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What really happened to Space Cadet Pinball and why isn’t it included with Windows anymore?

The beloved pinball game basically vanished – but why?

Space cadet pinball on windows
Image: KnowTechie

If you came up with a computer in the 90s or the early 2000s, there’s no doubt that you became familiar with Space Cadet Pinball. The game came preloaded on Windows computers and we boomers would spend hours trying to beat our high score in the game.

Back in the early days of the modern internet, computer time was spent a lot differently. I remember spending half an hour to get Runescape to finally load up just to be kicked offline when my mom’s friend would call for their daily chat. The internet came through the phone line, so you couldn’t talk on the phone and be online at the same time. Torture, I know.

That’s where Space Cadet Pinball came in. I somewhat envy the generation that grew up playing with physical pinball machines (queue The Who’s Pinball Wizard), but Space Cadet Pinball was the shit. The flashing lights and satisfying sounds had me on that game for hours at a time, playing against myself, trying to beat the family high score.

So what happened to Space Cadet Pinball?

I had a hard time pinpointing the exact time, but I vividly remember getting a new family computer one day and being disappointed to find out that it didn’t come with the iconic game. As it turns out, the introduction of Windows XP was the ultimate demise of Space Cadet Pinball.

But why did Windows leave the game off of Windows XP and all versions of the OS that came after? Long-time Windows developer Raymond Chen said back in 2018 that the reason for the game’s demise was the advancement to a 64-bit version of Windows.

But one YouTuber is not buying the claims. YouTube channel NCommander set out with a goal to find the reason behind the demise of Space Cadet Pinball.

With NCommander’s findings, it seems like 64-bit processing wasn’t the ultimate problem. In fact, Space Cadet Pinball even launched on one 64-bit version of Windows XP, though it did have some graphical bugs.

The TLDR version of NCommander’s findings is that Space Cadet Pinball was simply too outdated for newer technology. As it turns out, the game was actually developed by another company and later acquired by Microsoft.

NCommander speculates that Microsoft either didn’t have the rights to further develop the game or it simply didn’t want to spend the time and money it would take.

For us 90s kids, Space Cadet Pinball is super nostalgic and it was sad to see it go. But with today’s technology, the game would likely feel out of place, and there are hundreds of options that you can find through your web browser to take its place. But nothing will ever compare to finally beating that high score after hours of failed attempts at getting online.

Have any thoughts on this? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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Staff writer at KnowTechie. Alex has two years of experience covering all things technology, from video games to electric cars. He's a gamer at heart, with a passion for first-person shooters and expansive RPGs. Shoot him an email at

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