Ghostbusters: The Video Game has long since been considered canon by both fans and the filmmakers alike. Released in 2009 as part of the original film’s 25th anniversary, the game was an instant success, and in recent years has even been remastered for newer consoles. Even when you remove the thrilling gameplay, smart plot elements and returning cast members, the game is still a heartfelt love letter to the franchise. But is Ghostbusters: The Video Game a sequel? And if it is, is that set to change with upcoming Ghostbusters: Afterlife? Let’s take a look…
Not only did Ghostbusters: The Video Game see the return of original Ghostbusters actors Bill Murray, Ernie Hudson, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Annie Potts and William Atherton (Peter Venkman, Winston Zeddemore, Ray Stantz, Egon Spengler, Janine Melnitz and Walter Peck, respectively) as well as the return of many familiar villains (Slimer, StayPuft, Vigo the Carpathian and the Librarian Ghost), the script – originally intended as an official Ghostbusters III – was even treated by Aykroyd and Ramis.
Aykroyd himself has also since confirmed that the game is canon and is essentially Ghostbusters III. When you couple this with the fact that the game even ‘feels’ like a movie – prologue, opening credits, cinematic cut scenes throughout, the signature comedy and horror elements that made the first two films so great, a story that ties in brilliantly with the first two movies, and actual end credits, it becomes even harder to imagine Ghostbusters: The Video Game as anything but an official follow-up to the 1984 and 1989 instalments.
This is all proof that the 1991-set game is canon with the first two movies and is indeed the third entry in the franchise. Sure, it’s a game, but like many other forms of media including books, graphic novels and animated shows, games can still be considered canon. However, with Ghostbusters: Afterlife coming up, where does that leave the game? Will the new film ‘de-canonize’ it? Will it acknowledge the events that took place in 1991? Or will it not mention them at all, leaving the possibility that it is still canon?
There are some clues in the trailer for the new movie that may point in either direction. Either way, the film certainly looks to be taking elements from the game, as well as expanding on existing lore, even if it is set in an entirely new location. There’s ‘Shandor Mining Co.’ – which suggests that Ivo Shandor (who is mentioned in the first film and is the main protagonist in the game) may have a pivotal role. This might also explain why there are ghosts haunting the film’s new Oklahoma setting, Summerville.
And there’s more – the stack of books in the background during the earthquake scene, as well as the Terror Dog that lands on the hood of Paul Rudd’s car. Then there’s the new trailer which confirms the return of the StayPuft Marshmallow Man (at least in a more miniature and multiplied form). Ghostbusters: The Video Game also saw the return of some of these villains, through both the breakdown of the Ecto-Containment Unit and a ‘PSI wave’ at the Gozer Exhibit at New York’s Museum of Natural History.
So, Ghostbusters: The Video Game is very much a sequel to the first two films. We know that Ghostbusters: Afterlife is too, but whether it ignores the events of the game or not remains to be seen, though we do know it acknowledges the events of the first two films, and looks to be bringing back some classic villains too. If it does ignore the game, then Ghostbusters: The Video Game will at least remain canon in its own way. After all, animated series The Real Ghostbusters is a follow-up to the movies, but isn’t considered canon by the movies. The Ghostbusters IDW comic book series does the same, but couldn’t possibly exist within the movies’ universe.
While it can be debated, a movie is what is considered true canon, and there's no denying that Ghostbusters: Afterlife looks to be going down a different road, using Egon Spengler's passing as the catalyst for a new story, which may involve retconning the game entirely. But even if it does do away with the events of 1991, Ghostbusters: The Video Game will never end up in the fanbase's Ecto-Containment Unit.