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Video Game: Duke Nukem 3D

"Somebody's gonna friggin' pay for screwing up MY vacation!"
—Duke, at the beginning of each episode.

Duke Nukem 3D is the third game of the Duke Nukem series. Unlike the previous installments, it's a First-Person Shooter. It was the most controversial of the installments, due to its portrayal of women and erotic elements.

3D is set after the events of Duke Nukem II, as Duke returns to Earth to celebrate his victory over the Rigelatins. However, his space shuttle is shot down by an unknown force, and he is forced to crash land onto the roof of a tower in downtown Los Angeles. He quickly finds out that an army of aliens is in the process of invading the city, and have turned all members of the LAPD into grotesque pigmen-monsters, while abducting women left and right. Duke decide to take matters into his own hands, and starts to repel the alien invasion, street by street.

The game is packed with non-linearity; the player could take shortcuts to the end of the level and find secrets, and there were plenty of usable things, such as hydrants, fountains (which regenerate health) and light switches. While this is nothing new in our era, at the time of its release, a fair amount of these elements were a novelty. As an early FPS, it has plenty of weapons (such as kicks, pistols, shotguns, chainguns, rocket launchers, pipebombs, wallmines, and even shrink rays and a freeze gun) and items. (Medkits, night vision goggles, steroids, a hologram device, a scuba gear and protective boots among others) Oh, and it also has a Multiplayer mode. It was also among the first FPS to use the z-axis and is still one of, if not the, best at integrating it into the majority of gameplay, rather than the occasional sniper and hidden target.

3D has seen a handful of Expansion Packs, with only one of these (Plutonium Pak) being made by 3DRealms. It added a new weapon, (the Expander) two new foes, and a fourth episode, where it's discovered that the aliens were capturing women to produce Queens, which can rapidly give birth to alien drones. The Updated Re-release, Atomic Edition, included both the retail game and the Expansion Pack.

Three official themed level packs made by 3rd party developers were released for the game; Caribbean: Life's a Beach, Nuclear Winter, and Duke it out in D.C.. The level packs featured themed pallette swapped weapons (i.e. a super soaker instead of a shotgun in the Caribbean pack), palette swapped enemies (i.e. Pig Cops wearing hula skirts or Santa outfits), a couple new enemies (a bouncing dinosaur life preserver in Caribbean and uzi-wielding feminist elves in Nuclear Winter), and one new boss (Santa Claus in Nuclear Winter).

The game also got several console ports, such as Duke Nukem 64, (Nintendo 64) Duke Nukem: Total Meltdown (PlayStation) and versions for Sega Saturn, Mega Drive, Xbox LIVE Arcade and mobile platforms.

On October 13, 2010, an officially-sanctioned indie Unreal Engine 3 reimagination of the game called Duke Nukem 3D: Reloaded was announced... and then put on indefinite hold on September 24, 2011 due to legal issues (some fairly asinine). It is probably safe to assume that it was canned.This thread may lead to some rather curious insight. Two years after the incident the project's leader Frederick Schreiber (who founded Interceptor Entertainment) talked about how Gearbox shut down the project for being too much better than DNF. Gearbox's Steve Gibson responded with the claim that the game always had the right to be developed and released for free as intended. Let's keep it professional and just say that the project may yet see release now that Interceptor Entertainment has finished work on their Rise of the Triad remake and may be quite eager to tie up this loose end.

In March 2013, an officially sanctioned 3D-accelerated Open GL port of the game and all its expansion packs was released on Steam as the "Megaton Edition". The port was done by the indie group Devolver Digital, who are probably best known for publishing the indie hit Hotline Miami.


This game shows examples of:

  • Attack Its Weak Point: The Pig Cop riot tanks in the Atomic Edition can take a lot of punishment and sport a wide range of weaponry. If you can get behind one though and press the nuclear trefoil symbol on the back, it self-destructs.
  • BFG: The Devastator fires a barrage of tiny rockets. Hard to use, but as the name implies, it can be devastating on anyone unfortunate enough to be in their path.
  • Badass: Duke starts every level by creaking his knuckles, and always has a quip ready.
  • Bad Santa: You have to fight the literal one, the Brainwashed and Crazy Santa, in order to bring him down to normal in the final stage of Duke: Nuclear Winter.
  • Bag of Spilling: At the beginning of each episode you lose all of the weapons and ammo you acquired during the previous episode, except for the pistol and 72 rounds of bullets.
  • Duke Nukem Can Breathe in Space: In some levels of Lunar Apocalypse.
  • Beating A Dead Player: Should a monster kill you, it will continue to attack your corpse, even to the detriment to other nearby monsters.
  • Bizarrchitecture: "Lunatic Fringe" takes place in a circular room. It takes two laps around the perimeter to get back to where you started, with the scenery changing after one lap. A cylindrical room in the middle could be entered by several doors and windows. Alternating entrances looked out on alternate versions of the outer room.
    • "Tier Drops" has four rooms occupying the same space, connected by a ring around the outside and by chutes leading to the other rooms.
  • Bond One-Liner: At the end of "L.A. Meltdown", the first episode, the boss asks Duke, "Who the hell are you?" Duke shoots his head off and announces that "I'm Duke Nukem and I'm coming to get the rest of you alien bastards!"
    • Sometimes, Duke will quip after gibbing an enemy with the RPG.
  • Bowdlerise: The PC version added a parental control system (with password), which hid some of the sexual content. This made the women invisible, causing Duke to bump against invisible objects, allow him to drop money at random positions, and to cause aliens to spawn when a rocket hits thin air.
    • 64, on the other hand, took this trope Up to Eleven, removing the nudity, alcohol, drugs, swearing and religious references; making the weapons have no effect on women; and toning down the gore as well. Duke had to save the women instead of leaving them, or killing them if one's aim is really bad. The Stripperific attire and Ludicrous Gibs remained, though. Fortunately, the outcry over this and the similarly Bowdlerized port of Carmageddon helped put a permanent end to Nintendo's overbearing censorship policies.
  • Brief Accent Imitation: Duke fakes a German accent briefly in one part of Hotel Hell when he says, "Ve meet again, Dr. Jones."
  • Call Back: The Derelict map from The Atomic Edition's Episode 4 is a reworked (as in actually functional) level from lameduke.
  • Cherry Tapping: Duke's Mighty Foot, which is both an equippable weapon (except in the Live Arcade version, provided you have ammo of any kind), and available separately while you're holding another weapon, which led to the fantastic ability to kick with both feet simultaneously while walking. The precursor to the "melee" button found in many newer videogames.
  • Chew Bubblegum: Duke's line to open E3L1 of Duke 3D.
  • Collision Damage: Only against bosses. Killer doors are also the bane of all Build engine games.
  • Come Back to Bed, Honey:
    Duke: My name's Duke Nukem! After a few days of R&R, I'll be ready for more action!
    Woman: Aww, come back to bed, Duke! I'm ready for some action, nowww!
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: In Duke 3D, the bullet based enemies (pig cops etc) are capable of hitting you with pin-point accuracy, no matter how far across a large open space they happen to be, while the player may not even be able to see them.
  • Container Maze: Several, including E4L9 (Critical Mass).
  • Content Warnings: The Sega Saturn port of Duke3D was one of only three games to bear Sega's custom-made Deep Water rating, which was used for games meant only for adults and/or mature audiences.
  • Coup de Grāce Cutscene: At the end of each episode.
  • Dead End Room: In the XBox Live Arcade version, it was found that E4L9 (Critical Mass) had an Unwinnable by Mistake scenario; that level involves getting past a room which collapses behind you, so that there's no way back. Unfortunately, dying sends you back to the start of the level and you are thus required to get past the collapsing room again — which in multiplayer is no longer possible as the level doesn't reset. In deathmatch this isn't a problem as there's a switch which opens a teleport to bypass the collapsing room, but the designers forgot to make this available in co-op. When the walkthrough was written, this mistake was found and corrected.
  • Degraded Boss: The battlelord re-appears throughout the other three episodes. He's much weaker, but those who just finished playing Doom don't know that.
  • Destroyable Items: Stray pipebombs and grenade rounds in Duke Nukem 3D
  • Determinator: Immediately after destroying an alien empire and having his ride back to Earth shot down, he declares war on this new alien menace. In Plutonium, he breaks his vacation to do it all over again.
  • Digital Piracy Is Evil: Typing "DNBETA" causes the game to display the message, "PIRATES SUCK!"
  • Direct Continuous Levels: In the first two episodes, every level leads logically to the next. In episode three, this is only the case once or twice. They discard level-to-level continuity completely for the Plutonium Pak episode.
  • Disintegrator Ray: The Plasma Rifle in 64, if an enemy happens to die from a shot. It doesn't matter if you only used the plasma rifle, or you pumped them full of lead before finishing them off with the plasma rifle: if the last shot is with the plasma rifle, they will turn into sparkly silhouettes before fading away.
  • Due to the Dead: Duke threatens the end boss of Episode 2 with ripping off his head and shitting down his neck. Sure enough, a cut scene after you kill the boss shows Duke doing just that, ending off with him sitting on the alien's neck reading a newspaper while he takes a good long dump.
    • In the outro text for Episode 2, he states that the last thing that will go through the Cycloid Emperor's mind when he dies, is his size-13 boot. The final cutscene is just that.
  • Easter Egg.
    • The most common is "You're not supposed to be here" found in The Abyss. Probably intended to be unvisitable, but visible in plain view if you collect the Jet Pack on the Secret Level. Most others need the no-clipping cheat entered.
    • The Dopefish Lives
    • Using the automap cheat reveals the level designer's name created as rooms in the shape of each letter.
    • On any level with a non-surveillance image on the security camera, it's possible to visit the place where this image is set up using no-clip mode.
  • Event Flag: The map The Abyss opens a major route open up if you stand on the sign for the San Andreas fault.
  • Exact Words: See Due to the Dead.
  • Exploding Barrels: Gas cylinders. Sometimes there's no reason that a hallway suddenly collapses/starts exploding.
  • Explosive Decompression: The player suffers this fate if he turns clipping off and enters outer space.
  • Face Hugger: The Protozoid Slimer, who provides some disturbing Interface Screw while jumping at Duke's face.
  • First-Person Shooter
  • Flushing Edge Interactivity: Toilets and urinals can be used (the way they're typically used...) every few minutes to restore 10 health points, and they can also be destroyed to yield a stream of water that can heal the player to maximum, though very slowly.
  • Freeze Ray: The Freezethrower.
  • Freudian Slip: "This is KTIT. Playing the breast—uh... the best tunes in town!"
  • Game Mod: Like Doom, there are a whole slew of custom maps for this game.
  • Going Critical: Several levels have reactors that must be destroyed (with explosive results, naturally) before the player could progress in the game. The level "Critical Mass" plays this straight.
  • Groin Attack: The shrink ray works on the mini-Battlelords if you use it to do this.
    • Duke also finishes off the Alien Queen by shoving a pipe bomb up her birth canal.
  • Harder Than Hard: The "Damn, I'm Good" difficulty setting, which disables cheat toggles and resurrects any fallen enemies that aren't gibbed.
    • E4L11 (The Queen) on any difficulty level. The end of the level can only be reached by a path which is made of the most damaging type of acid in the game — and which is exactly long enough that, if you start running along it with your protective boots at 100%, they will run out just as you reach the other end. If you haven't found the boots, or you try walking or flying along the path instead of running, or you pause for even a moment, or if you failed to remove even one of the obstacles blocking the end — you're dead.
  • Ice Breaker: The freeze ray. Frozen enemies would shatter into a million tiny pieces if kicked or shot, even with a single round from the pistol. But if they thawed they'd be able to somehow continue fighting.
  • Idiosyncratic Difficulty Levels: Named after catchphrases that Duke sometimes utters in-game:
    • "Piece of Cake": The easiest.
    • "Let's Rock"
    • "Come Get Some"
    • "Damn, I'm Good": Harder Than Hard, roughly equivalent to Doom's Nightmare difficulty.
  • Immediate Sequel
  • In a Single Bound: Reduced to slightly more realistic jumping height in the less-platformy third one.
  • Inconveniently Placed Conveyor Belt
  • Inexplicable Treasure Chests: Useful items are commonly found inside garbage bins.
  • Infinity+1 Gun: The Devastator.
  • Innocent Bystander: Hookers and captured women.
  • Instant-Win Condition: There might be keys you need to get to unlock the way to the exit, but (with the exception of boss levels) reaching the exit will take you to the next level with full health.
  • Jet Pack: It's also the first FPS to implement one.
  • Large Ham: Duke Nukem himself. One of the largest video game hams, exaggerated for laughs.
  • The Last Thing You Ever See: Combined with Exact Words. "I'm coming back to town, and the last thing that's gonna go through your mind before you die... is my size-13 boot!"
  • Level In Reverse: Not in the main title, but in the Nuclear Winter expansion pack, where the first two levels are the first two from the standard edition, played backwards and more Christmas-y.
  • Literal-Minded: When Duke Nukem threatens to tear off your head and shit down your neck, he will in fact, literally tear off your head and shit down your neck.
  • Literally Shattered Lives: Using the freezethrower will result in this.
  • Ludicrous Gibs: Explosive weapons would send pieces flying, and getting squished by a ceiling/floor would leave a stretchy patch of gore connecting the floor and ceiling. The game's objects were also scripted, meaning it was more than possible to make the gibs MORE ludicrous. (Or, if you used one of the given examples, made enemies gib into money.)
    • Notably, reducing an enemy to Ludicrous Gibs (which can include blowing up the corpse) is the only way to prevent an enemy from resurrecting on the "Damn, I'm Good!" difficulty.
  • Mirror Boss: Santa Claus in the Nuclear Winter level pack. In stark contrast to all the other enemies and bosses in the series, he fights like a multiplayer opponent; moving and jumping around quite fast, equipped with multiple weapons (a shotgun, chaingun, and rocket launcher, as well as a kick attack) and is even able to use a jetpack to counter you if you try to use one.
  • Monster Closet: Many examples, many of which could be avoided by using the jetpack to quickly fly over the Event Flag.
  • Moon Landing Hoax: An area of the Hollywood level includes a movie set containing fake lunar scenery with an American flag and the lunar module standing there.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: Whenever a player uses the quick-kick key, the game displays a message saying, "Mighty Foot Engaged."
  • Names to Run Away From Really Fast: Aside of the Duke, it applies to some of the weapons like the Devastator.
  • No-Gear Level: Duke is stripped of all of his weapons and inventory after being captured a couple of levels into the first episode. However, a resourceful player will only spend only a maximum of a minute or so with only Duke's size 13 boot as a weapon.
  • No Name Given: Strangely enough, while Duke Nukem I names the main enemies the Techbots and Duke Nukem II names the aliens he faces the Rigelatins, the alien race in Duke Nukem 3D is never given a real name. One Fan Nickname for them seems to be "Alien Bastards".
  • Not Completely Useless: The freeze thrower is basically the shrink ray except that it requires sustained shots instead of disabling a foe right away and the ammo for it is rarer. The fourth episode's exclusive spawn normally takes a lot (two direct RPGs to kill) and is fast, plus immune to the shrink ray. It is not immune to the freeze thrower and is stunlocked by its shots.
  • No Fair Cheating: The "Damn, I'm Good" difficulty will disable all the cheats. At the same time it can also be worked around if you know how to use the mapwarp and Godmode code right.
  • Not Quite Dead:
    • Assault Troopers and their slightly stronger Assault Captain counterparts, sometimes don't die right away but get on their knees and die moments later - unless they're killed in other ways before natural death. Any Trooper/Captain dying this way has a chance of coming back to life at the worst possible moment, and the only way to be sure it won't happen is to gib the body. Killing them before they die on their own does not influence this chance!
    • This trope applies to every single non-boss monster on the "Damn I'm Good" difficulty, the main difference being that they will keep getting resurrected unless you gib them!
  • Pinball Spinoff: Balls of Steel, appropriately enough, published by 3D Realms and features a "Duke" table in its collection.
  • Pulled From Your Day Off: The fourth episode "The Birth", opens with Duke grousing, "Someone's going to pay for screwing up my vacation." He then loads and cocks a pistol vengefully.
  • Rated M for Manly: And beyond. It's the image for the page for a reason.
  • Reference Overdosed: Evil Dead, Star Wars, They Live!, Terminator, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Alien, Easy Rider, Pulp Fiction, Doom, Quake, Indiana Jones, Full Metal Jacket, Die Hard, Predator, Fantastic Four... you get the picture. Most of them are quotes said word-for-word by Duke.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Part of the series' driving humor was that everyone in Duke Nukem spoke of crude sex puns, cheesy one-liners, and wacky enemies. One of the developers stated that the fact NPCs take it so seriously just adds to it.
  • Saving Christmas: The entire plot of Duke: Nuclear Winter revolves around this a lot, especially when you have to destroy the Feminist Elven Militia's control over Santa by shooting him a lot.
  • Score Screen: The game doesn't have points but does have a screen to show you how many of the level's secrets you found or missed, enemies you killed and missed, and to compare your time to two different par times. (a standard par time and 3D Reamls' best time)
  • Secret Level
  • Shareware
  • Shout-Out: Check the page.
  • Shrink Ray: Duke himself, some wall-mounted ones, and one of the enemies in the Atomic Edition.
  • Soft Water: In Duke Nukem 3D, landing in water means no falling damage. Used at the end of one level, where the level exit is located at the bottom of a pit deep enough to kill Duke if the water wasn't present.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: In the stages of Duke: Nuclear Winter, there's some jolly Christmas music to go along with attacking and then getting attacked by aliens, reindeer, and monstrous snowmen.
  • Space Base: Episode 2 takes place on one. And there's one on the moon.
  • Standard FPS Guns: Kick, pistol, shotgun, machine gun, rocket launcher, pipe bombs. However, it also has several more specialized and original guns, such as the freeze ray or the shrinker.
  • Strange Secret Entrance: One level had an area with the message "You're not supposed to be here" and later had "The Dopefish lives!" at the bottom of a pillar (though both are reachable without cheating by collecting the jetpack in the previous level), and an earlier level had a hidden area asking "How did you get here?".
    • And you start outside a building with a sign out front that proudly declares it to be the "Impossible Mission Facility".
  • Take That: There are a pair of billboards in the game referencing the OJ Simpson trial, one saying Innocent? and the other proclaiming Guilty! Both are written in blood. OJ's white Bronco chase can be seen on one of the TVs as well.
    • In E3L4, "L.A. Rumble", there is a building named "East Town Towers", which is a pun on the name of the id Software offices at the time, "Town East Towers". Initially a Homage, but when you approach the "Quake Site" warning sign, an earthquake damages the building, at which point Duke quips: "I ain't afraid of no Quake!" (released the same year as Duke 3D)
    • In E1M3, Duke sees a Space Marine's corpse behind a temple and quips, "That's one Doomed space marine!"
  • Testosterone Poisoning
  • This Page Will Self-Destruct: An explosive homage in the "It's Impossible" level of the Duke Nukem 3D: Atomic Edition.
  • Third Is 3D: Both the name of the game, and its version number, 1.3d.
  • Toilet Humour:
    • The map Lunar Reactor has a restricted area sign above a door. The only room it leads to is the washroom.
    • Duke can also use one every 10 or so minutes per level to recover 10% of his health, complete with a sound of him pissing and then saying "Ah, much better!" Even better than that, you can just shoot the toilet and drink the water. You can recover your health this way, 1% at a time (you can recover it fully, but it takes a long time standing and holding the "use" key).
    • The ending cinematic of episode 2.
  • Too Awesome to Use: The Devastator is a double-barreled, fully automatic rocket launcher that can clear an entire room full of baddies in mere seconds. However, it burns through rockets very quickly and spare ammo for it is very rare, meaning most players will probably just save it until they reach an episode's boss enemy.
  • Trope Codifier: Hard as it is to remember now, but First Person Shooters prior to this one didn't feature "realistic" real world locations. Things that Duke 3d did first include: televisions that show different programs; closed circuit security cameras that let you see other areas of the level than the bit you're in; working subway trains that take you across "town"; strip bars/clubs; breakable glass/destroyable furniture/mirrors that you can see your own reflection in; triggered set pieces such as earthquakes that can destroy the architecture around the player; and working toilets that you can use to gain extra health. These things were quite revolutionary at the time, and the level design in later games of the genre (such as Half-Life, Deus Ex, Soldier of Fortune, and even aspects of Doom 3) show signs of its ground breaking influence. It could be argued that this organic approach to level design would have come about anyway as a direct result of increasingly better technology... but nevertheless, Duke 3d was there first.
  • Twenty Minutes In The Future: The game is set in 2007 (11 years after its release). Humans have space stations and a moonbase, and there's all the advanced weaponry, but Earth looks just like the modern-day world.
  • Underwater Boss Battle: The Alien Queen in Episode 4. Not only is she 1500 Hit Points tougher than the other bosses, you have to fight her underwater, she can give you a nasty zap, and she keeps laying more enemies!
  • Updated Re-release: the Atomic edition, which includes the official expansion pack (which effectively consists in a patch to turn the normal edition into the Atomic Edition), and the Xbox Live Arcade version, almost identical to the Atomic Edition (one small bug in co-op which could trap players was fixed), with improved stats tracking and online multiplayer.

    One of the stat tracking features also allowed you to watch a recorded level and play from the position the recorded player was in. It doesn't keep track of the stats from that reason unless it's your replay every time you died when you played in single player though.
  • Visual Pun: Amongst the many instances of Black Humor, perhaps the most memorable is the aliens' transformation of the LA Police Department into literal pigs, with the letter on their shirts spelled as L.A.R.D. rather than L.A.P.D.
    • Another very dark Visual Pun occurs in the fourth episode, when Duke enters a courtroom. Upon entering one of the siderooms to the court, Duke comes across about a dozen or so corpses hanging from nooses, or a "hung jury".
  • Weaponized Offspring: The 1996 release had Duke face the alien queen as the Final Boss. The queen routinely birthed drones that could fire shrink rays at Duke, making him very squishable.
  • Who Are You?: The boss at the end of LA Meltdown.
  • You Must Be This Tall To Ride: In Atomic Edition, the level "Babe Land" has a sign with Duke's likeness before a ride entrance, saying "You must be 48 pixels tall to enter".

"My name is Duke Nukem, and after a few days of R&R, I'll be ready for more action"
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alternative title(s): Duke Nukem 3 D; Duke Nukem64; Duke Nukem Total Meltdown
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