Play your way through more than 80 years of pinball history at Pinball Playfields opening at The Strong® museum on Saturday, February 27. The original, permanent exhibit explores the history of pinball and traces the evolution of the pinball playfield—the surface where the ball ricochets through a maze of lights and obstacles to rack up points—from countertop games of the 1930s to the sophisticated electronic versions that remain popular today.


View pioneering pinball machines from The Strong’s collections—Whiffle (1931), one of the earliest pinball machines; World’s Fair Jigsaw (1933), which features a mechanical jigsaw puzzle on its’ playfield; and Humpty Dumpty (1947), the first game with flippers. Other unique artifacts include reproductions of original playfield design drawings from the museum’s Williams Pinball Playfield Design Collection and an original prototype playfield for the Lord of the Rings (2003) pinball machine, created by revered game designer George Gomez of Stern Pinball.

“These artifacts illustrate how quickly the pinball playfield evolved from a relatively simple board with pins and scoring holes to a popping and flipping electro-mechanical marvel. And these are just a sampling of the more than 250 historically significant video arcade and pinball machines collected by The Strong in recent years,” says Jeremy Saucier, assistant director for The Strong’s International Center for the History of Electronic Games.


Pull the plunger and try to rack up high scores on a field of more than two dozen playable machines from The Strong’s collections, including the iconic electromechanical Fireball (1972); the largest commercial pinball machine Hercules (1979); the carnival-like FunHouse (1990); the head-to-head USA Football (1992); the Universal monsters-themed Monster Bash (1998); and a VP Cabs virtual pinball machine featuring the latest Zen Pinball games, such as Star Wars Pinball: The Force Awakens and Star Wars Pinball: Might of the First Order. Play some of Stern Pinball’s most exciting recent games, including X-Men Magneto: Limited Edition (2012) (one of only 250 produced), Wrestlemania (2015), Kiss (2015), and the brand-new fantasy-filled Game of Thrones: Limited Edition (2015), part of the Stern Pinball Cluster.


Stand next to an oversized pinball machine flipper for a unique photo opportunity, and play a bagatelle-style, marble game that inspired pinball-makers. Discover how pinball machines work by viewing electromechanical pinball machine components such as flippers, pop bumpers, and drop targets. Scroll through a digital timeline of key moments in pinball history—such as New York City’s ban on pinball beginning in the early 1940s and the introduction of the first pinball machines powered by microprocessors in 1975.


Pinball Playfields is produced by The Strong’s International Center for the History of Electronic Games. The exhibit is sponsored in part by Stern Pinball Inc.


Please note: Playable machines in Pinball Playfields require purchased tokens. Money collected from the sale of tokens helps maintain these original artifacts.


Museum Hours: Monday–Thursday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.;  Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.


General Admission Fees (does not include admission to Dancing Wings Butterfly Garden®): age 2 and older $14, under age 2 free, members free.


Admission to Dancing Wings Butterfly Garden: General Admission fee plus $3 for members, $4 for nonmembers, under age 2 free. Entry is by timed ticket only.


Parking: Free parking is available at the museum for all guests on a first-come, first-served basis. Please note that, on high visitation days, the museum lot may reach capacity early in the day. If space is not available on site at the time of your visit, additional parking is available at neighboring municipal garages for a fee. The Strong is not responsible for fees incurred at off-site locations.