Back in 1984, the Ghostbusters slimed their way into pop-culture with one of the funniest, most original movies of the decade. The combination of great comedy, explosive special effects, and family-friendly scares made Ghostbusters a hit – and it’s still just as beloved today.
In July, the divisive reboot will hit cinemas around the world, ushering in a new team of ‘busters. Alongside the usual merchandise, a new video game and mobile tie-in have been announced, but little has been revealed about either so far. It’s fair to say that these have a high standard to match (let alone surpass) after the brilliant 2009 video game.
Over the past few decades, plenty of Ghostbusters games have been released, and the quality has been pretty hit and miss (the Ghostbusters II game, for example, is so hard it’s virtually unplayable). But which are the best?
Strap on your proton pack, pull on your Ecto-Goggles, and join us on a trawl through the five best Ghostbusters games so far …
Released in the same year as the movie, Ghostbusters was produced for multiple consoles, including the Sega Master System, NES, and the Atari 2600. It looks pretty ropey now, but this actually recreated the experience of being a Ghostbuster brilliantly with the technology available at the time.
To start with, players get to choose from a selection of cars and equip theirs with different ghost-catching equipment. Gameplay involves monitoring a map of Manhattan to detect signs of ghost activity – once alarms are triggered, the team has to drive through traffic to reach the area. Capturing ghosts on the road isn’t easy but still fun, though the most interesting part is definitely the side-on shooting segments.
Ghostbusters have to use their proton beams to weaken the ghost before pulling it into a trap, earning money for more equipment as a result. Activision did a great job, and deserve applause for trying to represent the various elements of running the business rather than rolling out a generic platformer.
The Real Ghostbusters Arcade (1987)
In 1987, Data East released The Real Ghostbusters, an arcade game based around the massively-popular cartoon spin-off. This is a fast-paced run-and-gun shooter viewed from an isometric perspective, allowing players to blast ghosts across 10 stages.
As many as three players can take control of the Ghostbusters, and the ghosts ready to be busted have some gorgeous designs. The game matches the cartoon’s colourful visuals and features a funky electronic recreation of the classic theme song.
The Real Ghostbusters was ported to the Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, and others, though they struggled to look quite as impressive as the arcade original.
This is an unusual but fun use of the Ghosbusters license. Players get to choose from Venkman, Stantz, and Spengler as they work through various stages. Money is awarded for capturing ghosts during each level, which can be used to buy upgrades (such as three-way shots and health-boosts) later on.
The bright, dynamic, cartoonish graphics and atmospheric music help to make this a joy from start to finish. Similar to Activision’s classic Ghostbusters adaptation, the story sees players going from one call to the next, though there are no driving segments.
Still, the platforming and shooting elements are more than enough to keep fans playing. This is still worth a look today if you can find it.
Extreme Ghostbusters: Code Ecto-1 (2002)
Extreme Ghostbusters was a cartoon based around a team of new recruits mentored by Egon Spengler. Three video games were released to tie into the series, and 2002’s Extreme Ghostbusters: Code Ecto-1 is the strongest.
Released on the GBA, Code Ecto-1 has great graphics and sound, with the ghosts themselves particularly well-rendered. Players take on the role of Eduardo and Kylie to rescue the rest of their team from the villainous Count Mercharior, and there’s a nice variety of equipment on offer.
The usual platforming and shooting segments make up most of the game, though top-down driving stages add some diversity. Racing through Manhattan’s streets in Ecto-1 is always fun, and for fans of the franchise looking for a quality game featuring the Extreme characters, this is well worth tracking down. It’s not the best game anyone will ever play, but it’s fun while it lasts.
Ghostbusters: The Video Game (2009)
Well, this is it. The best Ghostbusters game ever made… so far, at least.
There’s a fairly long and convoluted history behind this game, and its release looked uncertain for a while. Eventually, though, the game hit the market in time to tie into the first film’s 25th anniversary.
Ghostbusters: The Video Game is the continuation of the original team’s adventures most fans wanted but will never see as a movie. Boasting stunning graphics (even now, seven years after the game’s release, they still impress), terrific voice acting from most of the movies’ cast, and a neat concept that has players in the role of a nameless new recruit working alongside the four original ‘busters.
The game has an awesome atmosphere, with funny and spooky moments aplenty, and its 90s setting feels like a natural fit for the series. While Venkman might not be quite as cool and witty as he was in the movies, and waiting for allies to revive you after being injured can be annoying, the overall experience is exactly what many fans wanted from the game.
The developers skilfully worked elements from the first two movies into the game, so players can relive classic moments within an original story. Facing the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man and the Library Ghost is great, and talking with Vigo the Carpathian in the Ghostbusters HQ is a blast.
The fire station itself is beautifully recreated, and it feels like the characters actually spend time there (seeing Venkman repeatedly named ’employee of the month’, presumably by himself, is a nice gag). Originally, levels based around Ecto-1 were started and left out, but this doesn’t harm the game – walking the streets alongside the iconic car itself is good enough.
So, with a new Ghostbusters game heading our way, and hopefully more to come in the future, there’s plenty of inspiration in previous titles. Such a well-loved franchise will always have gamers ready and willing to pay for a few hours in the world of Venkman and co.
What’s your favourite Ghostbusters game of all time? Let us know!