Feb 27, 2013

Atari's Hercules Pinball

I've been making my way through the mammoth book Atari Inc.: Business is Fun, which I'll be posting more about when I finish it. It's gotten me very nostalgic for the golden age of arcades. Then I started thinking how some of my internet pals are around a decade younger than me. Those few years make the difference between experiencing the birth of home consoles along with the height of the coin-op arcade and growing up with a home console.

Now I know you youngins have likely been to some kind of arcade but to me the arcades of the early 80s are something I'm gratful to have experienced first hand. It was a time before they were mostly filled with multi-player driving, dancing, and fighting games and despite the limits of technology, there was an incredible variety from game to game.

video game arcade room

My dad often took me to a local bowling alley called Capeway that had a decent sized arcade area with video games and pinball. To get this thing back on track, I wanted to share a particular pinball machine that you may not know about: Atari's Hercules. For me pinball is all about the licensing or it's got to have a great gimmick. This time, size matters!

Image from NYC Pinball
Look at that thing! To give you a better idea of its size it uses a pool cue ball instead of the standard size pinball! Atari tried their hand at pinball for a few years ultimately getting seven machines out. Hercules was their final one and what a way to go out!

This video gives a comparison of Hercules against a standard sized pinball machine.
There's a bit of under the hood stuff as well for you electronics nerds.
If you want to see game play, skip to about 3:14 mark.

I think this is one of the few exceptions where something you remember as being huge when you're a kid actually is. If I had weighted wristlets at the time, I would no doubt have felt compelled to wear them to play this beast of a machine.


  1. Rad! I know I'm a bit younger than you so I belong more to the home console generation, but I do still remember the arcade era. At one point there were 2 malls in my hometown and both of them had arcades--one of which was a two-story joint that had all pinball tables on the upper level. During my pre-teen years I actively hung out at the arcade that was still left playing TMNT, 6-Player X-MEN, etc. but that place was a shell of its former glory by that point. I always dug ski ball, too, even though I'm terrible at it.

    1. You know, I thought about that a few minutes after I typed it because I remember still going to arcades while in high school but like you said, they weren't the same as the were even a handful of years before that.

      That was around when the multi-player games (TMNT, X-Men) and fighting games started taking over from the unique stuff that was coming out in the early 80s.

  2. Jaime- even the tail end of the video arcade era you caught was far different than it's golden years of the late 70s and early 80s. They were truly a different experience during that time than the late 80s and early 90s.

  3. Man I missed the sweet days of the arcades how many quarters did I spend on games like Pac-Man,Space Invaders,Moon Patrol,Crazy Climber and more. Dex am a "Old Man Arcade Gamer" myself and that Hercules Pinball I have actually played several times in the past. : )



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