Playing Atari's Hercules, The Biggest Pinball Machine Ever

In 1979, Atari released a pinball machine called Hercules. At 3 feet wide, 7 feet tall, and 8 feet deep, it was the biggest production pinball machine ever made. If only it had been more fun!

Today, there are only about 20 places in the world that you can go to play a game of Hercules, and one of them is the Strong Museum of Play in Rochester, New York. So you’ll forgive us if, on this episode of Complete In Box, we play a game that is not technically still in its original box. We think you will overlook this slight breach of etiquette because Hercules is just that impressive.


Using what looks very much like a billiard ball for the pinball, and featuring a whole table full of upsized custom-made flippers and bumpers, Hercules surely drew many players to its extra-wide control panel in 1979. Of course, they probably didn’t linger for long, because even though it was initially fun to slam this massive ball around and hear the extra-loud thumps and dings of the gameplay, Hercules played so slowly that it wasn’t much fun.

Still, it’s an amazing (and now very rare) piece of history, and we’re thrilled that the Strong showed it to us as part of their Pinball Playfields exhibit. In the coming weeks, Complete In Box will go beyond the public exhibits at the Strong and deep into its archives of the rarest video game material in the world, to look at some complete-in-box games that you’ll likely never see again. Stay tuned!

Features Editor, Kotaku. Japanese curry aficionado. Author of the books Power-Up: How Japanese Video Games Gave the World an Extra Life and Final Fantasy V from Boss Fight Books.

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I’ve played it at the annual Arcade Expo at the Museum of Pinball in Banning, CA. It’s a spectacle, but it’s painfully slow and boring. Also, one of their flippers isn’t quite strong enough, so you can’t really get to the top well.