Seattle Culture

Pinball is Back

Find out where to play and relive the classics

By Stephanie Russell January 18, 2024

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This article originally appeared in the March/April 2024 issue of Seattle magazine.

To my surprise, there’s no shortage of pinball fun around Seattle. While I don’t think it ever went away, there was a lull. 

Stepping into the Seattle Pinball Museum in the International District, a familiar noise quickly fills my ears — a sound of childhood. When was the last time you played pinball? Take a moment to embrace your inner child by setting everything aside for an evening to have some old-school fun. There’s something to be said about the flick of a flipper and the ring of a bell that brings memories flooding back while also creating new ones. 

Seattle Pinball Museum opened its doors in 2010 with a vision to create an interactive space celebrating the rich history of these timeless, gaming marvels. The museum has over 50 games, including some true classics dating back to 1960. You can enjoy Ms.Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, and Tetris, ensuring it’s not only pinball stirring up childhood fun. Plus, after paying your admission, you can enjoy free play on the games. 

Did you know in the late 1930s, the first pinball machines featured luminescent fields keeping score? The U.S. government considered pinball to be gambling, and this only worsened when Bally Games started making machines that cashed out after a win. These adjustments conflicted with the strict gambling laws of the U.S., and pinball machines were banned from the early 1940s until 1976.

Next, I trekked over to Fremont’s Add-a-Ball. When I walked in, it was dark, with light from the machines illuminating the room. It’s a true hidden gem — a dive bar serving beer, food, and coffee. Most games are 75 cents, so don’t forget your quarters. Add-a-Ball has been open for twelve years, and appeals to the twenty-one-and-older crowd with the décor referencing old-school arcades. 

If you’re feeling like competition pinball is more your style, you should visit 8-bit Arcade in Renton. Just a short drive from Seattle, it opened in 2013. You’ll find pinball along with other classic video games. Grab a pizza and enjoy hours of entertainment and competition. 8-bit Arcade is kid-friendly until 9pm and has easily become a neighborhood favorite. Some of my favorite machines were Godzilla, Venom, and Attack from Mars. 

For die-hard pinball lovers, the best of all is The Addams Family pinball machine. It was introduced in 1992 by Bally Games and inspired by the 1991 live-action movie of the same name. The Addams Family is, to this day, the most popular and widely sold pinball machine of all time, moving more than 20,000 units.

I’ll leave you with one last fun fact: it was not until 1947 that flippers were introduced to the game of pinball. Before this, players had to bump and tilt the machines to make the ball change direction. 

There are over 30 places in Seattle to enjoy pinball. Use this Pinball Map to find the closest spot and enjoy a blast from the past. 

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