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Nine Ball

Pinside rating

This game received 46 approved Pinsider ratings and currently rates 7.489 /10


Top 100 ranking

This game ranks #171 in the Pinside Pinball Top 100.

Score breakdown

Score breakdown in the 4 main categories:

Game design: 7.764

Artwork: 7.52

Sounds/Music: 5.715

Other Aspects: 7.769

Pinside staff rating

This is how we, the very knowledgeable (wink wink) staff & moderators rate this game. 4 of us have rated this game.


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Ranking history

An overview of this machine's ranking over the last years. Lower is better.

Rating history

An overview of this machine's rating over the last years. Higher is better.

Found 22 ratings (with comment) on this game

There are 22 ratings (that include a comment) on this game.
Currently showing results page 1 of 1.

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77 days ago
I love the lights, artwork, and gameplay...but I'm not crazy about the theme. You just don't see many around, but it is one of the best classic sterns.
10 months ago
Walking up to Nine Ball I had one idea in my head of what to expect.
I played about a dozen games before I walked away.
This game is incredibly punishing and unforgiving. The playfield is so empty and sparse I thought this game would suck, but I was certainly wrong!! It is a killer game, the pop bumper is possibly THE MOST useful pop in all of pinball. Half the shots wouldn't be possible with out it. The opening skill shot is extremely challenging, and the roll under floating spinner is just a blast. Man I really enjoyed the hell out of this game.
The artwork is ridiculously killer 80s! Probably my favorite part of the game to be honest.
It plays some of the best EMs of the 70s on steroids. Terribly fast and unforgiving but so deceptively simple, it has a strong "one more game" appeal.
11 months ago
Looking for a wide open play field with out much to shoot at? Here's your machine. Mostly boring, though not an entirely terrible machine to look at
1 year ago
Had a blast playing this Classic Stern.
Looking for one to fill the "Classic Stern Slot" in the lineup.
1 year ago
Love this game! One of my favorite early Stern's. Tough but rewarding shots and a rule set way ahead of it's time. Hoping to add one to my collection.
2 years ago
Been waiting to rate this game for three months now while I refurbished it -- so far it has not disappointed. I love the variation provided by the eight bank drop target, horseshoe, spinner, etc. Cool that it even has a two or three multiball feature. Sound gets a little old after awhile -- background sounds like an airplane engine droning on. Cabinet and playfield art are excellent -- enjoy simply looking at the game. Should be a keeper!

Edit: 11/2018
After playing/owning this game for several months I have yet to tire of it. In fact it has quickly become my favorite. Maybe I'm more into old school pinball and less is more when it comes to animation and toys. . . whatever. As of right now this would be the last game to leave my collection.
3 years ago
Fast action older Stern. Love the long line of drops. Tough to lock ball though.
3 years ago
Lots of love being given out lately for classic Stern games, after long being referred to as Sturds (Stern + Turd = Sturd). Nine Ball is one of the games getting lots of attention, being a low production game and having a fantastic ruleset. Lots of risk/reward in Nine Ball, compared to Bally games of the same era. The controlled drops are amazing to shoot for, and one-ups the drops on Eight Ball Deluxe, with the roving nine-ball shot to complete the sequence. The upper horseshoe is quite the gimmick--scoring the horseshoe without hitting the target at its center is a challenge indeed. The art, I could take it or leave it. Space wizards playing pool. I guess it paved the way for space gladiators playing pool (WMS Laser Cue).
3 years ago
Nine Ball is absolutely a hidden gem game. More people need to know about this game.

Here's the honest truth: for a pinball player, Nine Ball rocks. It's loaded with shots and is sniper-tough to hit those shots at the right time. Many of them are timed and it's an absolute blast to play in competition play. For a newbie though, Nine Ball makes absolutely no sense and they typically walk away after a ball or two. The rules are odd and the shots seem random. BUT, once you know what you're doing (watch the PAPA Gameplay video here), it's an unbelievable game (like the game of pool!). If you want a game to play with your pinball buddies, this is it.

The sound is atrocious. While honestly not that bad when you're actually playing, it's so annoying to listen to if you're not. Just the same sound repeating over and over. But, consider the year it came out.

The artwork is absolutely superb. NO ONE made art like classic Stern did (except maybe Zaccaria): Nine Ball, Seawitch, Catacomb... Seriously, this game is a looker. Wow. Gorgeous backglass, playfield, and cabinet. Bright oranges and purples. Love it.

What a great game. I wish that I liked the clunky feel of classic Sterns a bit more, but I do really like this game. Like I said, this is a hidden gem that will one day be found out. For now, I'm glad I got mine beforehand!!
4 years ago
Looks are ok but a fun game and not easy to max points. Quite a lot to shoot for but you need to know what to do. Not a good game for mindless thrashing. I am looking for one of these.
5 years ago
Had some more time on one of these. Not sure why I had it rated so low before, really nice classic Stern.
5 years ago
I played this game for the 1st time yesterday at a fellow collectors house.
its a fun pin. interesting rule set. simple but challenging playfield layout. awesome skill shot that really requires skill to hit. great risk-reward shots and one of the best spinner shots ive ever seen. these don't show up often. if you get the chance to play one don't pass it up.
5 years ago
Nine Ball is a very good overall package. We have multiball but no speech.

Originality: medium.

Art/Lights/Theme: Very good.
The blue on orange looks fantastic.

Sound: Good sound effects, but they sure take their sweet time to tally up a score.

1. no orbits
2. single pop bumper
3. horseshoe (fun as hell)
4. "hidden" ball lock
5. 4 sets of drops totaling 15 drops
6. Spinner hovers over the table

Ball Control/Hazards: Very good. There's a lot of space in this game, and the ball draining is very forgiving (with outlane posts on novice)

Balanced Scoring: (unknown) I haven't played enough games to know how the scoring works

Fun/Lastability: Fun to keep trying to achieve a few tough goals like a max-spinner rip, a 173,000 shot, or earning the special by knocking down the timed drop target on left.

Symmetry: good. I’m rather sure its an asymmetrical design.

Use of pops: good. It's a little weak only having one pop, but at least it's smack dab in the middle of the upper playfield.

PF Visibility: excellent, you always know what's going on.

This game makes me want more early SS Sterns...
6 years ago
Fun Not really a theme that grabs me
6 years ago
A great playing game, with some cool features like building the spinner and the horseshoe before collecting, and hitting the numbered targets in order. Too many of these targets can be spotted by the inlanes and the bumper at the top of the playfield, tho, making this part a bit too easy. I own this and it gets a lot of play by me, never gets stale. Stern's best SS.

Update: I've owned this a couple of years now and I'm upping the score, it is the most played machine in my collection by my visitors (and they have some nice modern DMDs to choose from.) It is a really nicely balanced game, your approach to the game varies from ball to ball - shooting the 1-9 targets, building up the spinner by going for the 3 banks (and not collecting it until it is maxed out), going after the horse shore when you're only 1 or 2 shots away from 173K (and the torture of collecting it one shot too early or missing it and rolling it over to 10K), or building your bonus times. Most DMDs don't have this level of choice in strategy. It requires super accuracy to make lots of tight shots. There's a reason they labelled it "tournament pinball" on the back glass.

Set up is critical to make this game sing - I have wow (extra ball) set to 70K points, specials set to 130K points, bonus X set to carry over ball to ball and requires both 3 banks to advance, and the outer targets on the 3 banks advance spinner value.

Update: I've owned it longer and it keeps getting better. Subtle decisions like, should I rip when the spinner is lit for 1600 points or should I drop another 3 bank target first to take it to 2500? I'm now getting better at setting the horseshoe target up for 173K points and collecting. I'm also getting better at banking the ball off the right side rubbers into various targets and the multiball lock. Locking a ball gives you another shot up the shooter lane to light the spinner for 2500.

There are so many ways to score and the optimal strategy continues to change depending on what is happening in any given ball. I just keep going back to this game in my home collection of 8 (6 DMDs).

Update: Another year on and I still love this game as much today as ever before. I now consider it the best solid state ever made. Fathom, Centaur, EBD etc are super games, but I would tire of them after 3 years of heavy play. Not Nine Ball.

Update: Another year on and I’m upping the points, this pin is in my top 3 of all time. The fast game time is a plus.
6 years ago
So much for for a game with so little on the playfield. Love how you have to hit the shots in order. The spinner on the right doesnt look like it will be a clean shot but you can really rip it. Also like the captive ball shot, you really cant aim for it.

Not a deep ruleset but you can slap away on the flippers on this one and have a blast! Would love to own.
6 years ago
Wow. Strap yourself in it's time to play Nine Ball! This game was way ahead of it's time for 1980. From the moment you plunge the ball into play it's serious game on. Steve Kirk and Stern offered up a table with drops galore, a nicely placed hanging spinner. An upper left horseshoe lane and more.

Ball speed is fast faster and fastest! Multi ball is the frosting on the cake. Great sounds. Artwork and rule set. Mine needs some p/f touch ups but the games a definite.keeper. One negative on Nine Ball is the switches have to be totally dialed in and the MPU must have the latest roms or the game loses track on multi ball on how many balls are left in the captive ball area.

One thing on NB. The pricing is all over the place. I might have overpayed a bit for mine but it's a hard game to find and a nice example can be 2 k or a project can be 300.
6 years ago
Nine Ball had a good looking playfield for 1980. Wide and roomy and theres lots too shoot. Stern should be putting these drop-down targets on their new pinballs, (like AC/DC should have had and Metallica does). They work pretty well, look good and are good to hit, depending on target placement. The spinner is awesome and is in a good spot. I miss spinners on the new machines too. Shame no ramps but it was the 80's. Gets a bit boring and playability isnt there for me. Deep enough rules but not my thing. Not one for the wishlist but it was a good effort back then.
7 years ago
Unique and intrigueing open playfield. Filled with difficult shots. A game for pinball enthusiasts....consider buying.
7 years ago
Nine Ball was a game I was really looking forward to playing this game and seeing what all the fuss was about...

The Pros:
A cool layout with lots to shoot at. The spinner is nicely done and the playfield seems wide open, but has lots to do. Drop targets everywhere! The skill shot to light the spinner requires a soft touch.

The Cons:
Maybe the copy I played was not up to snuff... this game was boring. The BG art is uninspiring and the play on deck did not keep my interest. 173k bonus... why? Saying the rules of this game are not obvious... would be a monstrous understatement.

The Takeaway:
I'll see what happens when I play another copy. In the meantime... even with so much to shoot for, this game rates as a dud to me right now. I mean I can see how this game would be a shooter, but I have yet to experience the magic. If anyone has a nice copy of this deck in Colorado I can session out... let me know.

I don't think I have ever been so wrong about a pinball game in a Loooooong time. Nine Ball has serious game. I have been fortunate enough to meet with a local collector and session this table out for an evening and this game sang a sweet tune. Steve Kirk created a true player that requires sniper skills with 14 drops, a horseshoe loop, standups and an incremental spinner. Most of these shots are at least halfway up the PF and at steep angles. Granted I had to have someone show me how to get this game to score, but the process is challenging, frustrating and fun. Try to get 173k (why 173k?, is there a pin-secret I don't know about?) from the upper horseshoe loop and standup if you can. Goodness knows I tried. Multiball is loadsa fun but rather worthless as far as scoring is concerned. Building the spinner and ripping it up is incredibly satisfying. If this game was more transparent, I think more people would dig it, but my name isn't "Captain Obvious" now... is it?

This game joins the likes of World Poker Tour and Attack From Mars for wide open PF's that pack much more of a punch than one might think it would at first sight. Give this game some mileage and you will be smiling every step of the way.

Update v.2:
The most frustrating lock shot in all of pinball. Worse than Catacomb. However, in the big scheme of things, it is not critical to big scores. Mulitball has no PF multipliers or scoring bonuses of any kind. Working the drops for the super bonus and the multiplier make a big difference. This game must be properly tuned to operate as it should. This is especially true for the drops (all 15 of them) and the ball trough switches. Another thing that is awesome about this game is that there are big point shots that you DO NOT want to make during gameplay if you are going to maximize your scores. The skill shot requires, skill (imagine that) and early on in the numerical sequence, the dead bumper is something that you want to shoot for! Out of all the Stern (v.1) games out there, It's easy to see why this game is in demand by players collectors. This deck has the most "game" in it of that company and vintage. Yes, It's even better than Paul Bunyan...

Steve Kirk's Magnum Opus!

Side note:
I am having a devil of a time getting my trough switches to behave. Any ideas on what to do to make them work as they should? Thank you!

Update V3:
Trough switch wires replaced and the game works as it should. It's super-awesome-O now! Playing this game does not get old. Find one, get it, play it. Life is good.
8 years ago
This is manic drop target action. Make sure you have robust mechs because the drops are up and down continuously. Fantastic fun game with interesting sequence of knocking down targets by pool ball. Ball lock is fine but challenging to get balls in. You need to learn how to bank the ball off the right side into the lock. Hanging spinner is nice and fun to keep going when lit for big points. I only wish there was some additional scoring benefit to getting multiball like 2x scoring.
8 years ago
One of the greatest machine of the classic Stern class. Three ball multi-ball, deep ruleset (many many options for programming), interesting colors and a wizard of the playfield and the backglass make this a stand out. Smooth classic Stern drop targets, top left horseshoe and an interesting mid field spinner help contribute to the speed at which this machine plays. When compared to the other pins from other manufacturers at the time seems like Steve Kirk and the Stern folks pulled out all the stops on this one.
There are 22 ratings (that include a comment) on this game. Currently showing results page 1 of 1.

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