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Ghostbusters is a 1984 video game based on the 1984 film of the same name, that was designed by David Crane and published by Activision. It was first released on the Commodore 64 and later ported to various other home computers and video game systems, including the Atari 2600, the NES, and the Sega Master System.
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In the game, you operate the Ghostbusters ecto-extermination business, and your job is to amass $10,000 or more before the city's PK Energy Meter reading reaches critical mass. To do that, you must buy your equipment, then you take on jobs to exterminate buildings of ghosts using your proton packs and ghost traps, being careful not to cross the streams or to miss capturing the ghost, because otherwise you'll be slimed and the ghost will get away. Occasionally the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man will appear and try to stomp down one of the buildings on the city map. To prevent this, you must use ghost bait to lure the Marshmallow Man away or else you could risk losing money having to pay for damages. Once you reach your goal, you must get two of your Ghostbusters past the Marshmallow Man and up to the top of the building (marked ZUUL, one of the demonic minions from the movie) to defeat Gozer the Gozerian. If you succeed, you'll get a cash bonus and a code which you can use to transfer your winnings to the next round of play.

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Not to be confused with Ghostbusters: The Video Game or the Sega Genesis game based on the movie franchise.


This game provides examples of

  • Adapted Out: Winston isn't in the game. All the Ghostbusters are white.
  • Ammunition Backpack: The proton packs, which come in handy for the final boss battle with Gozer in the NES and Master System versions.
  • An Entrepreneur Is You: By busting ghosts, you get money for better equipment and cars.
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, who appears occasionally on the city map to stomp down buildings, and also blocks your way into the building near the end of the game. In the NES version, he is seen slowly climbing up to the top of the building during your battle with Gozer if you get pushed off the bottom of the screen.
  • Big Applesauce: As with the movie, the game takes place in New York City.
  • "Blind Idiot" Translation: The ending screen for the NES version reads like this:
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    • The Famicom version manages to have one more error on top of this (misspelling "great" as "grate"), though a bug in the programming keeps it from loading and you need a Game Genie code to fix the error. One has to wonder how they managed to catch that error, but absolutely none of the others.
    • The Sega Master System version's ending screens are marginally better, though they misspell Gozer's name as Gorza, and describe New York City as a "metoropolis".
    • The home computer versions have the best use of grammar for the ending screens, as they give you a code to use to transfer your winnings to another round of play.
  • Boring, but Practical: The humble Ghost Trap, at least until the player has access to the Super Trap and/or Portable Laser Confinment System. Traps are notable for being both the only outright required piece of gear and the only gear item the player can purchase more than one of. Each trap takes up an inventory slot that could be used for other equipment, but having multiple traps decreases the number of times the player must return to headquarters to empty them.
  • Bottomless Fuel Tanks: Averted in the NES version: there's a mechanic in the driving sections whereby the Ghostbusters have to refuel their car by running over barrels of gas laying on the road. Miss too many of them, and the guys will have to get out and push the car back to home base.
  • Cool, but Inefficient: The "High Performance" car in the computer versions. The best looking and the fastest of the vehicle options, but carried less equipment than the hearse and station wagon, while costing 2-3 times as much.note 
  • Driving Game: The game has a driving game sequence where you steer the Ectomobile through the busy streets, using your ghost vacuum to pick up stray roaming ghosts. The NES version complicates things further by having you collect gas cans to keep yourself from running out of fuel, and avoiding getting hit by other cars which costs you money.
  • Endless Game: In the Atari 2600 version, you play until you can no longer reach your current round of play's cash goal.
  • Evil Laugh: Most of the 8-bit computer ports managed to get one out at the title screen, and somehow even managed to make it sound menacing even though the voice is clearly from a Synthetic Voice Actor!
  • Fan Remake: A freeware version of this game for Windows exists.
  • Final Boss: The NES and Master System versions end with a boss fight against Gozer.
  • Follow the Bouncing Ball: The title screen features the on-screen lyrics to the Ghostbusters theme song.
  • Guide Dang It!: You would be tempted to purchase the cheaper regular capture trap instead of the more expensive super trap. This is a beginner's trap (no pun intended). You have to keep emptying the regular one at the Ghostbuster's HQ, whereas the super trap you never need to empty.
    • Also the bank account numbers you can get will only work if you enter your name exactly the same way when you replay the game.
  • Inventory Management Puzzle:
    • NES and Master System versions: This is literally the game. You can only hold four items at a time. But you need every piece of kit to help you up the awful stairway section to confront Gozer. Good luck ever trying to afford them all while grinding catching ghosts. When the prompt does appears to enter the "Zuul building", you're never ready, as you need the right equipment for that one section of the game. However, many players don't realize the prompt is only active when you're have $15,000 or more, so they end up spending too much and losing the offer in the process when trading items out.
    • Computer versions: Inventory was fixed after your initial purchases, so inventory management became a function of your budget and your choice of car - with the exception of the "High Performance" model, more expensive cars meant more inventory slots... while simultaneously decreasing your funds available to purchase other equipment. Additionally, any money not spent is money that does not have to be earned back.
  • Makes Just as Much Sense in Context: The baffling "Conglaturation!!!" ending screen of the NES version also says that, by completing the game, you have "prooved the justice of our culture". Given that the game has no cultural or patriotic themes, this claim makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.
  • Mythology Gag: The hearse costs $4800, just as it did in the movie.
  • New Game+: Players who earned at least enough money to reach the ZUUL stage were given a "bank account number" to enter at the beginning of subsequent playthroughs, allowing them to start with whatever money they'd earned in their previous one.
  • Nintendo Hard: The NES version is notorious for being frustratingly difficult, even to the point of being a Porting Disaster.
  • Non Standard Game Over: In home computer versions, if the Keymaster and Gatekeeper meet and you don't have enough money to enter the building or you fail to get past Stay Puft. In the NES version, if you die on the stairway or in the final battle or Stay Puft makes it to the top of the building.
  • Password Save: New Game+ on the computer versions functioned this way, with the game providing the player a "bank account number" if they earned more than their starting amount in a given playthrough.
  • Pixel Hunt: After the PK Energy Meter hits 9,999, you have to get past the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man in order to confront Gozer. In most versions, Stay Puft jumps vertically, so you just have to time it to know when to run, but in the Atari 2600 version he jumps laterally, which means that you have to cross half of the screen, wait for Stay Puft to jump over you, then cross the rest of the distance. The spot where Stay Puft's arc is high enough to jump over the player instead of into him is one pixel wide.
  • Shoot 'em Up: The confrontation with Gozer in both the NES and Master System versions is basically this. The Master System version also has the ascension to the top of the tower become this as you use your proton pack to fire at the ghosts blocking your way.
  • Synthetic Voice Actor: One that clearly screams Ghostbusters! followed by an Evil Laugh appears on most of the 8-bit computer versions' title screen.[1]
    • The NES version also has a Ghostbusters! voice sample... and it sounds absolutely awful.[2]
  • Timed Mission: The PK Energy Meter acts as your timer, slowly increasing in the early part of the level and getting faster the higher its reading gets.
  • Title Theme Drop: Ray Parker Jr.'s "Ghostbusters" theme song plays throughout the game. The title screen in most versions has a Follow the Bouncing Ball sequence displaying the lyrics of the song while it plays.
  • Too Awesome to Use: Some of the equipment available for purchase, while being extremely powerful, was unaffordable on the game's starting $10,000 budget. For example, in the computer versions the most expensive piece of equipment was the Portable Laser Confinement System; at $8000 it was more expensive than all but one of the cars, but it all but eliminated the need for the player to return to headquarters to empty their Ghost Traps.
  • Weapons That Suck: The proton packs and ghost traps, as well as the ghost vacuum that you must equip the Ectomobile with for the driving sequence.
  • A Winner Is You: The infamous "Conglaturation!!!" ending screen of the NES version contains some of the most godawful grammar and spelling in video game history. It's even worse in the Famicom version; not only does the text fail to display properly due to the developers forgetting to program the CPU to switch to the right data bank, but if you were to use a certain Game Genie code to bypass the programming error, the ending screen is revealed to be the exact same message as the NES version, but with one more typo ("grate" instead of "great"). How the NES developers managed to catch this error but none of the others is anybody's guess.
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