Ghostbusters is one of the most enjoyable movies from the 80s, with a mixture of action, comedy, and special effects that exploded on the screen thanks to an iconic cast that included Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver and the late Harold Ramis. With that, the movie also inspired a number of games, including releases for the NES, Commodore 64, and various other platforms.
However, most of the games were forgettable. While the early Commodore 64 release introduced a neat little strategic element, balancing costs of jobs with running the Ghostbusters business, its gameplay left a lot to be desired. However, the NES endeavors were just terrible.
Still, three great Ghostbusters games did make it out over the past 30 years. Check out these games after watching the limited theater re-release of the movies, or kicking back with the remastered editions on Blu-ray. Whether you prefer classic shooters of old or something a little more contemporary, all three of these games deserve to be played. Either that, or you could end up with mass hysteria on your hands, including dogs and cats living together!
Ghostbusters (1990, Sega Genesis)
Very different from the clunky NES games, Ghostbusters for the Sega Genesis provided a neat little twist on the side-scroller formula. The game had you choose a character (Venkman, Spengler and Stantz) and let you play four out of the six levels in any order you please. The final two levels unlock, and you'll eventually face none other than the enormous Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man.
Although not as good as other Sega platformers of the time, Ghostbusters had an innocuous charm to it, mainly because it used the movie's actual characters and not generic stand-ins. The gameplay felt about right when it came to "busting" ghosts and earning enough money from jobs to keep your resources in check, especially when it comes to facing tougher bosses in the game. The level of management may not be as deep as the Commodore 64 version, but it's ample enough to make players feel like they're running a business.
The game is fetching a pretty decent amount on eBay these days, especially complete, so if you're an avid Genesis collector, this one's well worth having in your game library.
The Real Ghostbusters (1987, arcade)
Based more on the animated series that followed the film (not the Hanna-Barbera "Ghost Busters" series), Data East's The Real Ghostbusters came out during a time when the company was going through an arcade gaming renaissance. Data East managed to thrive with games such as Bad Dudes vs. Dragon Ninja and Robocop, and The Real Ghostbusters easily found its place as a classic quarter-dropper.
In the game, up to three Ghostbusters can play at once, using a rotational control system so that they could move and aim their blasters/photon packs at the same time. The goal of the game was simple: get through 10 levels of supernatural enemies and large bosses. In addition to the shoot-em-up action, The Real Ghostbusters also offered some terrific power-ups, including a Slimer ghost to protect from incoming attacks.
Even though the game design is a bit primitive when compared to the Genesis version (only generic characters are used, and the main theme song is over-played), The Real Ghostbusters is an arcade delight that's worth checking out if you can get to an arcade with a playable unit. If not, there's always MAME.
Ghostbusters (2009, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, PC)
Fans were excited when Ghostbusters was initially announced, mainly because of the involvement of nearly the entire cast from the original film. Harold Ramis and Dan Aykroyd were brought back to voice their characters and write the script for the game. Bill Murray, Annie Potts and Ernie Hudson followed suit. Even William Atherton (as Walter Peck) returned in some respects. However, production was oft delayed, and the game eventually ended up in the hands of a new publisher, Atari, after Vivendi Universal opted out.
However, the game finally arrived in 2009, and proved to be worth the wait. Considered the "real" Ghostbusters III, the story followed the quartet, joined by a new "rookie" played by you, as they set out to stop a paranormal threat that could crush New York City flat. With Ramis and Aykroyd at the controls, the game featured many terrific nods to the original film, including the return of the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. The Xbox 360 and PS3 versions of the game also come with online co-op, so others can join in to do some "busting."
The Wii and PlayStation 2 versions of the game were a bit different, with a more cartoon-style design and no online play to speak of, but they were just as well-received by fans. In the end, the game didn't go gangbusters on sales, but it was well-received by the community, and continues to be a cult classic today, especially with the death of Ramis earlier this year. Fortunately, you can still check it out without spending an arm and a leg, as it's available on Steam for $9.99, and on Xbox Live Marketplace for $14.99. Retail copies can also be found pretty cheap, for around $20 or so.
So when you head out to see Ghostbusters on the big-screen again this weekend, make sure to give these games a try as well. You'll be glad you did.