When Dan Aykroyd first developed his idea for Ghostbusters, he didn’t just end up creating a hugely popular star vehicle that blended timeless comedy with spectacular effects. He also – along with co-writer Harold Ramis and director Ivan Reitman – invented a fully realized universe of cool concepts, iconic props and unique visuals. It’s no wonder that, in a fictional world with so much scope, the original film didn’t just spawn a sequel, a reboot and now a legacy sequel in Ghostbusters: Afterlife, but an entire franchise of toys, cartoons, games and comics.

With near limitless potential for storylines, a lot has happened to all the main bustin’ characters outside of what you’ve seen on the big-screen. In The Real Ghostbusters cartoon alone, the gang battled ghosts with specific abilities, they fought the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, they encountered a dragon, they faced the impending doom of Ragnarok long before Thor ever had to, and in one festive-themed episode, they accidentally captured the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future. And yes, they've even been to space.

Meanwhile, in the comics, The Ghostbusters had crossovers with The X-Files, Mars Attacks, Transformers and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, as well as with their own universes, like in Ghostbusters Get Real, which sees the real Ghostbusters from the films meeting The Real Ghostbusters from the cartoon series, and Ghostbusters: Crossing Over which features different versions of the team from across the franchise, including the all-female Ghostbusters from the 2016 reboot.

For newcomers to the extended Ghostbusters universe, though, here are some of the key stories and plots that directly tie into the movies.

Citizen Ghost – The Real Ghostbusters (season 1, Episode 11)

Anyone familiar with this now-nostalgic animated series, which ran from 1988 to 1991, will be aware that fan-favourite, Slimer, ends up becoming a live-in mascot for the gang at the firehouse, and in this episode Peter Venkman recounts the story of how the green ghoulie ended up living with them. It picks up the events directly after the first film, with our Ghostbusters forced to fight spectral versions of themselves after their uniforms absorbed so much psychokinetic energy from the battle with Gozer that they turned into ghostly Ghostbusters that try to replace the originals. Having hung around the group as a food-stealing pest for some time, Slimer ends up helping to save the day but deliberately distracting the Spectral Ghostbusters so they can be defeated. Thus began the start of a beautiful – if tempestuous – friendship.

Take Two – The Real Ghostbusters (season 1, Episode 10)

In a particularly bold piece of metafiction, this episode sees the Ghostbusters travel to Hollywood to advise on a film being made about them – which is actually the original film that the animated series is based on. While Egon puzzles over the script and Peter is concerned about the actors portraying them as he witnesses a scene from the movie being shot, Winston directly references the real-life stars with the line, “Murray, Aykroyd and Ramis? What’s that, a law firm?” Eventually, the gang faces a ghost that haunts the studio and have to face off against it, leading to some accidental confusion between the real equipment and fake film props.

Deadcon 1 – The Real Ghostbusters (season 2, episode 58)

Stay Puft Marshmallow Man pops up every now and then throughout The Real Ghostbusters, slowly changing his image from apocalyptic monster to benevolent ally in the process; neatly summed up by Venkman declaring that he’s “all better now” to a scared public in one later episode. A significant turning point in this arc is this story, in which ghosts start to arrive at a newly launched convention center ready for ‘Deadcon’, where Stay Puft is inexplicably called upon to appear as keynote speaker at the event. While the gang try to stop the nefarious plot behind it all, Stay Puft is seen practicing his speech, and thanks to some confusion at the end of the episode, is ultimately given an award for Best Costume by the American Association for the Advancement of Oral Hygiene. Even for this show, this episode is pretty out there.

Back In The Saddle: Parts 1 & 2 – Extreme Ghostbusters (season 1, episodes 37 & 38)

This animated series, first airing in 1997, introduces a new generation of Ghostbusters following a lull in supernatural events and the subsequent disbandment of the original line-up years before. These newbies start off in the very first episode as students in Egon’s Paranormal Phenomena 101 class, and soon have to take up the mantle when a new ghost problem hits New York. These two episodes see the new faces team up with the originals who get back together to bust ghosts one last time, for old times’ sake, and end up facing a gigantic mist-like ghost engulfing the city.


And just to take things right back to the start again, this separate cartoon spin-off from 1988 positions Slimer as the main character, still haunting the Sedgewick Hotel from his appearance in the first film, and following him through various adventures that have little to do with the rest of the Ghostbusters. In the show, however, he does have frequent run-ins with Professor Dweeb, a madcap malevolent scientist who tries to capture Slimer to study him.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife is in cinemas now, and you can check out our review of it here.

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