No, not machines with 6 pinballs in them (Twilight Zone, Indiana Jones, ST:TNG, Tales from the Crypt, and probably a few others). I rate TPA table difficulty on a scale of 1 to 5 pinballs, and I sometimes compare real machines with that scale as well. Given that I've assigned the real TZ a 5-pinball difficulty rating, are there harder tables...a 6-pinball machine?

Yes, definitely. Here are some of the real terrors of the pinball world for you to avoid or seek out, as you see fit. I'm going to include only machines I've personally played, so feel free to chime in in the comments section if I've missed a spot.

Ripley's Believe It or Not! (5.5 pinballs, 9 for Atlantis): It could just be that I've played a lot more real TZ than I've played real RBION, but I'm coming to the conclusion that RBION is a slightly harder machine overall. Ball time is longer on RBION - it is not quite as cruel as TZ is about punishing you for bad play - but it is very hard to get anything going and you certainly will not be doing things like stacking 2X Playfield with the Continent Super Jackpot unless your name is Keith Elwin. I would forget about Atlantis - the best I have ever done is 4 letters, once - and that was with the Believe It or Not! scoop spotting me 2 of them.

Bram Stoker's Dracula (6 pinballs): Yes, this is one of my ten real machines to play before you die. But it's incredibly tough to do well on, as a good score depends on you getting and successfully completing the Bats round on the first ball (so that the 50M bonus carries over to all subsequent balls), and a great score requires you to successfully pull off the delicate stack required to get two or three multiballs going at once - and then playing them well enough to capitalize on it. Probably only 1 game in 20 do I achieve even a halfway decent score. Add to this the short lightning flippers and the mildly hungry outlanes, and you've got a real pain-in-the-neck (OK, I'll stop) of a machine.

The Shadow (6 pinballs): I have not played very much of this machine, so I do not entirely understand why I have such problems with it. The Shadow is known for being unforgiving of errant shots, and it additionally requires quick reflexes to handle the Shadow Loop shot, properly manipulate the Phurba diverters (which are controlled with extra buttons) and operate the Battlefield kicker. Definitely a player's game.

Doctor Who (7 pinballs): This machine is incredibly evil - it makes Twilight Zone look like a cakewalk by comparison. Big center drain, lots of death shots, voracious outlanes, the short lightning flippers, and a multiball that is both hard to reach and hard to play. It even penalizes you by sending you back a stage if you lose the third ball...which given everything else about the machine, usually happens very quickly.

The Simpsons Pinball Party (8 pinballs, 10 for the final wizard mode): If this table ever makes it to TPA, and FarSight does not nerf the hell out of it like they did with TZ, prepare to hear wailing, gnashing of teeth and rending of garments like you've never heard before. This machine has the deepest ruleset of any machine ever made - only Lord of the Rings and the very latest modern Sterns even come close - and it's ball-shatteringly hard to get anything going, much less actually successfully complete anything. Add a sense of panic created by tying everything to a single timer. Add the hardest-to-reach wizard mode ever made (Super Duper Mega Extreme), which requires you to successfully complete 6 mini wizard modes (Alien Invasion, Secret Stash, Daredevil Mania, Pretzel Multiball, Scratchy's Revenge, and Springfield Mystery Spot), all of which have their own requirements that are akin to the real wizard mode in any normal game. Add some tight shots that become nearly impossible if anything is even slightly out of adjustment. Add the table's predilection for giving you a return far too fast for a catch, so you fling it away - into the nuclear bumpers and into the drain. It's a fun table, but for the sake of your blood pressure, try not to take it too seriously!


Staff member
Mar 14, 2012
I only recently played a Shadow machine for the first time, and wow was it brutal. Like 3 balls in 45 seconds brutal! I'm dying to try my hand at a real RBION. I know I did back in the day, but being clueless to what to do is the worst way to approach that table. Something tells me that center ramp is brutally difficult to get up on the real deal.

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