2023 Ranking All 22 Spike 2 Stern Pinball Machines

By Todd Russell Dec26,2023

One of the most read articles in 2023 here has been: 13 Most Recent Stern Pinball Machines Manufactured Ranked By Play Fun Factor, in this post after playing all 22 Spike 2 Stern Pinball machines, I’m going to rank all from most fun to least fun played.

If you’re looking for a place that has all 22 Spike 2 Stern pinball machines hooked up and running with Insider Connected and you are traveling in/near Portland, Oregon or Seattle, Washington, check out: Next Level Pinball Museum Hillsboro, Oregon has 22 of 22 Stern Insider Connected Machines as of October 2023 (UPDATED)

Here are my rankings from least to most fun playing in my opinion. Every machine has been played at least 10 times as of this writing. In some cases all three versions have been played: LE, Premium and Pro, and in others just the Pro and/or Premium.

22. Led Zeppelin (2020) – I do prefer the Premium over the Pro, but neither inspires me to keep playing much. There are other Zeppelin songs even that I would like to hear on here like, I don’t know, Stairway To Heaven? How can that song, their biggest, be missing? It’s like not having Freebird on a Skynyrd pinball machine. Then there is that awfully placed popup in the middle creating an abnormally high center drain ball out. This is easily the worst SPIKE 2 Stern for me.

21. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2020) – quite possibly the worst position for that rotating pizza spinner which catches the ball and sends it straight down the middle drain. Also, what’s up with the really low scoring? The multiball mode after locking in the van is my favorite part of this table. I would put this at the bottom if not for how fun the multiball is, and it goes up to 8-ball multiball which is even cooler.

20. The Mandalorian (2021) – no matter how hard I try to get into this machine, it just feels off to me. I don’t like the size of the upper playfield in the premium and the tilting extreme angle hit the targets minigame. I do like the foundary and think if I keep playing this maybe I can get more into this and move it up the list. I love the Mandalorian TV series and think it’s the best part of the new Star Wars, but this machine … no.

19. The Munsters (2019) – I want to love the Munsters, but it just feels, pardon the pun, lifeless. Dull is another of my feelings playing it. The flipper game underneath is cool but has a cheesy feel. I much prefer other games underneath like in AC DC, Creature From The Black Lagoon, heck even Haunted House. The ramp shots should be inspiring but are lame and boring. Am not a fan of this one and yet, like Mandalorian, I like the IP. This machine is proof that a strong IP with lots of potential doesn’t guarantee I’ll like the game.

18. James Bond 60th Anniversary LE (2023) – not sure why, but this design — shocking that it’s by Elwin (even if this is inaccurate, I’m going with he had limited time to work on this and/or was uninspired with the project) — seemed rushed to me and it comes off when playing like a weak solid state hybrid with modern pinball celebration. I do like the position of the spinning Oddjob hat and the side lane target to hole lock for multiball, it has just the right challenge. This pin is really rare in the wild and most won’t get to play it, but you aren’t missing too much. I much prefer the more widely available Bond pin.

17. The Beatles (2018) – personally this is one of my most favorite pins, but it’s a boring update play-wise from Seawitch (which was already kind of a dull playfield design). The music makes this table higher than it probably deserves to be. There just isn’t a lot to do compared to other tables ranked higher than this, which is why it’s this far down the list for me. That said, I’m drawn back to playing this whenever I see it, more than a few others higher on the list because of the amazing music. Much better song selection here than on Zeppelin. Sure, this is highly subjective, but music pins kind of live and die by the music selection. The rare exception to this for me is Foo Fighters.

16. Elvira’s House of Horrors (2021) – this one has moved down (worse) my list. I do enjoy the modes and basic flip through is OK, but the shots seem a bit too repetitive at times. The lights and sounds are cool, but think I prefer other older Elvira machines better. There have been several different Elvira machines (Party Monsters might be my personal favorite to date). Stern made an absolutely gorgeous Blood Red Kiss Limited Edition of this toward the end of 2023 and would like to play. Maybe this moves up with more plays, but seems kinda doubtful.

15. Black Knight: Sword of Rage (2019) – there are some cool modes in this one that make it a somewhat unique experience and offer good replay value. Great lighting, easily one of the best toppers, and some real challenge. This one grows on me with more plays. I think it might move even higher with more plays. But I much, much, much prefer the Premium with the small upper playfield than the Pro. Time will tell, but this one could rank higher.

14. Star Wars (2017) – one of my wife’s most favorite machines, and it’s fun and the scoring is really high, which is cool, but seems like a lot of repeating ramp loops that get a little old. Enjoy the avoid the asteroids minigame. This might move up for me as I play it more, but my sense is it either holds or drops further. I mean, this is freaking Star Wars, this machine should blow me away — and it doesn’t. It’s better than The Mandalorian, sure, but leaves me feeling empty playing it, other than that cool avoid the asteroids video mode and the tie fighter center button smash. Turtles also has that with eating pizza … it’s just oddly satisfying spamming that button in the middle of a flip.

13. Deadpool (2018) – Have moved this up the list since recently I scored over 2 billion in a game (following a game where I scored over 900 million), making it the most I’ve scored on any of the Spike 2 Stern pins. Scored over one billion on the third ball alone. An epic flip on a game I’ve only played a dozen or so times.

@playgamesmore

Over 2 billion scored – personal best – on Deadpool (Stern Pro 2018) filmed on location ball #3 is over 1 billion scored alone #deadpool #sternpinball #personalbest

♬ original sound – playgamesmore

Several folks disagree with me on this ranking, feeling it should be higher, but personally, I don’t enjoy playing Deadpool as much as I would like to. I have a friend who owns this machine and he loves it and several people I know rate this in their top 5 newer Sterns, so this might be one that deserves to be higher on my list, but my great game shown above aside, I haven’t gotten that into it … yet. Maybe after more plays, and if I can keep scoring higher than other games, it moves further up the list. I think this may move up in time after more plays. I’m not done playing this.

12. Guardians of the Galaxy (2017) – this seems to be a frontrunner for my oldest grandson’s favorite machine, but this is one that I’m not as excited by as him. It does have some really fun modes and the ability to choose different characters is compelling. Also, the Groot multiball mode is fairly easy to trigger. The music is good as well. It seems like it should be higher, but it’s sort of just middle of the road to me so far. I’m not sure it makes it any higher with more plays, but maybe my grandson can get me more into it.

11. Aerosmith (2017) – like the elevator, the toy box, the music, this one should be higher on the list, but it seems to be broken too much whenever I see it. This is one of the more “under repair” Spike 2 Stern’s I’ve noticed, which leaves it further down the list. I enjoy this and feel it should be top 10 for me, but have to drop it lower based on the maintenance issues I’ve seen. Usually the issue seems to be related to the toy box. It’s my understanding this can be disabled somehow(?) and if that’s true, maybe it would play more reliably with that disabled (but definitely not as cool).

10. James Bond 007 (2023) – despite this being one of the newest machines, it doesn’t have nearly the charm and great shot feel of Foo Fighters or even the newest, Venom. Hitting the rocket feels cheesy. I do like the spiral ramp to lock the ball in the Premium/LE. The side ramp is a harder shot, which is fun, but it’s maybe too easy to lock the modes like Q branch and others in the bounce shot to the left. Definitely prefer the Premium more than the Pro (love the jet pack multiball with moving James Bone), if rating the Pro only, I’d drop lower, maybe to 15th or worse.

9. Stranger Things (2019) – My wife’s most favorite machine at the moment and I’m with her on the fun involved in battling the Demogorgan, but like Aerosmith, have witnessed this being down on several machines witnessed a fair amount. Maybe just a few bad machines, but rating lower here due to maintenance-related issues ruining fun.

8. Rush (2022) – At first, I thought the time machine was a one trick pony, but it’s more than that and pretty seductive shot-wise which can launch a bunch of different music modes. Deeper play with updates from Stern have made this game better than when it launched and I first played it. Growing on me in a good way. I still don’t care for the artwork, but the gameplay is drawing me. Being this high on my list is surprising somewhat to even me, but I do have fun playing this more and more. Music pins are mixed bag for some, because liking or disliking the band can have a huge impact on the experience. I do like Rush, was never a super fan of them, but there are plenty of Rush songs I enjoy including several featured here.

7. Batman ’66 (2016) – being a huge Batman ’66 fan, this pin hits all the right vibes. The crane, the villain takedown, if you can find a Batman ’66 somewhere, play it and enjoy. This has moved up the list for me with repeated plays. Even though it’s the oldest Spike 2 Stern pin, and unfortunately kinda hard in our area to find, it’s a great flip. Seek this one out and play it, if/when you can find one.

6. Venom (2023) – this barely misses the top 5 for me, and it’s only this high due to the Insider Connected feature to remember your levels across different machines and the excellent LCD display, video mode and animation. This is a feature I hope Stern expands upon with future releases, adding more time and play-based features, encouraging repeated plays. The Pro version is a bit too stripped down compared to the Premium and makes me less excited about this table. Maybe, with repeated plays, it continues to fall further and someday gets pushed out of my top 10, despite the innovative Insider Connected level features. Due to the 10 billion KRULL virtual badge quest, I have the second most plays on Venom of any Spike 2 Stern as of this writing. Unfortunately, the theme, the game, it just hasn’t drawn me to it enough.

5. Avenger’s Infinity Quest (2020) – the more I play this one, the more it seems there is a lot to do and really like the ball lock in the upper left corner that shoots the ball back and you have to time a shot to a ramp as well as the additional Premium features. It’s a very satisfying kinetic experience and shoots really good. Keith Elwin, of course this is, and the depth and complexity is appealing. I want to play this a lot more than I have to date.

4. Foo Fighters (2023) – Jack Danger really hit it out of the park with the flow on this one, the fun shots, the upper table for quick multiball on the Premium and having one of the best looking animated LCDs of the current Stern crop. Really this and Venom have the coolest looking high res LCDs. It’s setting the bar high for all new Sterns. I don’t care that much for the Foo Fighter music, which irritates some folks when you mention that, but the music does have some impact for me on the experience. If this were an Ozzy table, laid out exactly the same, it would move up at least one spot, maybe two,

3. Jurassic Park (2019) – playing this recently on the Insider Connected Dino DNA quest, I really fell hard flipping this. It drove me to appreciate the different modes, the cool multi-plunge secret shots, the raptor cage (Premium) and more. I don’t like that the original actors voices weren’t used, but there is a mod to add that back, for those interested. The 30th Anniversary with the super cool glowing egg plunger is another great touch for this one.

2. Iron Maiden (2018) – so tempted to put this one at the top. The artwork is gorgeous, the ramp to hit the eye, the mummy lock, multiple multi-ball opportunities, the lighting, the flow, the music. I could go on and on about why this is one my very most favorite ever Stern pinball machines. If you don’t like Iron Maiden’s music (sacrilege!) I could see how this would drop lower for folks, but for me, it’s an easy top three with the current list of 22 machines.

1. Godzilla (2021) – this is one of those machines with a deep ruleset, amazing flow, cool LCD animations and movie clips plus the whole concept of Godzilla breaking down the building. Then there is the Premium collapsing bridge with multiball trap, the magnetic power grab that holds the ball, multiple seductive loops, the list just goes on and on in this machine that many regard, myself included, as one of the best Stern pinball machines ever made, not just in the Spike 2 era. There are a very small number of pinball machines I’d love to own and Godzilla Premium is (currently) on that list.

Ok, so there’s my list. Maybe some of it is controversial and something you personally disagree with. That’s all good, would like to know your top 5 and bottom 5 Spike 2 Stern machines. I fully expect this list to change in 2024, because new machines will be added (Jaws?!!?!!). Plan to update this list — with a new post referencing this — at the end of 2024 or beginning of 2025. It’s a certainty that machines will move around in my list, some will fall, some will rise, some might hold.

The more you play certain machines, feelings toward the experience can change. Rush is probably the biggest surprise to me with my first year’s list. When Rush came out, I didn’t care for it very much and had it ranked much lower than it appears above, but with repeated plays and current code version, I look more forward to playing. Stern can and does improve some (most?) of their games after launch with code updates. So, if you didn’t like a machine the first time you played it, definitely it’s worth revisiting after code updates and see how/if the experience has changed.

It’s understandable if you haven’t played all 22 Spike 2 Stern pins and won’t rate some of them, but I think enough of these machines spanning essentially releases over the last 10 years are out in businesses and accessible – at least in/around bigger cities – that you can check them out and judge the features and fun factor and make your own list.

Would love for others to share their top and bottom lists below in the comments.

UPDATE 4/29/2024 @ 10:23pm PST: Fixed incorrect use of “DMD” for the correction of LCD, editor hat tip to Andy Sutton. Thanks Andy!

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2 thoughts on “2023 Ranking All 22 Spike 2 Stern Pinball Machines”
  1. Great article Todd, I have only played 17 of the 22 tables on the list. My favorites are Aerosmith, Iron Maiden, Foo Fighters, Rush

    I have pretty regular access to Beatles, foo fighters, Rush, Led Zep LE, Iron Maiden and Aerosmith so I’m more familiar with the music tables vs many of the other machines.

    1. Which 5 haven’t you played and/or aren’t available in your area? Seek out a Batman ’66 if you can find one. There is a virtual pinball recreation of that table that is pretty good, but the real table, oh my. It’s a keeper. Thank you for taking time to read and comment.

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