The Pinball Wizard Arcade: The Magic of New Hampshire

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Location: 150 Bridge St P, Pelham, NH 03076

I am not being paid to write this article. I honestly love this place so much I’m doing this for free. Read more to find out why.

For a former Floridian, Massachusetts winters can be brutal. The snow is downright terrifying and honestly I still don’t drive if there’s more than an inch or two on the road. I’ve tried, and it resulted in me driving into a snow drift, and even bending the control arm on our car. The other side of nasty winters is the fact that it can get extremely cold. There have been times it has gone into the negative numbers during the evenings and bitterly cold during the day especially if it’s windy. I’m talking about the kind of cold that seems to disregard your coat and chill you to the core. It’s nasty.

Our first winter here was spent hiding in our tiny Woburn (pronounced woo-burn) apartment. This is now our sixth winter here and we’ve learned to “work” with the cold. So long as the roads are clear there is a place that is ALWAYS a slam dunk date for me and Amin (my husband). That place is called The Pinball Wizard Arcade in New Hampshire. I know, you might be thinking (especially if you’re from Florida) “Oh man, you have to drive to another state?!?!” But honestly it’s right on the border and if you live near Boston it’s not too bad of a drive to get there, and IT’S WELL WORTH IT.

I regularly drop $60 bucks here and I don’t regret a second of it. Honestly. This place has EVERYTHING!

Okay first thing’s first. I wasn’t into pinball when I started going here. I’m more of a World of Warcraft, Dance Central, Fallout 4 type of girl. But this is a vintage place. The memories of games I played while growing up came up in a flash.

The owner who is Sarah St. John, has several Skee-Ball machines (to which my mother was quite pro at playing in Florida and even managed to save up and get a small keyboard with). She has what I believe to be every version of Pac-Man (and woman). She has all the legendary vintage arcade games such as Galaga, Arkanoid, Frogger, Defender and even Burger Time (which by the way is such a freakishly epic game; I’ve only gotten to the third level once and I still happily give this machine my money). It doesn’t stop there though. She also has a lot of more modern video games such as several car racing games including the Star Wars pod racing game, Marvel vs Capcom, and CarnEvil (which since I don’t play horror games I tend to have a love hate relationship with). She also has what has taken possibly the most money from me which is the game Deal or No Deal which is a betting game in which you have to bet on and weed out brief cases which can have up to 400 tickets. Sounds great right? Well what if I told you that is actually not the focus of this place?

The main focus of Pinball Wizard is the row, upon row, upon row, of pinball machines. Epic, is not even a good enough word for the beautiful collection of pinball machines she has collected and kindly allows us to play. Now remember, I said I wasn’t into pinball, so why am I bringing this up? Well because she has made me a believer. Once again she has collected quite a variety. Some are basic, two flippers with very little flash while others like the Game of Thrones machine or the Star Trek-themed ones have a lot of moving parts. The variety alone allows you to dip your feet into what is familiar and go into the more unfamiliar and vintage territory. I can’t recall what pinball game I played first, but it started something in me that desired to play more of this. Honestly, I’m still in the beginner stages of pinball. My goal is to keep the ball in play for as long as possible, and as I’m pushing the buttons I can honestly say I have no idea what I’m doing but it’s fun.

If I had a few thousand saved up I know the first pinball machine I’d try to buy from her. It has a bad reputation and I’ve heard that several parents with delicate sensitivities have complained about it. The pinball machine I’d buy is South Park. It’s horrible and awesome at the same time. You put your quarters in and you hear the bus driver Ms. Crabtree yell in a terribly loud nasty voice, “HOW’D YOU LIKE TO SUCK MY” and then the machine thankfully beeps out the rest. It has farts, it has bad humor, it’s everything you’d hope to get from a South Park pinball machine, and I love it. I don’t care if there’s a mother holding a toddler behind me, I will play it proudly and take the glares as a compliment. I LOVE IT!!!

If South Park is not your thing, there are many many many other amazing pinball games to chose from. One of the recent ones she’s gotten in is a Game of Thrones themed one as well as a The Hobbit themed one and an Avatar one. If Fantasy is not your thing, she also has not one, not two, but several Star Trek themed pinball, all of which I’ve played. There is also a Rescue 911 pinball (for those of us traumatized by the show in the 90’s), Tales From the Crypt, The Wizard of Oz (which is pretty cool), Gilligan’s Island, The Twilight Zone, Theater of Magic, and Revenge from Mars, just to name a few. I could honestly name so many more, but you really should just go there and check it out for yourself.

You can tell Sarah really loves this place. It’s clean and very well maintained. The floors are regularly vacuumed, the bathrooms are clean which is more than I can say for some places I’ve been to, most of the games run well, and the staff are friendly and really kind if a machine eats your tokens or is glitching out.

It’s literally located in a plaza which has a pizza place, Dunkin Donuts, and a Chinese take-out steps away from the arcade, if you care to cross a parking lot, you can go to a fairly decent Hannaford’s. Why do I bring this up? Because when my husband and I go, we go all day. Seriously, we get there when it opens, and then we have a “lunch break” and then go back to playing. You can honestly spend all freakn’ day at this place and just live out your childhood dreams of being in a fantastic arcade all day.

I could write another entire blog post (and I very well might) about how I feel arcades in this age of console and app gaming should be kept up like a library. I could talk about (and still might) how I feel like vintage gaming, especially pinball should be kept up as a part of American history, but for now I’ll just say this; if you go alone, you’ll have tons of fun. If you bring a date you’ll have tons of fun. I would even be willing to bet money that if you brought an enemy to this place you will still have fun.

So if you’re new to New England like my husband and I were, and you’re tired of playing video games and watching TV inside your home- visit The Pinball Wizard. You’ll have fun. It’s a great place to leave your worries at the door, and just get swept up in the lights, sounds, tickets, and feeding your inner child that so desperately wants to just have fun.