Pinball machines are one type of entertainment system that will never get old. In fact, there are serious enthusiasts who collect them. But if you just want one for your home or business, there’s a consistent stream of new models being produced by major companies, one of them being Stern. Pinball machines are fun, great for special occasions, and made to last for a lifetime if properly maintained.
Below are five of the best that you’ll find, each with its own unique and hand-drawn boards and figures. And of course, it wouldn’t be a pinball machine without immersive sound effects and LED lights, to which all of them contain. After you’re done with the reviews, be sure to look into the Buyer’s Guide for purchasing tips to ensure that you end up with a version most specific to what you want. Let’s begin!
|Stern Pinball Star Trek Pro Arcade|
|Stern Pinball Munsters Arcade|
|Stern Pinball Deadpool Arcade|
|Stern Pinball Iron Maiden Legacy of the Beast Arcade|
for Star Wars fans
|Stern Pinball Star Wars Arcade|
1. Stern Pinball Star Trek Pro Arcade — Best Pinball Machine for Gameplay
The Stern Pinball Star Trek Pro is themed after one of the newest extensions of the Star Trek franchise, Into Darkness. Dark blue is a primary color here, going along with the outer space concept for which the film and television series’ are famous for. Upon the first inspection of the board, you’ll notice a large replica of the USS Vengeance that’s placed in the higher portion of the board.
It’s a mirror image of the one seen in the aforementioned movie, complete with a single LED light on top of the “roof” of the spacecraft. Speaking of which, the other LED lights fixed here are all very bright and will easily light up a room, no matter if the lights or on. For best results, play in a partially lit space that isn’t too bright. Included with the set are seven individual emblems for you to put on the bottom of the board. Each of them has their own unique style and variations.
As for the physical aspects of the machine, everything is built to a high standard. The legs don’t wobble, although they can be adjusted to remain flush with the surface it’s housed on. As you play, you won’t be able to move the machine with the legs alone, which is a good thing. All pieces of glass on the pinball unit are tempered, so shattering or cracking it under ordinary stress if virtually impossible to do. It will last for a long time, having no worry of chipping anything is someone hits it carelessly.
And because of this, the machine is very well-suited for children to play with all ages. If you’re going to set this up at home, it should fit in most rooms. You’ll likely have to move few furniture pieces around but not undergo a full redecoration to get it set up. The instructions are fairly simple, but you will need a good wrench for complete assembly if you’re going at it alone. It’s recommended to at least some assistance if you do it this way, particularly for the disabled or those unfamiliar with putting together arcade games.
Gameplay and Controls
Gameplay is very smooth and none of the pinballs provided are at risk of getting stuck in the machine. Of course, you’ll have to do a little maintenance to make sure things stay this way over time, but nothing to the point of needing a completed replacement of the machine after a couple of years have passed. The level of interaction is high, and sounds come out clear and precise, able to be heard some distance away if you increased its amplification. There are six missions housed in three total levels, with potentially more under future firmware updates from the manufacturer.
Overall, Stern’s Star Trek pinball machine is a great piece to have around during your home leisure time, and will quickly become a hit for the entire family. Scores are shown in the front of the screen, whereby each player can complete with another when taking their turn. You have the option to turn the coin payments on or off, something that could be useful on special occasions where lots of guests are present (or in a standard arcade room). Give it a shot if you’re a fan of the famed sci-fi franchise.
|✅ Includes a replica of the USS Vengeance||⛔ As expected, separately-sold tools (wrenches) are required to assemble the machine (unless white-glove service is used)|
|✅ All lights are LED and flash brightly in high or low light conditions|
|✅ Has seven different emblems to decorate the board of the pinball machine|
|✅ Glass is dense and doesn’t shatter or scratch easily|
|✅ Durable enough to be used in arcade rooms or at home|
|✅ Easy setup instructions|
|✅ Lots of varied options for play, having a total of six missions in three playing levels|
2. Stern Pinball Munsters Arcade — Best Pinball Machine for Sitcom Enthusiasts
This Stern pinball machine is based on the Munsters, the popular American sitcom. Although the series has long since been discontinued, it remains one of the most popular to ever air on US television. And because of this, it has had a consistent cult following ever since. All the things that made the series stand out are all featured on this pinball machine, including the iconic theme song.
There is a large Herman Munster figure near the top, which has a magnet embedded near the hands. A rail is seen in the product’s description, one traveling up a “stairway,” and the other up a ramp. Each of them ends at the front, where you can shoot in the direction you intend to increase your score.
Putting it all Together
If you’re concerned about assembly, don’t be. Like all Stern pinball machines, the instructions are easy to figure out solo. The only thing that will need to be fastened is the legs and nothing else. It weighs quite a bit, so you may need some help carrying it into your home. The difficulty in this is highly dependent on where you stay as well. Consider white glove service if you know that you’re going to have a hard time getting it into the room that you want.
As mentioned, one of the highlights of this machine is the sound quality. It sounds like high-quality speakers, and really cranks up the entertainment level when you score big. And for periodic improvements and more gameplay options, be sure to update the firmware whenever you can. It’s not hard to do, so long as you have a USB handy.
The only frustrating thing about this machine is the fact that two of the balls could get stuck inside Herman at the same time. The only way to fix this would be to shake the machine if it does happen. You don’t have to violently move it, but giving it a quick shift should loosen them up. This won’t happen very often, but the risk remains nonetheless. But in a nutshell, the Stern machine is great for arcade and television lovers, especially those with a fascination for the original comedy series.
|✅ A large figure of Herman Munster is featured inside of the machine||⛔ The Herman figurine contains a magnet that could capture two balls simultaneously, whereby the machine would need to be shaken in order to free them|
|✅ For most, the machine is easy enough to put together without the assistance of others|
|✅ Sound quality is excellent, outputting good bass and treble that has no clipping or feedback|
|✅ The firmware can be updated via USB to 1.0|
3. Stern Pinball Deadpool Arcade (Premium Edition) — Best Pinball Machine for Easy of Assembly
The Stern Pinball Deadpool Machine, as the name shows, is based on the very popular Marvel comics and film series. As one would expect from anything associated with Deadpool, expect lots of humor and lighthearted but action-packed moments in the sound and theatrics of the machine. But best of all is the art. All portions are hand-drawn and intricate in detail. No portions of the machine feel left out, even with this being just the Pro version. The colors really shine, mostly when played in a semi-bright room when the LED lights begin to flash.
Physical Features and Sound
Another great feature is the little disco ball in the left corner, giving everything a nice glow. Spread out over the table are eight different drop targets, along with a figure of Deadpool with an “airhead” design. The ramp return piece is built to resemble the handle of the katana that Deadpool uses in the comic and film. Stern has regular updates for the machine, so expect to never get bored and receive more levels as you increase your score.
Sound quality is acceptable but might not appear loud enough for some, especially those in a room filled with other noises. Large rooms don’t seem to work too well for it either, but the average home consumer won’t notice anything. Other than this, there’s nothing else to complain about the game or it’s physical features. For anyone that’s a fan of Marvel comics or movies, this could be a dream come true.
|✅ The art on the machine is drawn by hand||⛔ The sound, while good, may not appear very loud if used in large rooms|
|✅ There are eight different drop targets|
|✅ The disco ball featured on the upper left corner of the pinball machine will reflect across the entirety of the board|
|✅ Updates to game modes are frequent|
4. Stern Pinball Iron Maiden Legacy of the Beast Arcade (Pro Edition) — Best Pinball Machine for Sound Quality
The Iron Maiden Pinball Machine by Stern is based on the famed heavy metal pioneers of rock and roll. If you’re a lover of all things rock or an aficionado of the band itself, this is a good as it gets as far as arcade games are concerned. There are 12 songs in total that are played through the machine, each of them being the band’s most famous. They’re activated by hitting various objects and scoring points throughout the gameplay. All of the characters and iconography will be familiar to any Iron Maiden fan since they all appear on the cover art for the band’s albums.
And like the other pinball machine shown already, this one only needs the legs to be assembled. Weight aside, getting it into your home won’t hassle you to the same degree as moving in furniture equipment. Have someone help you carry it inside, and you’re good to go. Because this is the Pro edition, you’re not getting as much as you would with the Premium. But it’s still a worthwhile arcade game to have, and will see hours of leisure time spent by having fun with the unit.
|✅ All drawings on the board are hand made and distinctive||⛔ Not as interactive is the Premium edition of the machine|
|✅ Contains 12 Iron Maiden songs that are activated at different times during gameplay|
|✅ Only the legs need to be assembled; everything that’s featured on the board is constructed prior to shipment|
5. Stern Pinball Star Wars Arcade (Pro Edition) — Best Pinball Machine for Sci-Fi Fans
Last but not least is the Star Wars Pinball Machine from Stern. Everyone knows that Star Wars fans are plenty, and if you count yourself as one, you’ll be mesmerized by the level of entertainment this machine will bring into your home. It’s based on the original trilogy, contemporarily known as Episodes IV, V, and VI. Nothing from the newer films is showcased on this machine.
Similar to other Stern products, this model is highly customizable, whereby the sound can be altered to better fit the location that you place it in. If you’re sending it to a business (such as a game room) then adjust the sound to a loud volume. But if you’re setting it up in an entertainment room in your home, you could always tone the sound down a bit, to avoid interrupting other people nearby.
LED Lights in the Right Places
There’s a lot of LED lights housed here, including on the Death Star that sits at the end of the board. It matches the real thing (from the movies, of course!) perfectly. Yet other than this, there are no other figures present on the board, aside from what’s hand-drawn to the base of the machine. And don’t expect to hear any sounds from the new film, other than the opening theme.
However, this shouldn’t bother most die-hard Star Wars fans, and anything that’s relevant to the franchise at all is grounds for purchase. If you consider yourself a fan of this magnitude, then get ready to relive the original series all over again with this pinball machine.
|✅ Plays the original Star Wars theme music||⛔ Only contains characters from the original Star Wars trilogy|
|✅ For sound, treble and bass can be adjusted, along its amplification|
|✅ Features a LED-lit Death Star in the upper position of the board|
This guide will help you pinpoint the exact pinball machine match that’s best for your entertainment.
How to Choose the Best Pinball Machine?
If you’re getting a pinball machine for use entertainment, you should first figure out where you’ll put the unit when it arrives at your door. For some, a garage might be the ideal place. For others, it could go into a room with other entertainment systems and consoles. If you do place it in a garage, be prepared to clean it often, especially if yours is partially exposed to the outside. You should also make a plan on how you will move the machine, and whether it would be feasible to put it in a certain location around your residence than others.
After you know that, think about whether you want to assemble it together on your own, or require help. If you do go the solo route, have a couple of wrenches on hand so you can screw on the legs tightly. You don’t want the machine falling on to the floor from being improperly put together; be sure to inspect your work when everything’s completed.
Personal Preferences related to the Theme of the Machine
The next thing for you to focus on is what you wish the theme of the pinball machine to be. What film or music are you or your family/friends a fan of? Will small children be playing it with you? Knowing the answers to these questions will ensure that no one will get tired of using the machine. Of course, that would be difficult to do no matter which one you choose, but the chances of it happening remains.
Stick with the theme that you like the most, as all of the products shown above are built by the same company, and perform similarly. The biggest difference from them all is the images, color variations, and figures housed on them. If you like sci-fi, start by looking into those with the space theme first. Music or rock lovers might be more interested in pinball machines that play real music from real bands.
Updating the Stern Firmware
Stern pinball machines can be updated periodically. Some updates will feature improvements to the sound and even additional levels for the game itself. Here’s how you can update your machine once you have it assembled and ready to play:
- Download the game code for your pinball machine using this link: https://sternpinball.com/support/game-code/.
- Once downloaded, open the contents and look for a file with the following structure: GAMENAME-VERSION.spv.
- Place this file into a USB flash drive that’s completely empty, ensuring that the drive is formatted as FAT-32. It must be placed in the root directory. Avoid placing more .spv files in the flash drive at the same time.
- Turn off the pinball machine using the backbox switch.
- Insert the USB into the machine.
- Change the dip switch to 8 by turning it left, which is located at the top.
- Turn on the game and allow it to scan your drive, then select the file that you place on the USB.
- Press the black button on the machine to update, going through the commands as it installs the files to the system.
- Take the USB out and move dip switch 8 back to the right, then reboot the system by pressing select again.
Do you know which of the pinball machines shown above is best for you? Look into the Buyer’s Guide if you skipped it; you’ll definitely have a better idea of which is right for you when you’re done reading it. But in the off chance that you’re still not sure which one is best, check out the first and second machines by Stern (the Star Trek and Munsters themed sets). Their good attributes are numerous, with both having iconic brands that make their gameplay exciting and fun.
That’s not to say that you won’t get any satisfaction from the other three that are showcased; one of those might be a better fit for you than the first two that are mentioned. Regardless, get ready to have a fun-filled home from the moment that the pinball machine arrives at your doorstep!