After Burner is an arcade vehicular combat game developed and released by Sega in 1987. The player assumes control of an American F-14 Tomcat fighter jet, and must clear each of the game's eighteen unique stages by destroying incoming enemies, using both a machine gun and a limited supply of heat-seeking missiles. It uses a third-person perspective, previously utilized by Sega's earlier games Space Harrier (1985) and Out Run (1986), and runs on the Sega X Board arcade system, which is capable of surface and sprite rotation. It is the fourth Sega game to use a hydraulic "taikan" motion simulator arcade cabinet, one that is more elaborate than their earlier "taikan" simulator games. The cabinet simulates an aircraft cockpit, with flight stick controls, a chair with seatbelt, and hydraulic motion technology that moves, tilts, rolls and rotates the cockpit in sync with the on-screen action.
Designed by Sega veteran Yu Suzuki and the Sega AM2 division, After Burner was intended as being Sega's first "true blockbuster" video game. Development began in December 1986, shortly after the completion of Out Run, and was kept as a closely guarded secret within the company. Suzuki was inspired by the 1986 films Top Gun and Laputa: Castle in the Sky; he originally planned for the game to have a steampunk aesthetic similar to Laputa, but instead went with a Top Gun look to make the game approachable for worldwide audiences. It was designed outside the company in a building named "Studio 128", due to Sega adopting a flextime schedule to allow for games to be worked outside company headquarters. An updated version with the addition of throttle controls, After Burner II, was released later the same year.
After Burner was a worldwide commercial success, becoming Japan's second highest-grossing large arcade game of 1987 and overall arcade game of 1988 as well as among America's top five highest-grossing dedicated arcade games of 1988. It was acclaimed by critics for its impressive visuals, gameplay and overall presentation, and is seen as being important and influential. It was followed by a series of sequels and ports for many platforms, including the Sega Master System, ZX Spectrum and Nintendo Entertainment System. Sega also produced several successors to the game to capitalize on its success, such as G-LOC: Air Battle. After Burner has also been referenced in many other Sega video games, such as Fighters Megamix, Shenmue and Bayonetta.