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Video Game / Pinball FX
aka: Zen Pinball

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"Earth Defense", one of the original Zen Pinball tables.

Pinball FX is a series of games for playing Digital Pinball Tables by Zen Studios. Most of the gamesnote  are frameworks where players can purchase and download new pinball tables over time. The games support features such as local and online multiplayer play, slow motion, mid-game saves, and online leaderboards and tournament competitions.

Previously, it used to be two fundamentally similar but separate series by the developer; Pinball FX was previously the series title for games on Microsoft systems, while Zen Pinball was used for versions on other platforms. After the release of Pinball FX 3, the Zen Pinball name has been discontinued, and now all platforms with the latest game use Pinball FX. Most of the pre-FX 3 tables are available for both series.

The first title in the series was Pinball FX. It was published by Microsoft Game Studios on Xbox Live Arcade in 2007 and initially came with three tables ("Speed Machine", "Agents", and "Extreme"). Six other tables were released later as downloadable content.

In 2008, Zen released the first Zen Pinball games, Zen Pinball: Rollercoaster and Zen Pinball: Inferno. They were games for Apple's iOS devices, and unlike the other titles in the series, these were standalone apps with no facility for downloading additional tables.

In 2009, Zen released Zen Pinball on the Play Station Network, making it the first pinball game on the PlayStation 3. It came with four tables ("Earth Defense", "El Dorado", "Epic Quest", and "Excalibur"), with others released later. The game was subsequently released on Android devices as Zen Pinball THD and the Nintendo 3DS as Zen Pinball 3D in 2011. A version of Zen Pinball was also released for iOS devices, with proper support for downloadable tables.

Pinball FX 2 was released in 2010 for the Xbox 360, then later Windows 8 in 2012 (which was revamped in October 2014 after being neglected), Steam in 2013, and a Windows Phone was planned but never released. Zen Pinball 2 was released in 2012 for the PlayStation 3 and Play Station Vita, then later Wii U and PlayStation 4 in 2013. Both of these are upgrades to the original titles, with an improved game engine and support for more features. The games are backwards compatible with the originals, allowing owners to import their tables.

Pinball FX 3 was released on September 26, 2017, for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows 10 and Steam, with the Nintendo Switch version arriving on December 12 that year. This version focuses more on multiplayer matchups, league play, and tournaments, as well as the addition of new single-player modes and features.

On September 4, 2018, Zen Studios announced that they had secured the rights to the Williams Electronics and Bally library of pinball tables, taking over from the previous license holders FarSight Studios, makers of The Pinball Arcade. In contrast to their original tables, the Williams and Bally digitalizations play as close to the original physical tables as possible. However, there is also the option to play versions of the tables with extra eye candy in the vein of Zen's original fare. Volume 1 was released October 9, 2018, for all supported platforms after a Steam-exclusive public beta period during the previous September.

A new installment, titled Pinball FX, was launched in Early Access on March 31, 2022, which consists of remastered versions of most of the Pinball FX3 catalog alongside new games, with new originals that replace the traditional dot matrix display with video elements. Pinball FX was released on PlayStation and Xbox systems in February 2023, while Steam followed in April 2023. A Nintendo Switch release released in July 2023.

A horror-based spin-off titled Pinball M was announced in September 2023 and released in November. As its title implies, it's rated M by the ESRB, allowing for tables that would be too bloody or raunchy to be in the T-rated Pinabll FX.

Zen's pinballs tend to be Licensed Pinball Tables, with properties from popular Comic Book and Science Fiction assets. Although the playfield physics are realistic, the games also feature liberal use of Video Game-only effects, such as wandering enemies to be destroyed with balls or attention-grabbing animations over the playfield.

Note: As new Works pages are created for the various Pinball FX tables, be sure to add them here and on the Digital Pinball Tables page.

Tables are currently available for the various Pinball FX (and Zen Pinball) games:

As of Pinball FX, the tables are all grouped by licensor in-game (with the subsidiaries of Disney, NBCUniversal and Paramount Global listed separately) and this list follows suit.

Tables that will be available for Pinball M:

Tables that were previously available for Pinball FX and Zen Pinball games:

  • The Walking Deadnote 
  • Portal Pinballnote 
  • Ms. Splosion Man
  • Nightmare Mansion
  • Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Tribute
  • Pinball FX Classic, a bundle of four tables:
    • Speed Machine
    • Xtreme
    • Agents
    • Buccaneer
  • Plants vs. Zombies Pinball
  • Rocky and Bullwinkle
  • Street Fighter II Tribute
  • Super League Football (with the following designs)note 
    • Zen Studios F.C.note 
    • Liverpool F.C.
    • Arsenal F.C.
    • Real Madrid C.F.
    • FC Barcelona
    • Juventus
    • A.S. Roma
    • A.C. Milan

Zen Pinball, Pinball FX and Pinball M contain examples of:

  • Adjustable Censorship: In the PC version of Pinball FX 3, you can toggle the censorship that was imposed on Williams tables for other console versions that would block out anything on them that may conflict with the game's overall Everyone 10+ Rating - like suggestive clothing and substance abuse. Even with this feature, the PC version still gets the same rating.
  • Adorable Evil Minions: The alien invaders of Earth Defense are cute robots, and when you lose a ball, the video screen depicts them scampering away with it in a cartoonish manner. Even their Big Bad leader, the colossal Flip-Bot, is more silly than menacing.
  • Alien Invasion: The theme of Earth Defense — rallying humanity's defense against mechanical alien invaders.
  • Anti-Frustration Feature: For the new Pinball FX, scores used to gather collectibles are saved between games, and culminate gradually as you keep playing the tables, meaning you don't need to score all the required points in one game. Restarting midway through for a better score won't affect the bar either.
  • Arm Cannon: Earth Defense's Flip-Bot boasts one of these. Charmingly, if he catches your ball, he'll use that arm cannon to blast it back at you!
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Masters of the Force has a Holocron mechanic tied into the wizard modes of the table, akin to Star Trek: The Next Generation. Every Holocron collected on each Jedi/Sith level adds 1 million to the shot value during either Full Power or Prophecy Fulfilled, up to a maximum of 10 on any level. Complete sets (1 Holocron on each of the 4 levels on either side) is 100 million. Collect all 80 and start Prophecy Fulfilled, that's 2.8 billion just for starting the mode, and 80 million for every shot during the multiball. However, at any point does one start a wizard mode, all Holocrons are reset.
  • Bowdlerize: When Zen Studios makes pinball adaptations based on adult entertainment properties, it adapts out anything from these properties that wouldn't sit with the overall Everyone 10+ Rating that it wants to maintain for its pinball series - like graphic violence and profanity. So that means you'll have, say, Bloodless Carnage for tables based on M-rated Bethesda video games.
  • The Bus Came Back: South Park returns to Pinball FX on October 12, 2023, after being delisted since FX3's launch in September 2017.
  • Casting Gag: As Ian McKellen portrayed Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings films and Magneto in the X-Men films, voice actor Tom Kane, who voiced Gandalf in Lord of the Rings video games, agreed to voice Magneto for the X-Men table.
  • Catchphrase: Most of the tables have a voice clip of someone saying, "Fantastic!"
  • Cosmetic Award: In Pinball FX, reaching certain point milestones on each table, alongside completing their achievements, will unlock cosmetic bonuses for you to display in the main menu room, such as posters and figurines of table setpieces.
  • Developer's Foresight: In the event of a ball flying out of a table, a new ball is given to the player to compensate the faulty system. Sometimes, it ends up being hilarious. See here for an example.
  • Difficulty Levels:
    • Avengers: Age of Ultron has three separate difficulty levels: Easy, Medium and Hard. The slope of the table, timers on modes, and score rewards are adjusted based on the difficulty selected.
    • American Dad! has the threat level, increased by hitting a spinner and decreased by ending modes. A higher threat level gives you more points overall, but decreases the time you have on timed missions.
    • Doom has the option for Nightmare difficulty when you start a game. It gives better scores in exchange for no ball saves, kickbacks, or extra balls.
    • Williams games have THREE difficulty levels to choose from in Single Player:
      • Traditional Zen physics, powerups included.
      • Classic Single Player - Arcade, with physics simulating those from the arcade.
      • Classic Single Player - Tournament Mode. Akin to IFPA standards, this features no extra balls, tighter tilt settings, hard outlanes, and a steeper slope.
  • Digital Pinball Tables
  • Evil Is Hammy: The villains on Zen's tables are prone to Evil Laughs and yelling Flowery Insults at the protagonists. Even the Flip-Bot of Earth Defense can't resist the occasional bout of deep-throated chuckling at your attempts to defend the city from its army's onslaught.
  • Level Grinding: Pinball FX 3. Oy.
    • The main issue with powerups on FX 3 is that powerup levels aren't applied universally. If a player wants to get every single mastery point on each table, one has to go through each table and play it multiple times, using up all of the time on a wizard powerup, finish the game, rinse and repeat. The wizard powers each require a certain amount of time for an increase in level, which takes multiple games. Rewind is the worst offender, not counting tenths of a second rewound as progress.
    • Subverted for the passive powerups that can be levelled multiple times in a single game.
  • Macrogame: Epic Quest has systems for levelling up your character and getting better and better gear, which persist between games.
    • The Skyrim table one-ups Epic Quest with a suite of open world RPG mechanics that are staples of the Elder Scrolls series, like an inventory, crafting, skills, side quests, and levelling up, all of which persist between games.
  • Nerf: The diagonal nudge was considered too powerful on the Steam version, leading to an "unnatural" amount of bang backs on all given tables and "abnormal" high scores. Now, the bang back power is only 10% than before the patch, and the other versions were left untouched until FX 3 launched.
  • No Fair Cheating: Every table has an operator's menu that allows you to change, among other things, the table's difficulty and gameplay features. If you do so and discard the default factory settings, then you can't post your scores online until factory settings are restored.
    • Completely discarded in Pinball FX 3 going forward.
  • Obviously Evil: With a few exceptions, such as The Walking Dead, the antagonists never hide how evil they are.
  • Pinball Scoring:
    • Because of the introduction of powerups in FX 3, scoring on some tables have become incredibly boosted that it trumps all other methods and strategies. On games with already valuable bumpers or multiball modes, where applicable, can result in some ridiculous scores. Thankfully, Classic mode has a separate leaderboard.
    • Averted in some of the newer tables (and some of the older ones). Even reaching 1 million points will take a good deal of effort. Played straight with Sorcerer's Lair and Rocky & Bullwinkle, where it's relatively easy to get scores in the hundreds of millions.
  • Player Character: The Zen Pinball line has a relatively high number of pinball tables compared to other companies' libraries, real or virtual, where the player fills an individual, specific, named role. The most obvious are the Marvel-themed tables where you play as the titular hero, though even its non-licensed tables will usually have a protagonist the player stands in for, such as Jake in Sorcerer's Lair or Nikola Tesla in Tesla. Even Super League Football puts the player in the role of the team's manager. Compare this to, for instance, Jersey Jack Pinball's The Wizard of Oz, where the player, though usually Dorothy, frequently shifts to other characters, or Stern's AC/DC, which has no player character at all.
    • Non-Player Character: Many of Zen's tables also have entire casts of characters for each table the player character will meet, more pronounced in later tables when Zen's budget increased. Of note are Captain America, which has all of Cap's Howlers and a military support squad; and The Walking Dead, of which most of the characters met in the Telltale game's first season will show up in this one in some form.
      • Humorously, the top score on Deadpool isn't the normal multiple of 5 or 10 that the high scores normally are. Instead, it's a proper high score... attributed to Deadpool, who is shown at the start of every game playing the Deadpool pinball table...
  • Robeast: In Earth Defense, the villainous Flip-Bot towers over the buildings of the city.
  • Robot War: The Alien Invasion of Earth Defense is also this, as the invaders are robots.
  • Serial Escalation: Each table from Zen has more complex rules than the last, to where Super League Football has a campaign spanning multiple tries at the table, and Skyrim has an immense amount of mechanics based on its source material. The budget for audio has also increased, going from in-house acting to stock voice actors to bringing actors and announcers straight from the source material.
  • Shout-Out: Zen Studios loves pinball so much, it needed its own page.
  • Signature Style: Most tables have the following in common:
    • Three or more flippers.
    • Narrow shots or wide but steep ramps.
    • Side ramps that loop back to the same upper flipper.
    • Multi-level playfields.
    • Modes that do not stack (once an objective is asked, all other things are disabled and worth minimal points).
    • Nearly all required modes are either multiballs or Timed Missions.
    • A lot of Spelling Bonuses.
    • Very strong emphasis on ramps (always at least 3, with as many as 5).
    • A playfield longer and wider than a normal machine.
    • At least one multiball mode required to reach a Wizard Mode.
    • Multi-stage wizard modes that are very hard to reach.
    • Generous and easy-to-obtain ball savers.
    • A kickback on both outlanes, activated by lighting an insert on the outlanes and inlanes.
    • A manual plunger. Very few tables, like Guardians of the Galaxy or Earth Defense use button-style ball launchers.
    • A cap of 10x end-of-ball bonus multiplier, with an extra ball given after that. On many tables, this is the only way of obtaining an extra ball.
    • Flippers at a high angle when held, leading to easy ball catches.
    • Use of slingshots to start certain modes (most physical pinball machines use slingshots only to send the ball out of control). In addition, slingshot hits tend to be worth more on Zen's tables than those of other designers.
    • Downplayed use of bumpers, which are placed close together leading to lots and lots of bumper hits when the ball does reach them.
    • As of late, characters standing on the apron watching the game. Justified, though, as that's the least intrusive place for them to be.
      • Of course, in the case of Deadpool, it's not as much standing on the apron as being busy getting his OWN high score on the table.
  • Stock Scream: Expect to hear the Wilhelm Scream on Excalibur and Masters of the Force.
  • Timed Mission:
    • One of the Challenges on each table is a 5-minute mode where you have unlimited ball saver and try to score as many points as possible in 5 minutes.
    • Matchup mode features a variant of the above where you try to beat your opponents score in 3 minutes. During the last 30 seconds of the match, any points you earn during that time will be doubled.
  • Title Drop: In FX2 and FX3 (alongside the newest rendition of FX), upon selecting a table, this usually comes up. Averted for a few tables, such as the Williams tables, which instead use the sound of inserted coins, and Portal, which uses Wheatley's Gratuitous Spanish upon selection.
  • Traintop Battle:
    • Wild West Rampage has a minigame by playing pinball on top of a moving train. The closer to the engine, the more intense the smoke gets.
    • Archer has this as a mode, based on the episode "The Limited". The difference, however, is that he finally has a shot at fulfilling his lifelong dream of fighting on top of a moving train.
  • Zerg Rush: Some tables, namely Aliens, Castlestorm, Plants vs. Zombies and The Walking Dead have a mode where a swarm of drop targets or mobile toy figures appear on the playfield and begin marching towards the flippers - and you have to keep them from reaching them by hitting the advancing targets with the ball.

Alternative Title(s): Zen Pinball