After Effects has a few particle plugin choices. From native particle choices, to the age-showing Particular plugin, there are a few to choose from. A new kid on the block, Stardust, offers a modernized node-based workflow for putting together complex particle systems in After Effects.
Stardust is a modular 3D particle system for Ae, that has some impressive effects that can be created quickly and easily.
Superluminal’s plugin is a modular 3D particle system for After Effects. It has an easy to use node based user interface and ships with a ton of presets to create stunning effects quickly and easily.
If you are interested in how Stardust works or how it can put together impressive particle effects, have a look at Eran Stern’s latest tutorial. Eran shows how he created a nice effect by having motion capture animation of a dancer, emit particles. The results are pretty stunning.