Since the earliest days of gaming, we’ve been shooting aliens. Whether they be tiny, unrecognizable pixels, or gigantic demon-like baddies, blasting through a race we have no affiliation too just feels kinda good. In the arcade world, there may be no better alien shooter than Area 51.
The light gun action of Area 51 is synonymous with arcades: no matter which arcade you were at, it seems, there would be an Area 51 cabinet tucked away somewhere. And for good reason! Even to this day the light gun action and intense gameplay still hold up!
The big draw for me to this game was the live action visuals. It felt kind of like I was playing a movie. You weren’t alone when playing solo, because you would occasionally have teammates pop on screen to shoot bad guys with you (assuming you didn’t reactively shoot them first). Visually the game stood out to other shooters like House of the Dead or Revolution X, to name a few.
Area 51 also has the most disheartening game over ever. Once the countdown hits zero, your player character arduously transforms into one of the alien horde! I don’t know if I ever actually beat this game to determine if all these “aliens” were just transformed humans, but dammit if that screen didn’t haunt me to keep playing!
When I think of light gun games, I don’t think of Area 51 first, mainly because it isn’t my go-to favorite game. But I have to give credit where it is due, as I really feel Area 51 was a leader in the arcade shooter genre. Though it wasn’t the first, many games followed its formula, and it is still fun to play even today.
*Played at Galloping Ghost Arcade in Brookfield, IL 2019