Hercules, The Classic Arcade Pinball Machine

In the 1970s, Bally Manufacturing Corporation created a jumbo-sized pinball machine prototype called Bigfoot but wouldn’t push it into production because vibrations caused the game to destroy itself. Atari bought the concept off Bally, and in 1979 it was released as Hercules, the largest pinball game ever commercially made.  At 8 feet long, 7 feet tall, and three and a half feet wide, experts in the gaming industry cannot quite agree on how many were actually produced. Some speculate as few as 139. Others estimate closer to 300. Either way, today the Hercules is hard to come by. Classic Arcade Pinball Museum on Broad Street is one of the few places in the United States where the public can pay to play it. 

The engineering on Hercules was a feat that had never been done before in pinball. The flippers and slingshots were powered by washing machine solenoids. A pool cue ball served as the pinball. Steve Bicker, who worked for Atari at the time, redesigned the game, and Jim Kelley handled the art, which was crucial for its placement in amusement parks. Kelley once admitted he was told to use “as much orange and purple as you can stand” so Hercules would stand out among the other games.

For a “museum,” Classic Arcade Pinball Museum place is hands-on. Only a few of the 40 pinball machines on site are for viewing only. The rest are ready to play. You’ll find Black Knight (made in 1980), Dominos Spectacular Pizza Adventure (one of only 316 made), Twilight Zone, Orbiter 1, and Hot Wheels (made in 2020) as well as vintage arcade games like Galaga, Centipede, Joust, and Street Fighter. Admission to the museum allows for unlimited play all day. This means you are free to leave the museum for a meal or another Chattanooga attraction, then return later in the day. 



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