3D Pinball Space Cadet was a game first included in the ‘Microsoft Plus!’ pack for Windows 95, and it gained popularity for its inclusion in Windows XP. Even though the game doesn’t ship with Windows anymore, you can still play it on just about anything.
The fun started in late 2020, when Muzychenko Andrey (‘k4zmu2a’ on GitHub) started de-compiling the classic 3D Pinball game for Windows, fixing bugs on modern devices in the process. The game was supposedly dropped from Windows because a bug prevented a 64-bit x86 port, but Andrey notes in the readme file that the “decompiled game worked in x64 mode on the first try.”
Andrey’s reverse-engineered port works on modern Windows, Linux, and macOS, and pre-compiled versions are available for both 32-bit and 64-bit Windows. There’s also an earlier release that has builds for ARM Windows, so you can play it natively on devices like the Surface Pro X. The only catch is that you have to obtain the original 3D Pinball files (like the .WAV sounds) and place them in the same folder as the executable/application. I have a funny feeling that if you do a web search for “3D Pinball – Space Cadet From Microsoft Plus! 95,” you might find the files you need.
1995 Space Cadet Pinball running natively on an M1 Mac because why not pic.twitter.com/nmbRNgBAkg
— Zachary Wander 🇺🇦 (@Wander1236) June 30, 2022
Since the reverse-engineered version was first published almost two years ago, other developers have brought 3D Pinball to more platforms. There’s a web-based version, an Android port by Federico Matteoni (which just received an update), and even a release for LG’s webOS-based smart TVs. The Android game does not require downloading the original files from elsewhere, unlike most of the other ports. There’s also a version in development for older PowerPC-based Mac computers (and PPC Linux), but no releases are available yet.
Game consoles aren’t missing out on Pinball, either — there’s a Wii and 3DS version by ‘MaikelChan,’ a Nintendo Switch port by ‘averne,’ a Wii U port by ‘ItriguingTiles,’ and finally a PS Vita game by Mike Santiago (‘Axiom’). I played the Wii port for a while, and it’s a lot of fun — it would have been a top download on the Wii Shop back in the day, for sure.
It’s great to see 3D Pinball available on so many more platforms without the need for compatibility layers or virtual machines. Even if you have no nostalgia for the original game, it’s still a fun distraction for at least a few minutes.