Ever since the original movie busted its way onto screens back in 1984, the world has been crazy about everything Ghostbusters. Whether it was the universe expanding animated series or the iconic toy lines, there was something for everyone if you were a fan of Venkman, Spengler, Stantz, and Zedmore.
The video game aspect of the franchise has never really enjoyed the success that other areas did. In fact, it can be argued that there has only ever been one decent Ghostbusters video game – released in 2009.
With that in mind, we decided to take a look back at the history of the video game franchise, and trace its origins over the last 35 years. Bustin’ always feels good, but believe us when we tell you – at times making this list, bustin’ was a real bust!
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GHOSTBUSTERS (ACTIVISION, 1984)
Designed by David Crane (Bart vs the Space Mutants, Night Trap), the original Ghostbusters video game was actually written before the team behind it had actually seen the movie, which explains just why it is so … weird.
Players could take control of a naff imitation of the famed Ecto-1, complete with an implausible ghost vacuum for sucking up all those rogue ghosts just hanging around on the freeways, or spend a good 90% of the game traversing a map of the city as a giant version of the Ghostbuster logo, without actually accomplishing anything except pissing yourself off.
Some people look back on Activision’s first Ghostbusters game with fondness, but let’s face it – if you’d fallen in love with the movie then this was a huge disappointment that deserved to be locked away for the rest of time in the containment unit.
THE REAL GHOSTBUSTERS ARCADE (DATA EAST, 1987)
The Real Ghostbusters arcade game, developed by Data East in 1987, was one of those weird 1980’s projects that were actually an entirely different property wrapped up in a ton of branded artwork to give the impression of being something that it wasn’t.
Originally appearing in Japan as “Meikyū Hunter G” (迷宮ハンターG), the game would be dressed up in coveralls and proton pack as a way to cash in on the popularity of the Real Ghostbusters animation. The gameplay – which is a huge improvement on the 1984 effort – sees the titular heroes battling a range of terrifying monsters, who they must blast and blast until they are reduced to mere ghosts.
GHOSTBUSTERS II (ACTIVISION, 1989)
Remember the scene in the 2nd Ghostbusters film where they lower Ray into the sewers to collect a sample of slime? It was a pretty cool moment in the movie, and it’s also the main premise of Activision’s 2nd shot at making a good Ghostbusters video game. The game also recreates other favourite moments from the sequel, including a courtroom battle with the Scoleri brothers, a supersized Statue of Liberty shootout, and a boss level battle featuring a possessed Ray Stantz.
GHOSTBUSTERS II NES (ACTIVISION, 1990)
Unlike their other Ghostbusters II title, Activision’s NES port was a side-scrolling shooter with an annoying time limit that made it really difficult to complete. But at least you got to listen to synthesized spins on the movie soundtrack while you failed over and over again.
NEW GHOSTBUSTERS II (HAL LAB, 1990)
Although Activision was given primary rights to adapt the 2nd Ghostbusters movie, HAL Laboratory was allowed to give the story their own spin, largely for the European and Japanese markets. It was very similar to the Activision NES game in that players controlled 1 of the 4 Ghostbusters as they tried to get to the museum in time to save baby Oscar. This was the first game where players could select Winston, but in some versions, they could also play as Louis Tully – which was a really cool addition to the game.
GHOSTBUSTERS (SEGA, 1990)
Sega’s spin on the Ghostbusters franchise is easily the strangest on the market – largely for its bizarre character design. Set after the events of the 1984 movie, Egon, Peter, and Ray (Winston doesn’t exist here apparently) must come out of semi-retirement to battle the God of Darkness who has opened a portal between Earth and Hell, allowing all sorts of ghosts and ghouls to escape.
THE REAL GHOSTBUSTERS (KEMCO, 1993)
You’ve got to hand it to Kemco because they know how to maximize profits with minimum effort. If you’re not in the know, then let us explain. In 1993, Kemco released the first Real Ghostbusters game for the Game Boy, in which players controlled Peter Venkman and tried to figure out a range of tricky puzzles. That same year they also released the EXACT SAME GAME as Garfield Labyrinth AND Mickey Mouse Labyrinth. Yep, Kemco released 3 versions of an identical game, and only replaced the main sprite so that it was 1 of the 3 world famous properties. You can’t knock them.
EXTREME GHOSTBUSTERS (LIGHT & SHADOW, 2001)
Amazingly, Kemco’s 1993 half-arsed effort was the last Ghostbusters game of the 1990s, and it wouldn’t be until Light & Shadow dusted off the property again in 2001 that we’d get another. Gone were the cheery-faced Ghostbusters of old, replaced by the so-called Extreme Ghostbusters – a darker spin on the franchise that aired briefly in the late ’90s.
The game was only ever released on the Game Boy Color, though it’s believed that the plan was to launch it on a much wider range of consoles. Extreme Ghostbusters wasn’t well received, largely because the animated series it was based upon had had such a poor reach. Still, it’s 20 levels of fun and we’d recommend dusting off your copy now.
EXTREME GHOSTBUSTERS: ZAP THE GHOSTS (LIGHT & SHADOW, 2001)
Zap the Ghosts is a wicked Bust-A-Move clone. In fact, you could call it a “Ghost-Bust-A-Move clone”.
EXTREME GHOSTBUSTERS: CODE ECTO-1 (LIGHT & SHADOW, 2002)
With 2 of the new ‘extreme’ Ghostbuster team kidnapped by a demon, players are tasked with a heroic rescue in a mixture of platformer, shoot-em-up, and top-down racer that was probably the most player-friendly release in the history of the Ghostbusters video game franchise. It also looked brilliant.
EXTREME GHOSTBUSTERS: THE ULTIMATE INVASION (LIGHT & SHADOW, 2004)
Ghostbusters made the jump to the next generation of console in 2004 with Light & Sound Productions final Extreme Ghostbusters title: The Ultimate Invasion. It was a poorly received attempt to cash-in on the Time Crisis craze, coming complete with the option to play with the PS1 Gun.
GHOSTBUSTERS (SONY, 2006)
You’ll be hard pressed to find a decent Ghostbusters mobile game, and Sony’s 2006 effort in which you’re hired by a billionaire to clear his home of ghosts is one such example of a cheap, soulless cash-in.
GHOSTBUSTERS: THE VIDEO GAME (ATARI, 2009)
The 2009 Ghostbusters video game appeared out of nowhere. It was as if Goza had appeared in front of Atari and asked them to choose their own destructor, except instead of being destroyed by Stay Puft Marshmallow Man they’d be showered in praise and wealth … a bit like when Stay Puft explodes at the end of the movie.
Where were we? Oh yes, the 2009 video game is also widely considered to be canon by the fandom, and up until the last few weeks, it was often described as being the third instalment in the franchise. That’s some pretty high praise for a video game.
GHOSTBUSTERS: SANCTUM OF SLIME (2011)
Sanctum of Slime is a mediocre, top-down dual stick shooter that looks great and sounds great but is actually a massive let down.
GHOSTBUSTERS: PARANORMAL BLAST (XMG, 2012)
Ghostbusters Paranormal Blast was an augmented reality game for iOS. It sucked more than a hoover designed to suck up ghosts.
GHOSTBUSTERS (BEELINE, 2013)
The Beeline mobile app was a fun, fan-friendly free game that was sadly very shortlived upon its release. Unlike the previous mobile efforts, this was an actual game that didn’t rely on poorly developed augmented reality to carry itself.
GHOSTBUSTERS PINBALL (FARSIGHT, 2014)
It’s Ghostbusters Pinball. What more do you need to know?
LEGO DIMENSIONS (TRAVELERS TALES, 2015)
Lego Dimensions was fantastic. An ongoing Lego-themed adventure story that mixed video games with actual physical Lego constructions which were essential to progress in the game. Over its short lifespan, Dimensions included a number of cool spin-off levels and characters including Adventure Time, Harry Potter and … Ghostbusters. Based on the original movie, the Ghostbusters levels were a highlight of the whole game, and if nothing else, proved that there was a market for a stand-alone Lego game based on the franchise!
GHOSTBUSTERS (ACTIVISION, 2016)
Activision returned to the world of Ghostbusters with the 2016 spin-off from the poorly-received Paul Feig movie. Mercifully – for everyone involved – the developers wrote the main protagonists from the movie out of the game, and set up a whole new team, perhaps as a way to avoid some of the backlash that is linked to such a hated (rightly or not) piece of cinema.
Despite all of this, Ghostbusters 2016 was poorly received.
GHOSTBUSTERS: SLIME CITY (ACTIVISION, 2016)
Slime City was another mobile app in which players took control of original Ghostbusters characters, and had to save New York City from an influx of ghouls and ghosts. It was just another clone of every mobile game we’d seen so far and was dead and buried before it ever had the chance to answer the age old question: Who you gonna call?
GHOSTBUSTERS WORLD (NEXTAGE 2018)
Picking up where Pokémon GO left off, Ghostbusters World is an augmented reality experience that finally captures what it might be like to be a Ghostbuster in the real world. The big difference here though is you look absolutely bonkers when you’re trying to take down a Class 5 Full Torso apparition – but it’s totally worth it.
Ghostbusters World is flawed but compared to the previous attempts to make this style of game, you’ve got to take your hat off to Nextage for at least making something fun and with repeat value – no matter how shortlived it is.
What was your favourite Ghostbusters game? When you get a hankering to go toe-to-toe with Slimer, who do you call from your gaming collection? Let us know in the comments section below, or on our Twitter or Facebook.