When it comes to major movie franchises like Jurassic Park, Star Wars, and Harry Potter, it’s easy to forget that the worlds they’ve created also exist beyond the silver screen, in many other forms of media. It could be a novel, video game, comic book, TV show, or all of the above.
This is also true in the case of the Ghostbusters franchise. Fans are currently in their element that four Ghostbusters movies now exist (even if the reboot leaves a lot to be desired), but sometimes, other material set in the Ghostbusters universe can get overlooked.
It would take forever to list all the Ghostbusters video games, tie-in novels, and comic books, but we’ve compiled the most relevant stories — the four movies, the two animated shows, IDW Publishing’s long-running comic book series, and even the canonical video game!
Here’s your guide to the entire Ghostbusters franchise…
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The 1984 film follows parapsychologists Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis), and Dan Aykroyd (Ray Stantz), who discover a surge in paranormal activity in Manhattan. Recognizing a gap in the market, they decide to go into business as the Ghostbusters.
They buy an unused fire station as their headquarters, convert an old Cadillac into their emergency response vehicle known as the Ecto-1, and hire Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson) as their fourth member. Almost overnight, the Ghostbusters become a citywide sensation.
The team winds up helping Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver) and Louis Tully (Rick Moranis), who have been chosen by minions Zuul (AKA “The Gatekeeper”) and Vinz Clortho (AKA “The Keymaster”) as vessels to allow a god known as Gozer entry into the human world.
Using their proton packs (unlicensed nuclear accelerators) to “cross the streams”, the Ghostbusters send Gozer — and the 112ft manifestation, the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man — back to their dimension, saving the day and covering everyone in melted marshmallow in the process!
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The Real Ghostbusters (1986 — 1991)
The Real Ghostbusters is an animated series inspired by the 1984 film, and ran for seven seasons before departing our TV sets. The premise is the same, however, instead of beige flight suits, the Ghostbuster sport retro colors (which is actually explained in the episode “Citizen Ghost”).
And the gang’s all here — Peter (Lorenzo Music), Egon (Maurice LaMarche), Ray (Frank Welker), Winston (Arsenio Hall), Janine (Laura Summer/Kath Soucie), and Slimer (Frank Welker)! Sadly, Dana Barrett isn’t, but Louis Tully (Rodger Bumpass) does appear on occasion.
The show depicts the Ghostbusters battling a huge number of supernatural threats across New York City. And if you’re wondering whether it’s canon with the movies, then wonder no more, because it definitely is (although this obviously isn’t the case the other way around)!
The episodes “Citizen Ghost” and “Take Two”, along with a few others, directly tie in to the 1984 film, while “Partners in Slime” references Ghostbusters II. In fact, the show influenced the 1989 sequel, in which Slimer is portrayed as a friendly ghost during his encounter with Louis Tully.
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Ghostbusters II (1989)
Set five years after the original film, Ghostbusters II finds the team almost divided and disenfranchised. Despite saving the world, it seems New Yorkers have been quick to forget the supernatural events that plagued their city, which has put the team out of business.
Ray now runs a bookstore known as Ray’s Occult and does the odd side-gig with Winston (they dress up in their Ghostbusters outfits for kids’ birthday parties). Meanwhile, Peter is a talk show host, and Egon is studying the effects of negative energy on human beings.
But when paranormal activity across the city begins to rise again, the Ghostbusters reunite and discover a river of highly-energized “Mood Slime” running beneath the streets. They also learn that the supernatural substance is feeding off all the millions of miserable inhabitants above.
Eventually, the river causes the portrait of Vigo the Carpathian (Wilhelm von Homburg/voiced by Max Von Sydow) to come to life! But when the ancient sorcerer tries to possess the body of Dana Barrett’s baby, Oscar, the Ghostbusters use a positively-charged Statue of Liberty to save the day!
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Extreme Ghostbusters (1997)
Animated show Extreme Ghostbusters (1997) follows on from The Real Ghostbusters, serving as an almost direct sequel, though with a noticeable difference in the style of animation. But there’s also a huge shift in tone, as the show really flirts with the boundaries of family-friendly horror.
Extreme Ghostbusters is set years after The Real Ghostbusters and follows four college students, Kylie Griffin (Tara Strong), Eduardo Rivera (Rino Romano), Roland Jackson (Alfonso Ribeiro), and Garrett Miller (Jason Marsden). Together, they form the next generation of Ghostbusters.
To say that Extreme Ghostbusters is a completely different animal to its ’80s-born predecessor, though, wouldn’t be entirely true. After all, the ingredients are all there: a team of Ghostbusters, New York City, Slimer, the Ecto-1, and so on. But make no mistake — this is pretty edgy stuff!
Original characters also make an appearance in the show, while Egon (Maurice LaMarche), Slimer (Billy West), and Janine Melnitz (Pat Musick) are part of the main line-up. Kylie Griffin also went on to become a frequently recurring character in IDW’s comic book series.
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Ghostbusters: The Video Game (2009)
Before Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021) entered our lives, Ghostbusters: The Video Game (2009) was considered the unofficial and canonical sequel to the original two movies. Even Dan Aykroyd himself, who co-wrote the game with Harold Ramis, confirmed this a few years ago.
Ghostbusters: The Video Game takes place in New York in 1991, two years after the events of Ghostbusters II, when a supernatural energy wave causes a surge in ghostly activity throughout the city. Returning spooks include Slimer, the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, and even Vigo!
The game is a near-perfect celebration of all things Ghostbusters, and Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson, and Dan Aykroyd even reprise their roles! However, you play a new Ghostbusters cadet known simply as “Rookie”(like Kylie Griffin, he also appears in the comic book series).
However, the existence of Ghostbusters: Afterlife does throw the game’s canonicity into question. While the 2021 sequel doesn’t go out of its way to retcon the game, it doesn’t seem to acknowledge it, either. But then it probably isn’t personal, as it doesn’t even mention the 1989 sequel.
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Ghostbusters: Answer the Call (2016)
Ghostbusters: Answer the Call (2016) was met with a whirlwind of controversy even before it hit theaters. The trailer for Paul Feig’s female-led film quickly became one of the most disliked videos on the Internet, and the film itself remains one of the most hated reboots of all time.
The reboot follows paranormal scientists Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig), Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy), and Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon), and MTA worker, Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones), as they team up to fight a wave of supernatural entities in Manhattan.
Is it all that bad, though? Well, Ghostbusters: Answer the Call gets a few things right, but ultimately, it just isn’t funny, substituting the well-written jokes and believable protagonists of the original for cringe-worthy ad-libbing and one-dimensional caricatures.
Despite the fact that many fans wish this film didn’t exist, Ghostbusters: Answer the Call still forms part of the Ghostbusters franchise. However, while it is in no way canon with anything in the series, Anny, Patty, Erin, and Jillian do appear in the more recent IDW comic books.
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IDW Ghostbusters Comic Book Series (2011)
Ghostbusters comic books date as far back as the 1980s, when The Real Ghostbusters was in its heyday, but the most commonly known series is the long-running IDW Publishing version, which started in 2011, and is still in publication. As such, there are a huge number of issues to collect.
Just like the original two movies and The Real Ghostbusters, the Ghostbusters comic book series focuses on Peter, Egon, Ray, and Winston, and includes other iconic characters such as Janine, Louis, Dana, and Walter Peck (played by William Atherton in the films).
However, as it’s a comic book universe, naturally, Ghostbusters (2011) takes many liberties, often “crossing the streams” with over franchises in special one-off story arcs, such as Men in Black, The X-Files, Trans-Formers, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
The series has also brought in The Real Ghostbusters versions of the characters, and even Abby, Jillian, Erin, and Patty from Ghostbusters: Answer the Call, using the concept of the “multiverse” to do so. The comic books also feature several other Ghostbusters exclusive to this particular continuity, which means that there are more than just 12 Ghostbusters!
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Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021)
Ghostbusters: Afterlife is one of the most long-awaited sequels of all time. For the best part of the last three decades, fans have waited for a third movie in the original Ghostbusters series, but it seemed like it just wasn’t mean to be. At least not until the 2016 reboot had been and gone.
That film’s underwhelming box office success led Sony Pictures to rethink their Ghostbusters strategy, and consequently, an actual sequel was greenlit and handed to Jason Reitman, the son of Ivan Reitman, who directed the original two Ghostbusters movies. Like father, like son!
Set in the backwater town of Summerville in Oklahoma, Ghostbusters: Afterlife introduces us to new characters. After moving to an old farmhouse left behind by their late grandfather, Phoebe (McKenna Grace) and brother Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) discover the legacy of the Ghostbusters.
Along with their mother, Callie (Carrie Coon), summer school teacher, Gary Grooberson (Paul Rudd), and fellow teens, Podcast (Logan Kim) and Lucky (Celeste O’Connor), Phoebe and Trevor attempt to thwart a supernatural threat that the original Ghostbusters defeated in 1984.
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Are you familiar with the world of Ghostbusters beyond the movies?