Area 51

Area 51

Retro Coin Op Synopsis

Despite the images of hidden secrets and government conspiracies that the title conjures up, Atari’s Area 51 was much more Aliens than The X-Files. In this first-person shooter, you controlled the trigger finger of an elite Marine from the Special Tactical Advanced Alien Response (or STAAR) team. Area 51, America’s top-secret alien lab in Nevada, had been overrun by hideous aliens and their zombified human slaves, and STAAR had the unpleasant task of taking it back.

The action unfolded like a sci-fi movie, carrying players through digitized scenes of hangars, labs, mountain caves and finally an alien mothership for an ultimate showdown. All you had to worry about was the powerful pistol that was cocked and loaded in your hand. As extra-terrestrials and mutants popped up from behind crates, oxygen tanks and other scattered objects, you fired your light gun at the screen, being careful not to hit a fellow STARR member by accident. Points were awarded based on accuracy, but bonuses were also given for firing away at the many breakable objects filling the screen.

Bullets were limited in your weapon, but once the chambers were empty, you simply pointed the gun off-screen and pulled the trigger, a la Lethal Enforcers. Weapons power-ups occasionally appeared as well, yours for the taking if you shot the right spot on the screen. Still other surprises were available for those in the know, as Atari programmers included a pair of secret rooms that could only be accessed by shooting the right objects (or people) at the right time.

Area 51’s digitized graphics, pounding sound effects and general mayhem made it a favorite shooter in mid-90’s arcades. Atari placed the game into a combo unit with another shooting title, Maximum Force, in 1998, adding a few extra secrets to each game.

A proper sequel debuted that same year, dubbed Area 51: Site 4. Gameplay remained the same, but players were offered a chance to train for the alien missions by completing 18 courses in Sites 1-3. New features like night vision and more powerful alien bosses kept fans of the original coming back for more, opening the door for future extra-terrestrial carnage in the spooky hangars of Area 51.

Arcade Machine Release History

1995 - Area 51
1998 - Area 51/Maximum Force
1998 - Area 51: Site 4

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