Duke Nukem Wiki

Duke Nukem 3D is a first-person shooter video game developed and published by 3D Realms.

Released on April 19, 1996, Duke Nukem 3D is the third game in the Duke Nukem series and a sequel to Duke Nukem II. The game was a commercial success and has seen numerous console ports, expansion packs, and special edition re-releases since its debut. It continues to maintain a strong fanbase, which has generated hundreds of mods and thousands of user maps.

As a groundbreaking entry in the first-person shooter genre, Duke Nukem 3D was generally well-received by critics. The game was also immediately controversial and drew criticism in the mainstream media for its violence and pornographic content.

A sequel, Duke Nukem Forever, was released in 2011.


Level design

Main Article: Levels in Duke Nukem 3D

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Level design in Duke Nukem 3D is notable for its depth of interactivity, which set a new standard for first-person shooters. Interactive objects include light switches, drinking fountains, strippers, surveillance screens, bins, toilets, pool tables, telephones, explosive barrels, fire hydrants, and a photocopier. Some of these objects perform multiple functions. For example, toilets can be used to urinate or to replenish the player's health by smashing them and then drinking from their water source.

The levels in Duke Nukem 3D also tend to exhibit non-linear design, such that air vents, back doors, and sewers offer converging routes to completion. This non-linearity helps support multiplayer gaming.

Raw Meat

Compared to other first-person shooters of its time, Duke Nukem 3D was also well-received for pioneering realistic location designs with vivid colors and lighting.

There are five episodes in Duke Nukem 3D:

  1. L.A. Meltdown: Set in Los Angeles, this episode starts in a run-down area of the city before traveling to a prison, a toxic waste dump, and eventually the San Andreas Fault.
  2. Lunar Apocalypse: This episode spans several space stations and alien spaceships.
  3. Shrapnel City: Set back on Earth, this episode features a range of locations, including a bank, a movie set, a subway, and a football stadium.
  4. The Birth: Available only in the Atomic Edition, this episode features locations such as a fast food restaurant, a post office, an amusement park and Area 51.
  5. Alien World Order: Available only in the 20th Anniversary World Tour, this episode brings eight new levels set in locations around the world.


Main Article: Weapons in Duke Nukem 3D


Weapons reimagined in 3D by Edwart Kvasnevsky

Duke Nukem 3D includes a range of weapons, some of which remain unique to the Duke Nukem franchise even today.

Weapons range from the Mighty Foot, which is a basic melee attack, to a pistol, a chaingun cannon, pipe bombs, and guns that shrink and freeze enemies. Five of the twelve weapons use hitscan, and another four produce explosions.


Main Article: Items in Duke Nukem 3D

In addition to the weapons, Duke's inventory features a series of items that can be acquired and deployed throughout the game. These items include:

  • Portable Medkit, which can be used to recover Duke's health at any time
  • Steroids, which cause Duke to move more quickly and to deal greater melee damage
  • Night Vision Goggles, which allow Duke to see in poorly lit areas
  • Holoduke, which projects a hologram of Duke that distracts enemies
  • Protective Boots, which allow Duke to traverse dangerous terrain, such as toxic waste or lava
  • Scuba Gear, which allows Duke to swim underwater for longer periods without drowning
  • Jetpack, which allows Duke to fly freely around the environment, sometimes to reach otherwise inaccessible areas

Apart from these standard inventory items, there are also a number of health-boosting items, and hidden Access Cards can be used to unlock doors, deactivate force fields, or trigger explosions.


Main Article: Enemies in Duke Nukem 3D


Cycloid Emperor

Duke Nukem 3D features a wide variety of enemies, including extraterrestrial aliens, mutant police officers, and mechanical robots. Five drop ammunition when killed, five explode when killed, five wield explosive weapons, four wield hitscan weapons, five do not wield physical weapons at all, two can jump, seven can fly, and three are recurring, miniature versions of bosses.

In addition, there are five boss enemies, one at the end of each episode. These are:

  1. The Battlelord, equipped with a massive chaingun and mortar launcher
  2. The Overlord, who is found on the Moon and has two rocket launchers mounted on its back
  3. The Cycloid Emperor, found in a football stadium and has mechanical rocket launcher claws for hands
  4. The Alien Queen, an underwater creature that spawns offspring and fires a powerful electrical blast
  5. The Cycloid Incinerator, a twin of the Cycloid Emperor that shoots fire and summons Firefly Troopers


Main Article: Multiplayer in Duke Nukem 3D

Duke Nukem 3D supports LAN and online multiplayer games. Multiplayer games can take place on any of the levels included with the singleplayer campaign, or they can take place on custom user maps downloaded from the Internet.

The game features several multiplayer game modes:

  • Dukematch: A deathmatch game mode in which each player attempts to kill the other players.
  • Co-op: A cooperative game mode in which players work together to complete singleplayer levels.
  • DM-Bots: A Dukematch game mode with computer-controlled rather than player-controlled enemies.
  • Duke-Tag: A capture the flag game mode that is only available on The Queen, introduced in the Atomic Edition.

Duke Nukem 3D supports player-to-player communication through the use of in-game messaging. The player can type a message and send it to a specific player, to their allies, to their enemies, or to everyone. Newer versions of the game also support voice chat.

Special editions

Atomic Edition & Plutonium PAK


Duke Nukem 3D: Atomic Edition

Main Article: Duke Nukem 3D: Atomic Edition (Plutonium PAK)

Duke Nukem 3D: Atomic Edition was a special edition re-release in 1996. For customers who already owned the game, the Plutonium PAK was sold as a patch that upgraded existing versions of the game to the Atomic Edition. The Atomic Edition introduces a new fourth episode, a new weapon, and three new enemies: the Pig Cop Tank, the Protector Drone, and a new final boss, the Alien Queen.

20th Anniversary World Tour


20th Anniversary Edition

Main Article: Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour

Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour is a 2016 special edition remake, released to commemorate the game's 20th anniversary. The remake includes all content from Duke Nukem 3D: Atomic Edition, but it adds new levels, enemies, a weapon, and several special features.



Aliens have turned the Neo L.A. police into mutant Pig Cops

Narrative elements in Duke Nukem 3D are confined to cutscenes at the ends of episodes, as well as an in-game menu and official game lore distributed by 3D Realms. Though sparse, the plot revolves around an alien invasion of Earth sometime in the early 21st century in the original version though the year was later retconned to 1998 to acomodate the spin-off games and its sequel Duke Nukem Forever in which takes place in 2012. Following the events of Duke Nukem II, Duke Nukem victoriously returns to Earth in his Skycar, which is unexpectedly shot-down on arrival. Aliens have invaded Earth. The aliens have transformed the Neo Los Angeles police department into mutant Pig Cops to do their bidding, and they are abducting all the women.


Duke executes the Battlelord

The player assumes the role of Duke Nukem, an imperious action hero, and fights through 48 levels spread across 5 episodes. The player encounters a host of enemies and fights them with a range of weaponry. In the end, Duke annihilates the alien overlords and celebrates by desecrating their corpses.


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Interactive switches trigger a preprogrammed demolition on Red Light District

Duke Nukem 3D’s graphical engine was a step forward from the Doom engine of 1993, though many of the advanced features of the game had appeared in intervening first-person shooter titles such as Marathon, Star Wars: Dark Forces, and others. While the levels were still defined as 2D maps, the capabilities of Ken Silverman's Build engine allowed more complex levels than Doom. The game supports diagonal slopes in the floors, though this had been seen as early as Ultima Underworld in 1992. It also supports vertical mouse aiming (but lacks perspective correction), though vertical look had also appeared in Ultima Underworld and full mouse look appeared in Marathon.

While Doom was limited to doors opening and closing only by sliding up and down, the Build engine also included doors and walls that could move sideways. The Doom engine usually only moves a single platform at a time in response to a player event, while the Build scripting system allows a whole string of moving and sliding actions, synchronized with sound effects, to create collapsing buildings, earthquakes, and walls that crumble apart when hit with explosives. One of the more advanced effects that went far beyond the limits of the Doom engine is the horizontal sliding platform that can move the player inside a small sliding room, to create subway cars moving in a timed sequence around a ring-shaped track.

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720-degree circle on Lunatic Fringe

The Build engine solves this problem by allowing multiple overlapping 2D paths to cross through the same 2D location. The key is that, while inside one of these spaces, it is not possible to see into the other space, so the "2.5D" engine has no problem rendering one space or the other, even though the map data technically shows the two areas to be occupying the same place. Several Duke Nukem 3D maps exploit this engine feature to create mind-bending maps where multiple large rooms are all seem to be occupying one 3D space. One level in particular (Lunatic Fringe) allows the player to travel 720 degrees around a circle without overlapping the same path.

To resolve the problem of not having balconies or bridges that the player can walk over or under, certain objects are specially coded into the Build engine that are not actually part of the flat 2D map design. Rather, they involve a special class of decorative sprites that can be inserted into the world, similar to the breakable cameras, flowerpots, and lights. These unusual sprites allow the player to walk over or under objects, as if they were actually part of the map. However, these special objects have a highly restricted shape, typically as a perfectly square or rectangular non-sloping structure, greatly restricting their usage to simple bridges, balconies, or exposed rectangular air ducts.


Main Article: Duke Nukem 3D prototypes


Prototype screenshot from Dark Side

Duke Nukem 3D went through numerous iterations during development. Many of these are known from pre-release screenshots and post-release commemorative videos, while others are directly available to the public. One of these iterations, LameDuke, is a December 1994 prototype that was officially released by 3D Realms to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the game's shareware release. The prototype was released as-is, with no improvements or promises of technical support. It is still freely available to download today.


Main Article: Expansions for Duke Nukem 3D

Because of the commercial success of Duke Nukem 3D, many third-party developers were interested in producing expansion packs, DLC, and other add-ons for the game. Some of these expansions were authorized by one of the copyright owners and are official products, while many more were unauthorized. The following is a complete list of authorized expansions:


See Also: Category:Compilations

Duke Nukem 3D has been featured in numerous compilations. Some of the most notable compilations include:


See Also: Category:Duke Nukem 3D ports

Duke Nukem 3D has been ported to many consoles in the decades since its initial release:

Community content

Main Articles: User maps, Mods and total conversions, List of Duke Nukem websites

Duke Nukem 3D offers free software for creating and editing fan-made user maps. As a result, thousands of user maps have been created and published online or even packaged in compilations in the decades since the game was first released. In addition, the game features highly sophisticated modding capabilities, spawning hundreds of mods and total conversions. User maps, mods, and total conversions continue to be distributed through several popular Duke Nukem websites.


Game Engine/Tools Creator
President of 3D Realms, Executive Producer, Project/Director, Level Creator
Level Creator, Assistant Director, Original Concept
Programming, Original Concept
  • Mark Dochtermann
Additional Programming
  • Greg Malone
  • Jim Dose
Additional Programming
  • James Storey
Game Art
  • Robert Grace
Cover Illustration
  • Robert M. Atkins
Graphic Design
  • Michael Hadwin
Graphic Design
  • Chuck Jones
3D Modeling
  • Brian Martel
Voice Talent
  • Lee Jackson
Music/Sound Effects
  • Steven Blackburn
Special Thanks to:
  • Colleen Compton
Special Thanks to:
  • Dennis Desmeth
Special Thanks to:
  • Kevin Green
Special Thanks to:
Special Thanks to:
  • Terry Nagy
Special Thanks to:
  • Bobby Prince
Music/Sound Effects
  • Bryan Turner
Special Thanks to:
  • Pro‑motions Production Company
Music/Sound Effects
  • Joe Siegler
Special Thanks to:
  • Sapphire Corporation
3D Modeling
  • Douglas R. Wood
Additional Game Art, Additional 3D Modeling
Level Creator
  • David Demaret
Additional Game Art
  • Stephen A. Hornback
Game Art
  • Dirk Jones
Game Art
Level Creator
Level Creator
Voice of Duke Nukem

See also

Play Duke Nukem 3D online

Duke Nukem 3D
Episodes L.A. MeltdownLunar ApocalypseShrapnel CityThe BirthAlien World Order
Weapons Mighty FootPistolShotgunChaingun CannonRPGPipe BombShrinkerExpanderDevastatorLaser TripbombFreezethrowerIncinerator
Items Access CardsHealth ItemsHolodukeJetpackNight Vision GogglesPortable MedkitProtective BootsScuba GearSteroids
Enemies Assault CaptainAssault CommanderAssault TrooperBattlelord SentryCycloid SentryEnforcerFirefly TrooperOctabrainOverlord SentryPig CopPig Cop TankProtector DroneProtozoid SlimerRecon Patrol VehicleSentry DroneSharkTurret
Bosses BattlelordOverlordCycloid EmperorAlien QueenCycloid Incinerator
Editions ClassicSharewareAtomic Edition (Plutonium PAK)Megaton Edition20th Anniversary World Tour
Expansions Duke AssaultDuke Caribbean: Life's A BeachDuke It Out In D.C.Duke Nukem 3D Level Design HandbookDuke Nukem's Penthouse ParadiseDuke XtremeDuke: Nuclear WinterDuke!ZONEDuke!ZONE 150Duke!ZONE IIUnofficial Expansions
Community High Resolution PackMods & Total ConversionsSource PortsSpeedrunningUser Maps
Other Build EngineCheat CodesDifficultyDuke Nukem (character)MultiplayerMusicPortsPrototypesQuotesScrapped Content