Super Smash Bros. brought together a great many luminaries from many different videogame genres. Thus, it granted us this paradox:

1. Not a single fighter in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate premiered in a pinball game
2. Many different fighters in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate starred in themed pinball games

So let’s have a ball and look at how our various Smashers roll.


Try to winWho is our star? Mario technically appears, but this “feels” like a Game & Watch title. It has a similar “early Nintendo is trying everything” energy.

What is happening? This is a Nintendo approximation of a Pinball cabinet. Only one board is available, and it is two screens high.

Is there plot progression? Not really. Mario rescues Pauline through a game of Breakout in the bonus stage, but that is a wholly optional experience. And Pauline continually respawns in a captured state, so it is difficult to say if Mario is accomplishing anything at all. Other than that, the “plot” is that you are playing pinball.

Could this be a real pinball machine? Probably! Things like the roulette or the hatching chicks activating higher scores were probably impossible in 1984, but these gimmicks are all very possible nowadays. Heck, you probably could have pulled them off with progressive LEDs back in the days of El Dorado.

Is it forgiving? You can earn bumpers through bonuses, but otherwise we have a traditional pinball setup here. Try not to fall right down the middle!

Is it any fun? I can safely say that I played this one about 10,000 times back in the early days of the NES, so this is fun on some kind of level. It is not the most complicated pinball title, but it does a lot to activate the lizard part of the human brain that likes seeing lights flash and numbers go up.

Did it ever happen again? Nintendo Pinball only ever cameoed for the rest of Nintendo history, but, as you can guess from the premise of this article, Mario did see another pinball game eventually…

Kirby’s Pinball Land

Dude should chillWho is our star? Kirby premiered in Kirby’s Dream Land in 1992, and 1993 saw Kirby’s Adventure and the “ball” transformation. Practically immediately, Kirby started using that ball power in various spinoffs, beginning that very year by starring in a pinball title.

What is happening? The game itself offers no explanation, but the manual references how “Kirby becomes a pinball” to “fight effectively in the Pinball Lands”. So Kirby now must bound around three separate pinball boards (and a final boss stage) to accomplish nebulous Pinball Land-based goals (mostly just scoring points).

Is there plot progression? Our bosses are Kracko, the Poppy Bros, and Wispy Woods. Our final boss is King Dedede. Why are they here? What are they fighting for? Nobody knows. Or cares. Just beat ‘em. Maybe they took Kirby’s cake?

Could this be a real pinball machine? We are going to give this one a tentative yes, but only on the basis that the Gameboy screen is small. There are many moving parts that might seem impossible on a traditional pinball cabinet. But these three-segmented screens are very limited in size, so it is conceivable that a Cloudy or Fat Kirby could be approximated with a mechanical bumper or something. It is not probable, but it feels possible.

Is it forgiving? On one hand, you only lose a life/ball if you fall on the lowest level of a board, and even then you have the possibility of doing a “spring bonus” jump (like the bonus tries at the end of Kirby’s Adventure stages) to recover your ball immediately. So losing is kind of hard. That said, falling a single level of any board means that level resets, and you must “do” all the activities all over again to make progress. And this includes bosses recovering health every time you leave their arena. So this ultimately means that actually completing Kirby’s Pinball Land takes for-freaking-ever.

Is it any fun? If you are trying to beat the game, losing progress so often gets very frustrating, very fast. If you like scoring points with everyone’s favorite round-boy, it is a fun way to get your Gameboy going.

Did it ever happen again? Kirby has returned to ball mode for many reasons, like minigolf and DS stylus exercise, but he never starred in an actual pinball game again. That’s okay, Kirby, you can get a lot done with or without legs.

Sonic Spinball

Gotta go fastWho is our star? The same year Nintendo realized that Kirby worked as a pinball, someone over at Sega had the same plan for their main mascot. Sonic the Hedgehog is the fastest pinball alive.

What is happening? Dr. Robotnik’s latest scheme involves an impregnable fortress that contains a complete lack of guardrails. So Sonic the Hedgehog is going to have to ball up and get rebounded around the world. This will involve a lot of switch pulling and badnick bouncing.

Is there plot progression? Sonic is chasing Eggman once again, and progress through the levels means advancement to a final battle with (a surprisingly enormous) Robotnik. Please do not count how many Chaos Emeralds must be collected across these levels, though. That will only make Knuckles cry.

Could this be a real pinball machine? Probably not. The bonus stages between levels feel “real”, and even offer an image of Sonic playing those cabinets in reflection on the glass. But the real stages are a bit too complicated to be authentic cabinets. And this is one of the few games on this list where the pinball action takes a break, and “normal” Sonic can move like he would in a traditional 2-D Sonic adventure. That would be hard to control with just a flipper.

Is it forgiving? Unlike Kirby’s strict verticality, there are spots that may be “higher” in these boards that still have instantly fatal traps. That said, most of these spots have “save” conditions, so if you can react quickly or navigate a bucket (?), you can save your hedgehog from an untimely fate. That said, with limited lives and no continues, most players probably never saw the third level.

Is it any fun? If there was a map or a “highlight my goal” tip option, this would be a great game. Unfortunately, with the mandatory Chaos Emeralds scattered across multiple areas that you can only experience at maximum pinball speeds, things get way too confusing. Surviving is difficult, but actually making progress is damn near impossible. So get ready to experience the first area of the first level over and over again.

Did it ever happen again? Sonic Pinball Party for the Gameboy Advance saw Sonic return to the world of pinball, but this time playing pinball against his animal pals as opposed to being a pinball. Oh! And NiGHTS and Amigo are there! This GBA adventure is better than Sonic Spinball in every way save board variety. Enjoy the horrible, horrible variety of Sonic Spinball.

Pokemon Pinball

Who is our star? Pikachu is here! And Jigglypuff! And Charizard, Ivysaur, Squirtle, and Mewtwo! Since a healthy chunk of the Smash roster came from Pokémon Red/Blue, a 1999 game based on their illustrious premiere has ‘em all.

What is happening? We have two boards with Red and Blue theming, and 151 Pokémon to catch.

Is there plot progression? It is the same plot as every Pokémon game (minus random mob bosses attempting to take over/destroy the world through manipulating preteens and pocket monsters). Catch ‘em all! Register every last Pokémon in the pokédex, and call yourself a champion once you have done the professor’s job for him.

Could this be a real pinball machine? Without a doubt. These two boards are remarkably traditional in pinball style. Give or take the selling point of appeasing your OCD, these Pokémon Pinball boards could be in your local arcade right now (assuming local arcades still existed).

Is it forgiving? In respect to actual pinball playing, you have replenishable pikachu bumpers that can save your bacon (swinub?). In respect to catching ‘em all, the game saves every time you catch a Pokémon, so you do not need to earn every last Pokémon on one go. Even allowing for version exclusives, that would be pretty damn impossible. Please take notes on that, Samus Aran…

Is it any fun? Earning the Pokémon for your ‘dex seems to be accomplished by random chance (first a location is selected, then a Pokémon is found, then you have to train it into evolution), so if you are really trying to catch ‘em all, you might be here a while. That said, the actual pinball parts of this are fast and fun, so you will have a good time if you can avoid focusing on unattainable goals.

Did it ever happen again? Pokémon Pinball: Ruby & Sapphire for the Gameboy Advance is this game in every way, just with better graphics, more minigames, and more Pokémon. So it is basically a Pokémon sequel in the exact same fashion as the main Pokémon sequels. It is a shame that Pokémon titles did not continue to get pinball ports every other generation.

Mario Pinball Land

Putting the 'mid' in pyramidWho is our star? It’s Mario Pinball Land, so Bowser. Bowser is the star.

What is happening? Mario has had a long and illustrious career, so even as early as 2004, his own pinball party could draw from literally decades of inspiration. That said, this is mostly a series of boards based on concepts from Mario 64 (though, weirdly, with mostly Super Mario Sunshine sound effects). Taking a cue from Kirby, this is five main “areas” with multiple stacked arenas. Unlike Kirby’s Pinball Land, though, there are a few diversions and branches, so it is not strictly top-to-bottom pinball action.

Is there plot progression? Princess Peach apparently commissioned DeviantArt to provide some manner of “turn everyone into balls” machine. Toad becomes a ball without incident, but Peach is captured by Bowser the moment she goes spherical. For reasons that are absolutely not explained, Mario then becomes a ball, and bounds around collecting stars and keys to eventually face Bowser in his castle. Note that Bowser and all of his minions have opted to not become balls. They are not into the same fetishes as Peach and Mario.

Could this be a real pinball machine? No. There is a heavy emphasis on every board having its own traps and tricks, but actual “board style” is forsaken for Mario opponents with unique patterns. A trio of goombas might be possible, but no way you could simulate the Pharaoh Troopa fight in any kind of reality.

Is it forgiving? All stages start with a temporary pipe block that will keep you from an immediate ball loss, and we have another situation where falling off the board usually only means you have to go back to a previous area. And you’ve got infinite continues, too, so losing all your balls only impacts your score. All that said, though, losing forward momentum in this game is always heartbreaking. You know how much effort it takes just to hit the right doorway when you finally have two stars?!

Is it any fun? No, and #^%& you, Fuse Games for making it that way. Every board seems to have a goal, and that is cool. But once you beat the challenge and earn your star/key/coins/whatever, then that area is just busywork. And considering how often you fall backwards to an already completed area, or must revisit a spot because there are branching doors… Well, it gets old fast. Some kind of fast forward or such would mitigate this, but the simple problem is that there is not much (or anything!) to do on a completed stage, yet you find yourself on completed stages constantly. And I was playing with a general awareness of where I was supposed to go to make progress! I cannot fathom what this game feels like when you do not have a clear idea of where a boss may be hiding…

Did it ever happen again? Mario did not get another pinball game ever again, but Fuse Games did get another crack at pinball adventuring…

Metroid Prime Pinball

Pew PewWho is our star? Who else in the Nintendo stable can turn into a ball? Samus Aran? Great. Give her a game.

What is happening? A year after Mario Pinball Land, Fuse was granted the Metroid license for more pinball fun. Adrian Barritt of Fuse admitted that maybe Mario Pinball Land was too hard, so they would not make the same mistakes for Samus’s adventure. They failed totally and completely. But at least this one came with a rumble pack for the Nintendo DS.

Is there plot progression? This is Metroid Prime, but as told through pinball. So Samus has to beat random bosses, collect powerups, and uncover a whole cache of talismans to eventually fight Ridley and the Metroid Prime. The only issue is that “talisman progress” is not saved between missions like Mario’s stars, so good luck making even the tiniest bit of headway.

Could this be a real pinball machine? There is some improvement over Mario Pinball Land, as there are loops and bumpers that make these boards a lot more interesting when you are not trying to blast metroids or whatever. However, the big “set pieces” of these stages are the bosses and physical challenges, and they would never fly with only flippers.

Is it forgiving? No. You will fall fast and hard and over and over again. Absolutely brutal pinball challenge.

Is it any fun? It is more fun in the moment than Fuse’s previous offering, but actually seeing the ending is even more of a fool’s errand. This is the most “pinball is a roguelike” game out there, and that is not a good thing.

Did it ever happen again? The next time someone wanted to focus on Samus’s ball mode, we got Metroid Space Soccer on the 3DS. Nobody liked that.

Pac-Man Pinball Advance

HI WIFE!Who is our star? The same year that Samus Aran rocked the Nintendo DS, Pac-Man got to conquer the Gameboy Advance.

What is happening? Some version of Pac-Man in a lab coat has created a machine that allowed those wily ghosts to kidnap everyone in Pac-Land (or… something). Now regular Pac-Man must bounce around like a ball to rescue everyone. So Pac fights ghosts on two different boards with two different color schemes, and one would assume the day is saved eventually.

Is there plot progression? Pac-People are freed for multi-ball purposes (Ms. Pac-Man bounces again!), but this is not a “save the princess” situation. Rack up those high scores, but do not expect to see an ending cinematic.

Could this be a real pinball machine? Certainly. Your goal is to collect Pac-Dots and maybe grab a Power Pellet to devour ghosts, and all of that would be difficult to replicate on an actual table. But as far as everything else, that would be very doable. And fun, too! I want a pinball game with custom Pooka bumpers in my home right now.

Is it forgiving? Every stage starts with safety bumpers, but the ghosts eventually take them away in an effort to thwart our favorite Pac. Bumpers come back for Power Pellet times, too, so when things are most frantic, you are also relatively safe. It feels good all around.

Is it any fun? Yes! It appears the secret to having a good pinball title with a Smash Bro is to forsake any sort of a plot progression and just bounce around like an idiot. No wonder the Castlevania cast got so into Pachinko! The heavies of the videogame universe just need flashing lights and multiballs.

Did it ever happen again? Forget Pac-Man, how have we never gotten a Zelda-based pinball game? Those bombs look roll-y enough! Make it happen, Nintendo!

SBC #38 Bowser & Mario Pinball Land

Bowser in Super Smash Bros Ultimate

Sonic appears again!

  • He any Good? Super Mario Bros. 3 stomp all day long. So strong. So awesome. It has always been weird that Bowser has one of the more limited “projectiles”, as his fire breath as introduced in Super Mario Bros. 1 as something that could hit you half a castle away. But I guess concessions must be made when you have the raw strength of a turtle monster.
  • That final smash work? Giga Bowser’s one punch of power ain’t what it used to be. Playable Giga Bowser is sorely missed, but at least this background of Bowser feels like a clear reference to Yoshi’s Island.
  • The background work? There has never been a straight up Bowser’s Castle stage in Smash Bros., so we are going with Mushroomy Kingdom. I’m not a big fan of autoscrolling stages, but everyone knows the layout of 1-1, so there are no surprises here. That’s good! Actually playing the stage aside, the concept of Mushroomy Kingdom being that “old” Mario Bros. stages are forgotten and abandoned after their debut games is possibly the cleverest/darkest concept to appear in Smash Bros.
  • Classic Mode: The Red One. Every Red One! Bowser takes out every red fighter he can find on his way to beating Mario. Bowser may have some vision issues, though, as Samus is more orange than red. Maybe she was an excuse for a lava level? And I just plain feel bad that Diddy had to get involved. Red Rathalos is the penultimate boss, with Final Destination Mario & Metal Mario for the finale. Has Mario ever been a final boss before?
  • First Appearance: Bowser feels very similar back in Melee, give or take that throw special. I literally do not know if “this” Bowser is slower, or if the whole game is slower. It’s all relative. On a personal note, Bowser was more or less my main in the Melee days. I like ‘em big and smashy.
  • Smash Trivia: Bowser is the heaviest character in the game. Take that, Ridley.
  • And his little jet

  • Amiibo Corner: A fearsome foursome! The main Bowser is intimidating and scaly. The Mario Party Bowser is a lesser version of Bowser, but somehow bigger. Wedding Bowser is a heartthrob. And Skylanders Bowser looks like a glorious gladiator (with adorable hammer). So you really cannot go wrong with a single Bowser.
  • Does Smash Bros Remember Today’s Game? Smash Bros. and Mario Pinball Land obviously have the same source material, but it does not look like they know each other exist. There is nothing in Ultimate that is only from Mario Pinball Land, and Mario does not get so much as a ball-transformation special attack. So let’s go ahead and call this one of those forgotten Mario titles. Good.

Bowser in Mario Pinball Land

  • This is just annoyingSystem: Gameboy Advance, and then it resurfaced on the WiiU. Because there is no God, I would assume we will eventually see it on the Switch Gameboy Advance Nintendo Online service, too.
  • Number of players: Single player pinball experience. Maybe you can just shout your high scores at other people, and see if you are the best pinball player.
  • Favorite Boss: Petey Piranha, King Boo, and a graduated, Egypt-themed Koopa Troopa are all available as bosses. But the winner here is a pointy fish, Porcupuffer. He is big and spikey, and has a pair of extra fish to help out. And, given he gets huge, he is not absolutely impossible to hit with a ball, so he is not nearly as frustrating as his contemporaries.
  • Pinball Questing: Like in another Pinball Quest, you can buy items with accumulated coins. However, given the randomness of pinball, banking on a Starman saving you certainly feels like a crap shoot. Assuming you are not playing with savestates, you are probably better off flushing your gains down a nearby green pipe.
  • An End: The final boss is Bowser, and you have to monkey with a pair of thwomps in the room to properly damage the big bad. This, once again, exemplifies everything wrong with this concept, as successfully bounding around the room to activate the “trap”, and then actually hitting Bowser while he is stunned is vaguely impossible half the time. And when you do not have a clear shot, there is literally nothing else to do in the room. And it all resets to the start if you fail. Awful. Just awful. Princess Peach can save herself.
  • Watch it, buddy: In case you do not check Even Worse Streams updates, we played two of the games from today’s article on a stream back in December. Here it is:

    Even Worse Streams does not condone playing Metroid Prime: Federation Force, though.
  • Say something nice: The sliding penguins are adorable. Guess that makes the ice stage the best of the bunch, which is unusual for a Mario game.
  • Club PenguinsDid you know? The recent WarioWare: Move It! actually makes reference to Mario Pinball Land with a minigame based on the boss fights. This might be the only time that Mario Pinball Land has been directly referenced since its release. Nobody else was in the mood to bring back “Toad, but a Ball”.
  • Would I play again: Nope. This article was planned for much earlier in the Smash Bros. Challenge cycle, but it took me ages to work up the drive to get past the first area of this cursed game. There are some memorable moments here and there, but they are not worth revisiting the same early areas again and again…

What’s next? Richter Belmont never had a pinball game, either, but he was good at surviving vampires. Let’s see what would happen if he had some assistance on that front. Please look forward to it!

One thought on “SBC #38 Bowser & Mario Pinball Land”
  1. He looks different, but it isn’t the first time there was a Tutankoopa. Paper Mario had one as its Chapter 2 boss. Speaking of Paper Mario, the Koopatrols were in Mario’s Pinball Land. And Goomba King (née Goomboss) was in Super Mario 64 DS and Mario Kart DS. And the Star Spirits showed up in Mario Party 5.

    Shame the “Paper Mario characters in other works” phase didn’t last.

    And on pinball, while not specifically individual games Sonic has kept a close relation to pinball. The second boss in Sonic CD, Casinopolis in Sonic Adventure (Classic Sonic and NiGHTS into dreams… tables), Casino Night Pinball (initially a pre-order DLC) in Sonic Generations, that pinball task in Sonic Frontiers…

    And Kirby got to do the pinball again in Kirby Mass Attack’s selection of unlockable mini games.

    Also since I’m sure we’ll get around to those Mii costume cameos eventually (by which I mean DOOM Slayer, Vault Boy, Generic Skyrim Avatar For Marketing), the Zen Pinball/Pinball FX had a Bethesda Pinball pack covering Skyrim, DOOM, and Fallout 4.

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