Here's how to bring Space Cadet 3D Pinball back to Windows

3D Pinball for Windows – Space Cadet was a digital table released in 1995 as part of the Microsoft Plus! upgrade package for Windows 95. It was later bundled with Windows NT, Windows 98, Windows ME, Windows 2000, and Windows XP 32-bit, after which it disappeared forever. Or did it? 

Obviously, since you're here, you already know that the answer is no, it did not. You can download the executable file from, run it, and within a few seconds have the game back on your PC. It's exactly as it was, although it might look a little smaller than you recall: The window is locked at 640x480 resolution. (Remember, 1280x1024 was cutting-edge visual glory back then.) 

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The Windows-bundled freebie is a slightly-modified version of the Space Cadet table in Cinematronic's Full Tilt! Pinball, which also included the pirate-themed Skullduggery and fantasy-themed Dragon's Keep tables. That's actually a big part of why Pinball was ultimately dropped from Windows, as Microsoft engineer Raymond Chen explained in a 2012 MSDN blog post

"The 64-bit version of Pinball had a pretty nasty bug where the ball would simply pass through other objects like a ghost. In particular, when you started the game, the ball would be delivered to the launcher, and then it would slowly fall towards the bottom of the screen, through the plunger, and out the bottom of the table. Games tended to be really short," he wrote. 

"Two of us tried to debug the program to figure out what was going on, but given that this was code written several years earlier by an outside company, and that nobody at Microsoft ever understood how the code worked (much less still understood it), and that most of the code was completely uncommented, we simply couldn't figure out why the collision detector was not working. Heck, we couldn't even find the collision detector!"   

And so, with "several million lines of code" remaining to be ported from the 32-bit version of Windows XP to the 64-bit edition, they decided to drop it—but not without lingering regrets. "If it makes you feel better, I am saddened by this as much as you are," Chen admitted. "I really enjoyed playing that game."   

Some people might understandably be nervous about installing an unknown program downloaded from a site they've never heard of, but I have no such compunctions and I can attest to the fact that it works perfectly well, even on Windows 10. The only tricky bit is finding the thing after it's installed, because it's not listed under 3D or Space Cadet. Just look for "Pinball"—it's in your games folder.

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.