the Demogorgon's mouth requires careful shooting, as it's far easier to have it bounce off of the figure... however, doing so awards twice as many points as usual and advances the current mode faster.
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: All over the place. The various monsters were originally mysterious figures that were gradually unveiled in the original series, but here they're prominently displayed on several parts of the display (most obviously the Demogorgon bash toy, which is literally central to the game's layout). Likewise, completing "Where's Barb?" (a mode based on a plot thread that runs throughout the first season) unceremoniously displays a picture of her corpse from its penultimate episode.
  • Lightning/Fire Juxtaposition: The playfield art uses both lightning and fire to direct the player's gaze to the center targets and ramps, respectively.
  • Match Sequence: A die rolls the match number.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • There are some allusions to the original series' references to Dungeons & Dragons - the virtual kickback on the left outlane is called "Spell of Protection" and the Mystery animation shows the result being rolled on a d20.
    • "Morse Code" has the player gradually translating a message through completing specific shots. Said message ultimately turns out to be "Friends don't lie, never ever, no matter what!".
    • While the playfield being covered with imagery from the show is normal for Licensed Pinball Tables, the lights used for the two seasons' modes subtly incorporate imagery from each: season 1's are wrapped by Christmas lights (like the ones Joyce sets up in her home), while season 2's are placed on top of Will's scattered drawings of the Mind Flayer's tunnels. Furthermore, the UV light add-on reveals several gnarled tunnels underneath most of the playfield, along with a few symbols connected to Terry Ives' Madness Mantra (like a sunflower and a rainbow sticker).
  • Nintendo Hard: There are two main factors making the game more difficult than usual:
    • The central shot (both drop targets and the Demogorgon) is risky and prone to quickly sending the ball in unpredictable directions (similar to the Black Knight in Black Knight: Sword of Rage). This is an issue because it's unsurprisingly the only shot that counts for progress towards and during Demogorgon modes, in addition to figuring prominently in other modes as well. "Monster Hunting" (a season 1 mode that relies on hitting the central drop targets) is considered so risky that the usual strategy is to start a multiball while it's running for security. It doesn't help that many early models were shipped with problems affecting the ramp leading to the Demogorgon itself, making it even harder.
    • Shooting the ramps (important for starting season 1 and 2 modes in the first place) requires surprisingly precise aiming skills, too.
  • Obvious Rule Patch: The Demogorgon battles in the early code revisions originally did not have a health bar, meaning you had to shoot the ball straight in its mouth to defeat it. When it became evident that the shot was considerably more difficult and frustrating than intended, the health bar was added to allow hits anywhere on the body to damage the Demogorgon, and award a larger bonus if you still get it in its mouth.
  • Ominous Visual Glitch: "What Mama Says" displays a picture of Terry Ives that periodically glitches like an old television. Making a shot causes the effect to briefly intensify, with simulated vertical roll and a split-second misalignment. All of this fits with Terry's Madness Mantra and Psychic Powers.
  • One-Hit Kill: Getting a ball directly into the Demogorgon's mouth during "Break Out!" (the first mode) results in this.
  • Painting the Medium:
    • During an Upside-Down hurry-up, the game's lights imitate the perpetual darkness of the Upside-Down itself. The Premium and Limited editions further this by projecting simulated spores onto the playfield and backbox.
    • The Premium and Limited editions of the game also translate Eleven's Psychic Powers into the telekinesis ball lock.
    • The Upside-Down hurry up implicitly references Will's "hallucinations" in the second season, as it happens completely randomly and primarily displays stills from scenes involving his visions.
    • The center shot is subtly tied to the Upside Down and the Demogorgon beyond their dedicated modes. For instance, "Monster Hunting" and "Get Me Out" (both based on moments explicitly involving the Demogorgon) center around it, and the super jackpot in "Total Isolation" (which displays the moment Eleven first made contact with it) is awarded by shooting it.
  • Random Event: The game can randomly trigger an Upside-Down hurry-up mode at any point.
  • Raster Vision: Simulated scan lines appear whenever "What Mama Says" progresses.
  • Retraux: Downplayed. Some parts of the game's display imitate '80s aesthetic, such as the font and occasional "laser grid" imagery.
  • Score Multiplier: 2x Scoring can be lit by hitting the center loop repeatedly and then shooting the left saucer.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The extra ball animation depicts the Demogorgon getting clocked by a pinball in the same manner as the equivalent animation from Attack from Mars. (Both games were designed by Brian Eddy.)
    • Likewise, "Total Isolation" takes after Attack from Mars' "Total Annihilation" in both name, qualifications (completing all the lights on the ramps and orbits), and rules.
  • Skill Shot:
    • One of the four drop targets flashes when a ball starts, progressing back and forth. Hitting it scores 5M points (with 1M more each time it's made).
    • The Super Skill Shot involves getting the ball into the left saucer, be it through plunging or immediately after plunging. This is worth 10M points, with 1M being added for each successive shot.
  • Spelling Bonus:
    • D-E-M-O-D-O-G lights a Demodog mode.
    • The Demogorgon modes are accessed by repeatedly hitting the center bank of drop targets (unlabeled on the Pro version but given projected, context-sensitive labels on higher-tier editions). On the display, the player must spell various longer sentences ("RUN!", "WILL RUN!", "WILL LOOK OUT!", "WILL LOOK OUT! RUN!") this way.
  • Spiritual Successor: The emphasis on repeatedly shooting the ramps and orbits to start modes resembles Attack from Mars and Medieval Madness.
  • Take That, Audience!:
    • The game occasionally (and subtly) mocks players who use a ball save:
      "O... kay?"
    • Played straighter if the player gets a tilt warning, which invariably results in Hopper warning them:
      "Watch it, buddy!"
  • Wizard Mode:
    • "Total Isolation" is a mini-wizard mode that's qualified near-identically to Attack from Mars' "Total Annihilation" shooting each ramp and orbit three times. Every major shot will score a jackpot; after getting enough of them, the center will light for a super jackpot worth as much as every previous jackpot.
    • Completing the ramps and orbits twice in one game will start "Total Isolation 2", where every shot flashes, shooting them turns their light solid and diminishes their value, and completing all of them allows the player to try and get a super jackpot by shooting the Demogorgon.
    • Playing every Season 1 mode lights "Send It Back", a proper wizard mode based on the climatic battle against the Demogorgon. Every major shot is lit for a jackpot or double jackpot, and completing them all leads to the second phase. The Demogorgon bash toy's ramp lowers, and the player must deplete its life bar to get a Super Jackpot and finish the mode.
    • Playing every Season 2 mode lights "Light the Fire", another wizard mode based on the kids' fight against the Demodogs underground. The Demogorgon shot and Demodog targets are persistently lit for jackpots, eventually culminating in a Super Jackpot that concludes the mode.
    • Playing both Season 1 and 2 wizard modes, all Demodog modes, all Demogorgon modes, Telekinesis multiball, and completing a 5-way combo lights the final wizard mode, Final Showdown. It is a multiball where the player must complete several levels of tasks, culminating in a final battle against the Demogorgon. Successfully completing this mode will start Snow Ball Dance as a "Victory Lap" mode (similar to Eddy's previous games, Attack from Mars and Medieval Madness) that lasts for the rest of your ball.