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Whoever said there are no personal solutions to systemic problems never got their hands on a Fat Man.

"Whenever I see a world untouched by war - a world of innocence, a world of lush forest and clear rivers - I really just want to nuke the crap out of it!"
Terran Ghost, Starcraft II

Now you are become death, destroyer of worlds. The video game version of Nuclear Option or Nuke 'em, except here it's your responsibility to turn the key.

The nuclear weapon is one of mankind's most awe-inspiring achievements, so naturally video games have jumped on the activation of one as the ultimate thrill for players. Nothing quite matches the satisfaction of washing your enemy away in an explosion so bright it whites out the screen for a few seconds.

Oddly, nukes appearing in games are rarely as powerful as their real-life counterparts. Shooters in particular are usually forced to create a strange kind of portable mini-nuke with a yield comparable to an ultra grenade and use that instead. This will resemble a nuke as closely as possible, but on a far smaller scale. (While portable nukes might not be as far removed from reality as you'd think, you still wouldn't want to use them within 50 metres of the target.)

Compare Nuke 'em, for when the player isn't directly involved in the launch. On the opposite end of the scale to Nuclear Weapons Taboo. Can serve as a Deus ex Nukina.


  • Subverted in Balance of Power - although nuking was an option in the game (whether playing as the USA or the Soviets) it meant you lost, as you're meant to create a world where your power is dominant, but the world still is viable (though you might chose to let the missiles fly if refusing to back down would cause your side to lose by more).
  • Battlestar Galactica Online has powerful nukes, but they come at high cost.
  • Battle Tanx has portable nukes, but using one is usually a stupid thing to do. If you have a long, straight path away from where you want to set it and nothing in the general area you do not want destroyed or highly damaged then go ahead.
  • Achieving a 25-kill streak in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 rewards you with the ability to call down a tactical nuke, which ends the game in your favor with a wash of nuclear fire.
  • In the bad ending of the Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War campaign, you under Perseus' command order the detonations of the Greenlight Nukes, devastating Western Europe and ensuring Soviet Victory in the Cold War.
  • Civilization, being a 4x empire-building game, allows you to use a full-power nuke on enemy cities. Some versions also allow you to build tactical nuclear weapons, and most allow you to build nuclear submarines on which you can base nuclear missiles, so you can have second-strike capability.note  Most importantly, however, it lets you BACK UP YOUR WORDS WITH NUCLEAR WEAPONS!
  • Surprisingly ineffective in the Command & Conquer series. Tanks can survive the thingsnote , and it takes three to wipe an enemy construction yard.
    • They did get a boost in Tiberium Wars though, where they instantly destroy anything that isn't a Construction Yard, Superweapon or Epic Unit. The blast radius also got a significant buff.
    • The player also gets to launch two nukes in cinematics in the Nod campaign of Tiberium Wars, which are quite a bit more powerful — they wipe out GDI's space station Philadelphia and the city of Sydney, respectively.
    • Command & Conquer: Generals has the Chinese faction, whose superweapon is a nuclear missile. Other than allowing the research of some useful tank upgrades, it's mostly useless since the actual nuke is not only weak (the Scud Storm, by comparison, is stronger all around and recharges faster to boot), but also entirely useless against GLA bases in particular thanks to their "GLA Hole" mechanic, which allows them to rebuild automatically for no cost - and the nuke only does one giant kaboom, followed by some radiation, meaning that GLA Holes will always survive it. Many a Game Mod buff the nuclear missile for that exact reason both in power and also make the explosion happen in several steps so that any potential GLA Holes get wiped out too.
  • Crysis has a few different yields, but they're all of the mini-nuke variety.
  • This is the entire point of DEFCON: the game is a loose simulation of global thermonuclear warfare, and essentially the first half of the game is spent sending out scouts, building missile silos and generating planes and ships while patiently waiting for DEFCON 1, at which point the entire game map becomes a hailstorm of nuclear missiles. Verges on a deconstruction of this trope, given its simplistic visuals and sombre atmosphere, whereas the trope usually entails a stunning spectacle and encourages the player to revel in the power.
  • In Deep Rock Galactic the Engineer class dwarf starts with a humble grenade launcher as his secondary weapon. While it can be useful at clearing out small packs of aliens, and a good weapon in it's own right in it's default form, there is an overclock modification that can be unlocked for it that transforms it into a miniature nuke launcher at the price of having severely limited ammo. It more than makes up for the ammo cost by the massive explosion damage, radius, and lingering radiation AOE after detonation.
  • In Destroy All Humans! one mission is to sneak a nuclear warhead onto a military base, then run away before it can detonate. If you succeed, you get to watch a big ol' mushroom cloud spring up, and for the rest of the game, when you revisit that level, the military base is replaced with a giant hole in the ground.
  • Deus Ex: The player character chooses a new target for a nuclear missile already being launched by the Big Bad. The new target? The Big Bad's HQ.
  • In Duke Nukem 3D, the level is nuked after clearing it of enemies, even though that alone should be enough for the nuke not to be necessary.
  • Possible in the Empire Earth series. If you're quick at moving up the Tech Tree, you can direct your nuclear bombers to nuke the ever-loving crap out of armies on horseback.
  • The Epic Battle Fantasy series has Nuke, a Limit Break exclusive to Lance which deals massive amounts of Fire damage to all foes alongside inflicting a Damage Over Time status effect, albeit with some side-effects for Lance and his allies (heavy recoil damage and Poison infliction in EBF3, Burn infliction in EBF4 and Burn infliction plus Radiation weather in EBF5).
  • Factorio features a man-portable nuclear rocket as a late-game research. It can destroy anything in a 50 meter radius. And like the real man-portable nuclear weapons from The '50s, the weapon's effective range is equal to its explosion range. Better start running.
  • Fallout 3 allows the player to detonate Megaton's namesake bomb, wiping out the city entirely. It also comes with a few varieties of the mini-nuke sort, and even exploded cars left over from before the war go up in a nuclear detonation. All such explosions irradiate the immediate area.
    • The Fat Man is a recurring portable nuke catapult that launches mini-nukes to blow up whatever you want. By the time of Fallout 4, the Big Boy MIRV, a unique Fat Man variant can launch sixteen mini-nukes at once.
    • Earlier Fallout games usually ended with the player detonating a nuke conveniently stored in the Big Bad's main base. In Fallout Tactics, the player's team uses a nuke to break into Cheyenne Mountain.
    • The Fallout: New Vegas DLC Lonesome Road takes this trope to a whole new level. Not only must you launch an ICBM, but (unless ED-E makes a Heroic Sacrifice) you must also choose where a whole silo's worth of ICBMs will land, and consequently which side of the NCR-Legion conflict has its access to the Mojave destroyed.
  • In various mods for Garry's Mod, such as gBombs 5, the player can detonate various nukes. Their explosions often kill everyone on the server multiple times over, and can even crash the game. The Davy Crockett from the M9K weapons mod takes this to the next level as a rocket launcher that can shoot nukes.
  • In the player made expansion to Halo: Combat Evolved named Halo: Custom Edition two of the most commonly used user made maps were Coldsnap and Hugea$$. Both of these maps are more than several kilometers long and contain at least two pilot-able Longswords, large fighters you never got to use in the "normal" game. While their main guns are pretty devastating, their alt fire launches a small tactical nuke. The resulting explosion is so large that many of the original Halo maps would have been completely engulfed. To balance this the bomb makes a loud whistling sound as it descends and falls rather slowly. Of course, you could always Fly nice and low to the ground so you don't have to wait very long for the bang.
  • Harpoon allows for the use of nuclear weapons, although you have to alter a setting to enable them.
  • In Hearts of Iron II, nukes will permanently destroy a big chunk of a province's industry, wipe out most of the infrastructure and severely damage any units inside the province. Considering the time-frame (WWII) and the size of the various provinces (pretty large) this is probably not unreasonable.
  • In Heavy Weapon, this is your character's Smart Bomb. Using one of these will instantly make a nuke explosion appear in the background, and all mooks as well as enemy projectiles will be wiped out in an instant.
  • The aptly named Warhead Junction map (based on StarCraft) in Heroes of the Storm periodically spawns several nuclear warheads, which can be picked up by any player and called down to deal massive damage to everyone and everything in the area - however, they're highly telegraphed, and if the player holding one dies, it is dropped and available to be grabbed once again.
  • The ultimate weapon in Jak 3: Wastelander is - you guessed it - nuke, here entitled Supernova. It eats 10 of purple ammo shots (8 with specific upgrade), the rarest kind with maximum capacity of 15 (20 with another upgrade) but it wipes out everything in quite a wide radius. It also destroys all vehicles so its use is rather limited.
  • In LittleBigPlanet, you can pretty much craft your own nuke with the help of Level Editor, and drop as many as you want.

  • Mass Effect 2 features the M-920 Cain, the largest heavy weapon available. While the game goes out of its way to point out that the gun is in fact just a heavy kinetic weapon and not at all nuclear, it's still painted with classic radioactivity symbols, is referred to as the "The Nuke Gun" and creates the expected mushroom cloud. You only get one shot with it (two if you find all the ammo upgrades) and kills everything dead in a significant radius, including you if you're too close, with the exceptions of the thresher maw and the final boss.
  • At the end of Mercenaries 2: World In Flames, you receive a mini nuke so you can break open Solano's bunker. You can buy more from your PMC shop after this.
  • MDK parodies this with the "World's Smallest Nuclear Bomb." True to the trope, the explosion is about as big as you are—but, then again, it is the World's Smallest Nuclear Bomb. It's mostly used to open doors, to the great disappointment of any player who found one for the first time and thought "Oh hell yeah, I'm gonna kick some ass now!"
  • Whether you do or not is primary choice at the end of Metro 2033. In the bad ending, Artyom guides in several tactical nukes towards the Dark Ones' hive via a laser guidance system on the top of the collapsing Ostankino Tower in Moscow. In the good ending, Artyom realizes the Dark Ones are trying to help humanity and the early human deaths were tragic accidents, causing him to shoot the laser system off of the tower before the missiles launch.
  • Missile Command, but you don't get to drop them.
  • Nuclear Throne has the Nuke Launcher, a powerful late-game weapon that fires devastating cursor-guided nukes. Its power comes at the price of consuming 3 explosive ammo and being somewhat slow. Like with all explosive weapons, be careful not to blow yourself up.
  • Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando has Gravity bomb that upgrades into Mini-Nuke, which generates a mushroom cloud, but its power does not match the advertisement until you get Mega Upgrade, when it becomes possibly the strongest weapon in the game. A more straight example would be Nuke for your ship, which hits like a real-life version of nuke would - it kills everything but the heartiest enemies in one hit and shatters asteroids/junk as well in almost entire sector.
  • Rise of Nations allows you to fire full-size, reduce a city to 0 hp and vaporize any units/buildings next to it nukes from silos, at first just "Nuclear Missile", then "ICBM". Or, if you want to shoot nukes at your enemies in the Ancient Age/circumvent the Missile Shield tech, point at the area in question and type in "cheat nuke". Stackable.
    • In addition, each nuke fired will count down the "Armageddon" clock. If the clock reaches 0, everyone loses as the planet becomes uninhabitable. In games terms, that means you can fire 9 nukes without serious repercussions, but one more and it's game over.
    • The Thrones and Patriots Cold War campaign also lets you turn the key and launch nukes as the US or Soviet Union if the enemy launches them first (usually in response to you winning a battle and conquering part of their turf proper). You can decline to launch your nukes, but what's the fun in that?
  • The Scorched Earth game (and its many imitators) has nukes of various sorts, including large and small atom bombs. They act as mininukes, only blowing up a section of the screen with surprising precision.
  • SCP: Secret Laboratory has the Alpha Warhead, which can be detonated to destroy the entire facility save for the Surface Zone. Activating it is a complicated process - first, a player needs to locate and take the elevator to the Alpha Warhead Silo (found in the Heavy Containment Zone), then flip a lever inside to enable it. Second, the detonation sequence must be initiated at the Alpha Warhead Control Room (located at the Surface Zone) by activating the console (which requires either a Facility Manager Keycard or O5 Keycard). Afterwards, assuming the countdown isn't stopped (which is easier said than done), the Warhead will detonate.
  • At the end of Shadow Complex, when the only way to take out the Restoration Project's flying carrier is to hit it with FOUR nuclear missiles. Poor, poor Washington populace...
  • Naturally possible in Shadow President - you are the President, after all. However, nuking another country in all but the most extreme circumstances will almost certainly result in significant loss of popularity, making it very much Awesome, but Impractical in standard gameplay. It's very useful if you plan on trying to lose as soon as possible, though.
  • Shadow Warrior (1997) has a nuke as one of the types of missiles you can shoot out of your rocket launcher. It's, of course, one of these "mini-nukes" which doesn't destroy an entire city - it just causes muchos damage to anything within a quite big range (you better hide behind a wall) and causes deadly radiation to stay around the explosion epicenter for some time.
  • Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri (being a spin-off of the Civilization series) has the Planet Buster as its nuke analogue, which leaves a massive crater where an enemy faction's city used to be. Again, nuclear-armed air units are off the table (they're sort-of theoretically possible with the flexible modular unit design system, but not worth it to build), but you can design what amount to ballistic missile subsnote  to give you (again) second-strike capability. Actually detonating a planet buster (or two, or three) is a good way to get all the other factions to team up against you, unless you revoke the UN Charter first.
    • As well as Planet itself. Note that although repealing the Charter can calm your human opponents, Planet will not play nice with you no matter what.
  • This is a possible way to end the Civilization Stage in Spore: through a Nuclear War that wipes out all foreign cities not under your control. Just remember that you're gonna have trouble rebuilding, evidently due to radioactive rubble.
  • The Earthling Cruiser in Star Control uses MX missiles as its primary weapon. They pack a moderate punch and, fortunately for the cruiser given its slowness and being nearly Point Defenseless, excellent rrange.
  • StarCraft lets the Terran fire nukes, which do either 500 damage to the target in ground zero, or 2/3 health (whichever's greater) and will destroy most units caught in the blast. The costnote  and infrastructurenote  required to build one are steep and they can only be launched if a Ghost can laser paint the target. The nuke is lost if the Ghost, a fairly squishy unit, is killed before it arrives. Combined, these issues limit the nuke's usefulness.
    • The relatively low blast radius is justified in-game. The Terran Confederacy glassed one of their colonies with 1000 Apocalypse-class nukes to wipe out a few terrorists whose leader wasn't even on the planet. The political backlash was so heavy that the leaders were forced to limit themselves to smaller, tactical nukes which became the standard for most militia.
    • The Tactical Nuke returns in Starcraft II, where it works a similar way. It requires a Ghost Academy, a Factory, a Ghost to laser point it, and a Nuke itself. Its great cost makes it Awesome, but Impractical
  • A Pinball example appears in Sega Pinball's Starship Troopers. After a planet is secured and the Brain Bug is gone, the player will have a choice to either advance to the next planet or nuke the planet first. There's a tactical benefit to deferring the nuke, as waiting until later to Nuke 'em yields bigger bonuses.
  • Occasionally, Super Robot Wars will let you use a nuclear-equipped GP-02 if you fulfill the right requirements. The nuke is good enough to let you be able to win otherwise hopeless missions.
  • Supreme Commander: the first video demo showed a big battle, implying several hundred units from each side, including tanks, battle bots, aircraft, and even a couple of ships. The whole scene of the battle was washed out at the end by a gigantic nuclear explosion, that blinded the screen for about 5 seconds, and ended with a massive ball of fire. In later announcements however, we learned that the nukes were opposed by anti-missile launchers, and that an overload attack would imply more that 20 nukes (!). And they are not the ultimate category of weaponry.
    • To add to the humiliation of defeat, the destruction of the Supreme Commander, which are big robotic units that serve of starting the construction of the base, would result in a nuclear explosion. Too bad for you: not only is your SupCom unit very precious, if it blasted in your base, you're screwed.
    • In the last UEF mission, after your Hold the Line mission has been successful for long enough you get to press the button on the Black Sun which destroys multiple planets. The button is simply marked 'Win the infinite war'.
  • Syndicate Wars features the "Cataclysm" nuclear grenade, a hand grenade that will knock down a building in a little nuclear explosion.
  • Total Annihilation, the Spiritual Predecessor to Supreme Commander, also has powerful nukes, and anti-nuke defenses. Since they were so much cheaper though, arranging for enough to pierce the missile shield was much easier. Of course, the Anti-nuke defenses were also much cheaper. The resulting stalemates were the cause of Supreme Commander's massive game-ending Experimentals.
  • Unreal Tournament has the Redeemer, which fires a miniature cruise missile with an allegedly nuclear warhead. Following this trope, it has a blast radius of a few hundred feet.
  • Robo-47 of War of the Monsters launches a tactical nuke at its opponent for one of its specials.
  • In the add-on Secret Operations 2, for Wing Commander II, Maniac makes a big deal about the Mace missile mounted by the Morningstar fighter, a tactical nuclear missile that can one-shot smaller capships, or be used to take out a cluster of fighters via splash damage. Oddly, no such deal is made of regular torpedoes, which utilize matter/antimatter warheads that are even more powerful during the war with the Kilrathi.note 
  • World in Conflict features a Support Power that allows the player to call in a tactical nuke strike on a target location, destroying everything caught in the blast and leaving the area irradiated for a long period of time. One of the single player missions even requires the player to use this to stop the Soviet advance.
  • The X-Universe series has the Hammerhead Missile, a Terran (fighter-mounted) missile with a nuclear warhead. The Hammerhead is the single most powerful weapon in any of the games (aside from the defense turrets on the Torus Aeternal), more than capable of instantly destroying dozens of enemy fighters or corvettes in one fell swoop. It's balanced out by being the single most dangerous weapon to use, because enemy fire (or your own) will cause the missile to detonate.
  • The first attack you see from Id in Xenogears is a literal village-leveling nuclear blast. Part of Fei's capabilities in Weltall-2 on the second disc include the scaled-down in battle version, "Hell Wave."