1 - AVENGERS INFINITY QUEST: For me, this machine is pure kinetic therapy under glass. The shots are incredible and never-ending. It’s a game that old-school player can walk up to and disregard the code to just start shooting every ramp a bazillion times in succession and follow the lights, or someone can gradually learn all 25 pages of the most complex and rewarding code ever written for a pinball machine. The weaknesses are very obvious, which are the lame 2D artwork and the call-outs; but since the machine is based on the cartoon rather than the Marvel Cinematic Universe I can look past that as an expectation coming from movie content that isn’t included. The only non-Elwin Stern that comes close to AIQ is LOTR, which was my previous long-time favorite game. Now that honor belongs to AIQ.
2 - GODZILLA: This is one of the best-ever implementations of a theme, and is the pinnacle of being a world under glass. Objectively, this may be the best pinball machine design of all time, including being better than AIQ. But my personal subjective preference for AIQ trumps it on this list. The details are endless, and the creativity of every aspect of the game is unparalleled. I don’t like comparing modern Sterns and classic Williams/Ballys, but this is the Twilight Zone of this era (which isn’t a direct comparison, but a tribute and parallel of accomplishment). If ever there was a “Goldilocks” pinball machine that’s “just right”, this is it. Like all Elwin’s games, the shots are various versions of butter. And every part of the mechanics and code draws you into the game deeper and deeper. It’s hard to believe anyone wouldn’t love this game.
3 - JURASSIC PARK: Until AIQ and GODZILLA displaced it this was Elwin’s best, and among the best of any pin ever. The initial plunger shot is an epic foretelling of the rest of what’s to come, which is a purety of shots and code that are magic from start to finish and through every element of the game. The primary downside is visual with disappointing artwork and only Newman as a JP character. But the rest of the licensure usage is so amazing that it’s easy to just ignore the walk-up aesthetics. It took world-beaters like AIQ and GODZILLA to displace JP on the list, and many wouldn’t agree that it’s been demoted. My preference for ramps that always feed a flipper is what keeps this in 3rd place besides being clearly edged out by the two newer machines. These three should come as a set.
4 - IRON MAIDEN: Admittedly, I’ve just never gotten along with this game. It’s absolutely gorgeous and the music integration is astounding. It’s obviously a perfectly implemented theme with great code. The shots are each rewarding and enagaging, so I can objectively see that this could be in any of the 4 slots on this list by a cross-section of players. But like Metallica, I just can’t vibe with it and they both absolutely kick my arse after hundreds and hundreds of plays. We just don’t get along. I don’t like the ramp going to “nowhere”, but I’m told it’s because I suck at playing the game. That’s likely true. Maybe it’s all because I just don’t vibe with music pins and don’t like them all that much. Whatever it is that keeps me in the minority opinion on this game, it’s still objectively one of the few best shooters of all time.