The Duke Nukem franchise started early in The '90s as a series of regular side-scrolling platformer games. It started under Apogee Software/3DRealms development, but in 2010, the rights to the series went to Gearbox Software. In February 2021 Gearbox (and by extension Duke) was purchased by THQ Nordic. Later that year, 3D Realms was purchased by them as well, once again placing Duke and his original creators under the same roof.
The series is composed of several games which follows a loose continuity:
- Duke Nukem (1991)
- Duke Nukem II (1993)
- Duke Nukem 3D (1996)
- Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project (2002)
- Duke Nukem Forever (2011)
There were also several spinoffs for consoles and handhelds.
- Duke Nukem: Time to Kill (1998)
- Duke Nukem: Zero Hour (1999)
- Duke Nukem: Land of the Babes (2000)
- Duke Nukem Advance (2002)
- Duke Nukem Mobile (2004)
- Duke Nukem: Critical Mass (2011)
Comic Books include:
- Duke Nukem Forever (2011)
- Duke Nukem: Glorious Bastard (2011)
A book titled Duke Nukem Does the Internet was released in 1996. It is an instructional book in the vein of the For Dummies series, teaching the reader how to set up and use the internet (though said advice might be outdated by now), narrated entirely in-character by Duke Nukem himself.
There are also hints of a live-action film being made.
Tropes found across the series include:
- Achievement Mockery: Tip a virtual stripper who takes her top off and you'll get the 10G achievement "Shake it Baby".
- The Ahnold: Duke Nukem's inspiration in Arnold Schwarzenegger is undeniable, not only in appearance but on his whole 80's Action Hero persona. He only lacks the Austrian/Germanic accent...
- Awesome McCoolname
- Badass Baritone: From 3D and onwards, Duke speaks in a deep, manly voice and delivers Bond One-Liners regulary.
- Bag of Spilling: In the first three games, Duke loses all weapons he picks up across episodes. Averted in Forever until the final battle.
- Brass Balls: One of Duke's catchphrases."I've got balls of steel!"
- Bond One-Liner: Duke is rather fond of these.
- Canon Discontinuity: The third person shooters Time to Kill and Land of the Babes, for the original PlayStation, while decent in their own right, aren't regarded as canon. The fact that they were made by different developers probably has something to do with that.
- Chivalrous Pervert: Duke is a royal jackass who has no problem shitting down an alien behemoth's neck after killing it, but he will never insult a woman directly.
- Cool Shades: From 3D onwards, now became an iconic feature of his character.
- Damsel in Distress: All of Earth's women.
- Early Installment Weirdness: The third game presented a massive shift in both genre and tone.
- Girliness Upgrade: Gender inverted. It is hard to believe that, once upon a time, Duke wore a pink shirt, watched Oprah, maintained a curly hairstyle, and kept his language within the territories defined by Gosh Dang It to Heck!. Then, something happened in between the two alien invasions...
- Heroic Comedic Sociopath: Duke's idea of a fun time is blowing an alien's brains out with a large shotgun. All of Duke's dialogue is bragging about how amazing he is. Duke casually throws money at the feet of strippers when any sane person would be evacuating them out of an active warzone. Duke once wrote a book titled "Why I'm So Great", and once threatened a large alien monster with "I'll rip your head off and shit down your neck", and then after killing it followed through with the threat. Duke is an absolute douche, and he's hilarious.
- Inconveniently Placed Conveyor Belt: All four installments to date have at least one.
- Jenny's Number: This is an Easter Egg above urinals in both 3D and Forever.
- Lock and Key Puzzle: The games are full of them. Lampshaded in Forever, where the trope takes on a more creative twist.
- Man in a Kilt: Believe it or not, Duke himself wears a kilt in the Medieval levels of Time to Kill, and a tunic in the Ancient Roman levels.
- Mascot Mook: The L.A.R.D pig cops have become this.
- Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Duke Nukem. Kinda obvious to see what happens when you piss him off.
- Negative Continuity: Zigzagged. The guns at the Duke Museum in Forever state that they were used by Duke in 1996 ... which refers to the year when 3D came out. II was supposed to happen in 1998, since Duke Nukem is set in 1997, and the introduction of II mentions "defeating Doctor Proton last year", with 3D happening immediately after II's conclusion. However, the Balls of Steel Limited Edition Guide says: "This pegs the original invasion around 1999, which works out, since Duke Nukem and Duke Nukem II are set in the then-near future of 1997 and 1998."
- No Such Thing as Dehydration: In his first adventure, a DOS-based scrolling shoot-'em-up, Duke can replenish his health by eating a cold turkey drumstick (+100 points and one health block), or zap it with his blaster gun to convert it to a hot turkey dinner (+200 points and two health blocks). Duke will also encounter cans of soda in his travels. Duke can drink the stuff as is (+100 points and one health block), or go for a maximum score by zapping it with his blaster and quickly snagging what's left before it flies out of reach. This is worth +1000 points, but adds no health. Going for a maximum, therefore, means eating only cooked turkey and zapping all the soda cans rather than drinking them.
- Octopoid Aliens: Octobrains (octopus-like alien brains with tentacles) are regular enemies in the games.
- One-Man Army: Duke Nukem, alone, takes on a mad scientist and his robot army, followed by two alien armies, the latter of which had already at least partially conquered Earth the first time. Acknowledged in a 2001 trailer of Duke Nukem Forever when a SWAT Officer asks "Hey pal, what are you gonna do, save the world all by yourself?"
- Pinball Spin-Off: Balls of Steel.
- Pop-Cultured Badass: Duke, of course.
- Pre-Asskicking One-Liner: Duke has many of these.
- Press X to Die: In Zero Hour, it's really not a good idea to start firing off weapons inside the support structure for the blimp. Boom indeed.
- Rated M for Manly: And how!
- Refuge in Audacity: Duke's bread and butter. As Randy Pitchford claimed in the April 2011 issue of US Xbox 360 Magazine:The secret to Duke's humor is that he and his universe actually are serious. In his world, it makes perfect sense for families to be visiting the Fellatio hotel (i.e., the Bellagio) in Las Vegas. Everything in his world is real for them, authentic. It's only when we look at it through the lens of our world that we get the joke.
- See You in Hell: Duke sometimes says this whenever he blasts enemies into oblivion.
- Shout-Out: Check the page.
- Stopped Numbering Sequels: Although they tried to keep it up with Third Is 3D and a Pun-Based Title that ended up having a different meaning.
- Take That!: some of his one liners in 3D are digs at other popular-at-the-time First-Person Shooter games:
- Testosterone Poisoning
- Title Drop: Literally the first thing Duke says when the game starts in "Time To Kill" is "Looks like it's 'Time To Kill'."
- The Usual Adversaries: Every alien race after the Rigelatins has employed Pig Cops in some way, what with them appearing in just about every game since 1996.
- "It's time to kick ass and chew bubblegum. And I'm all out of gum."