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The boys in gray: The Ghostbusters’ history in gaming

My first exposure to Ghostbusters, believe it or not, was Real Ghostbusters 2 on Game Boy. The handheld was my first video game device of any kind, having received it from my old mate Santa Clause in the Christmas of 1990. I was only four at the time, and as such I hadn’t watched either of the two Ghostbusters films. The Real Ghostbusters was just hitting Australian televisions at that time, so it all came together for me at once, and overnight I became a Ghostbusters fanboy. Within a few weeks I had watched the original countless times, and I finally managed to convince my parents to rent Ghostbusters 2, which had just been released on VHS.

As with most Ghostbusters fans, irrespective of age, I came to adore the original yet had mixed emotions about the sequel. The first film prioritised humour and subtle social commentary, whereas the second film went more the horror route. It took me a while to really understand the first film’s humorous element  — “I’ve worked in the private sector: they expect results!” — but nonetheless the characters and story all came together so well that even without really understanding those jokes, I appreciated the comedic timing needed to deliver them effectively.

So as you can imagine, with the Ghostbusters 2 game adaptation having introduced me to the franchise, I hold the game close to my heart. It was one of the first games I was addicted to, and one of the first that I would flick through magazines looking for tips for. There was no internet back then to Google, “Ghostbusters 2 Game Boy tips and cheats”, so I was stuck with Nintendo Magazine System‘s cheats and tips section. It was also the first game I called the Nintendo Australia hotline for when that service first launched around 1994. Yes, I was still trying to finish the damn game some four years after I received it.

Unfortunately, my positive experience with Ghostbusters 2 is a rarity among other Ghostbusters games. The franchise hasn’t been utilised particularly well in the medium, which is a shame because, as the 2009 game showed us, there’s a really solid third-person action experience there waiting to be played.

So how have The Boys In Gray performed in the virtual world of ghost busting? Let’s take a look back at the Ghostbusters‘ history in gaming.




This game was loosely based on the film, and didn’t gain much mainstream attention until it hit the NES and Atari 2600 in 1986, two years after it first hit home computers. James Rolfe infamously reviewed the game, highlighting its poor graphics, repetitive gameplay and looping soundtrack, not to mention the hilarious completion message that met gamers after taking out Gozer.







The Real Ghostbusters



Based on the cartoon series of the same name and developed by Japanese company Data East, The Real Ghostbusters arcade game was among the first Ghostbusters games released. Strangely, this arcade game was actually released in Japan as “Mekiyuu Hunter G”, which is Japanese for “Maze Hunter G“.  The US version had a different logo, setting, music and characters. Check out footage of both games below.





Real Ghostbusters II

Multiple Platforms


This was the game that introduced me to Ghostbusters. There was a different version of the game published by Activision for computers, however the HAL Laboratory-developed version was well-received, and also followed the structure and story of the film. This game should not be confused with Ghostbusters II for NES, which, like the computer version, was published by Activision. It shared very little in common with both the original Ghostbusters NES game and Real Ghostbusters II on Game Boy. This version was instead a side-scrolling action game, which split gameplay between the Ecto-1 and the Ghostbusters themselves.

Check out gameplay from both versions below. The Game Boy version had a top-down view, and could be played cooperatively via Game Boy link. It was also ridiculously hard: you had a set amount of time to catch all the ghosts in a level, and some ghosts would appear randomly at any one point, generally resulting in a one-hit kill.






Sega Mega Drive/Genesis


Despite having come out after the release of both films and also after the release of Ghostbusters 2 on NES, Ghostbusters on Mega Drive/Genesis somehow managed to be the best of the Ghostbusters games out at the time. SEGA did its own thing with the franchise and basically created their own story, although for whatever reason they didn’t include Winston in the game. There’s a combination of third-person platforming and shooting, and a number of epic boss fights that keep the action explosive and fun. It’s not a perfect game by any means but it was one of my first “console” games after having received a Sega Mega Drive for my sixth birthday in 1992.



The Real Ghostbusters

Game Boy


Released right at the heigh of my own Ghostbusters obsession, this game dragged me away from my SNES and Genesis and got me to dust off the good ol’ Game Boy. That’s a shame, because the game sucked. After Real Ghostbusters 2 on Game Boy and Ghostbusters on Genesis, this game was a major step back. It felt almost too “routine”, and didn’t seem to address any of the issues present in the earlier Ghostbusters games.



Extreme Ghostbusters



The Extreme Ghostbusters cartoon series was really underrated. It had some great characters and an awesome theme song, but it never quite took off like the original cartoon did. Nonetheless it got the video game treatment, with two solid platformers on Game Boy Advance, and then a strange Time Crisis-esque one on PSOne. The PlayStation game didn’t come out until 2004, some four years after the release of the PS2, so it’s no wonder why it’s fairly rare and unknown.





Ghostbusters: The Video Game

Xbox 360, PS3, PC


A Ghostbusters game was originally being developed by ZootFly, and a tech demo of that game that surfaced online reignited interest in the franchise. The studio hit licensing issues and eventually had to scrap the project, but the response to the demo led Atari to invest in a game themselves, with Terminal Reality taking over development. The end product was a fantastic game made for the fans, with the Ghostbusters community widely accepting it as being the spiritual third entry in the franchise. It featured all four actors from the original films, and had its own original story that was set a few years after the events of Ghostbusters 2.





Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime

PS3, Xbox 360, PC


Hoping to cash in on the success of the 2011 game, Atari commissioned Sanctum of Slime, a new Ghostbusters adventure set in 2010 with a new team of busters. While the game had some ambitious gameplay features and tried to tell an interesting new tale, it was critically panned for camera issues, poor cooperative gameplay elements, and choppy visuals.




PS4, Xbox One


In an obvious attempt to cash-in on the hype around the new movie reboot, Activision and developer FireForge Games created a four-player cooperative Ghostbusters game, which seems to take a number of gameplay and story features from 2011’s Sanctum of Slime. It’s set for release on July 12.



What’s your favourite Ghostbusters game of all-time? Tell us in the comments below!



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