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Duke Nukem is a video game franchise named after its protagonist, Duke Nukem.

Originally created by Allen Blum, Todd Replogle, George Broussard, and Scott Miller at Apogee Software in 1991, the franchise began as a series of 2D side-scrollers on IBM-compatible personal computers. Duke Nukem exploded in popularity when it transitioned to 3D first-person shooters with the release of Duke Nukem 3D, the third installment in the mainline series, in 1996. The franchise's success has inspired numerous authorized spin-offs and expansions, as well as one of the largest catalogues of user-made modifications and custom levels.

Duke Nukem has a longstanding reputation for controversy. In 1996, Duke Nukem 3D was heavily criticized in the Right-wing media for its excessive violence, offensive depictions of the police, endorsements of pornography and sex work, and alleged role in inspiring school shooters. Decades later, it has been criticized in mainstream Left-wing outlets for its purported sexism and toxic masculinity. The fourth title of the mainline series, Duke Nukem Forever, is also notorious in the gaming industry for its prolonged 15-year development cycle, media sensationalism, and critical reception.

The Duke Nukem franchise is well-known for several high-profile legal disputes concerning intellectual property (IP). Since its inception in 1991, the Duke Nukem IP was owned by Apogee Software, later renamed 3D Realms in 1994. In 1997, 3D Realms sued Micro Star Software for the unauthorized retail sale of Nuke It. The case, which turned on an unprecedented court ruling in 3D Realms' favor, is well-known among legal scholars for significantly expanding the power of digital copyright in US law. In 2010, the IP was sold to Gearbox Software. In 2014, an announcement by 3D Realms revealed they would continue to use and to license the Duke Nukem IP without Gearbox Software's authorization. Due to the resulting uncertainty surrounding ownership of the IP, an unnamed publisher halted negotiations with Gearbox Software for a purportedly "big budget" Duke Nukem game. Consequently, Gearbox Software immediately filed a lawsuit against 3D Realms. Ultimately, a legal settlement resolved all contentions in Gearbox Software's favor. Over the years, numerous other Duke Nukem projects have either been halted or subject to dispute due to IP concerns, including Duke Nukem 3D for the Sega Genesis, Duke Nukem 3D: Reloaded, Duke Nukem: Chain Reaction, Duke Nukem: Proving Grounds, Duke Nukem 3D: Megaton Edition, Duke Nukem: Mass Destruction, distribution of the Duke Nukem 3D prototypes, and Duke Nukem 3D: Hail to the King Collection.

In April 2021, Gearbox Software was acquired by the Embracer Group but this was then sold to Take-Two Interactive in March 2024 under its 2K division, who were previously the publisher of Duke Nukem Forever, making them the current owners of the Duke Nukem IP.

Main series[]

See Also: Category:Games

Title Year Released Platforms
Duke Nukem 1991 MS-DOS, iOS (released 2009)
Duke Nukem II 1993 MS-DOS, Game Boy Color, iOS (released 2009)
Duke Nukem 3D 1996 MS-DOS, Game.com, Mac OS, Sega Saturn, PlayStation, Nintendo 64, Microsoft Windows, Sega Genesis (in Brazil only), Xbox Live Arcade, iOS (released 2009), Nokia N900, Android
Duke Nukem Forever 2011 Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Mac OS X

The original game was released as Duke Nukem during 1991 as a two-dimensional platform game, which was IBM PC compatible and featured 320×200, 16-color EGA graphics with vertical and horizontal scrolling. The original game had three episodes, the first distributed as shareware. The first Duke Nukem game was titled Duke Nukem, but Apogee learned that this name might have already been trademarked for the Duke Nukem character of the television series Captain Planet and the Planeteers, so they changed it to Duke Nukum for the 2.0 revision. The name was later determined not to be trademarked, so the spelling Duke Nukem was restored for Duke Nukem II and all successive Duke games.

For Duke Nukem II, the sequel was more than four times larger and took advantage of 256-color Video Graphics Array (VGA) graphics, Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) music, and digitized sound. Only 16 colors were actually used onscreen at once; however, three different 16-color palettes were used by the game.

The third game of the series was the first-person shooter (FPS) titled Duke Nukem 3D and was released during 1996. Like most FPS games of the day, Duke Nukem 3D featured three-dimensional environments with two-dimensional sprites standing in for weapons, enemies, and breakable background objects. Duke Nukem 3D was released for MS-DOS, Mac OS, PlayStation, Sega Saturn, game.com, Sega Genesis/Mega Drive, Nintendo 64, and later re-released during 2008 for Xbox Live Arcade, and for iOS and Nokia N900 during 2009. Duke Nukem 3D has more than a dozen expansion packs.

Duke Nukem Forever[]

Main Article: Duke Nukem Forever

The most recent installment in the main video game series, Duke Nukem Forever, was delayed for more than a decade after the initial announcement during April 1997. Promotional information for the game was released during 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2007, 2008 and 2009. As a result, the title was subject to intense speculation and won several vaporware awards.

The development team was terminated during May 2009 but, according to 3D Realms, the project was not officially cancelled and the game was still in development. Although Take-Two Interactive owned the publishing rights to the game, they did not have an agreement with 3D Realms to provide funding for its continuation, and a lawsuit was filed by Take-Two Interactive against 3D Realms over their failure to finish development of the game. The lawsuit reached a settlement during May 2010.

Gearbox Software bought the rights to and intellectual property of the franchise and started work on the project during 2009. A playable demo was shown at Penny Arcade Expo (PAX), where the release timeframe was announced as 3 May 2011, in the US, and 6 May internationally on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC.

On 21 January 2011, an official release trailer was unveiled by 2K Games with a confirmed release date of 3 May 2011 for North America. On 24 March 2011, 2K Games sent out a statement that "Duke Never Comes Early" to announce a delay until 10 June in North America. On 5 May 2011, the Steam network started selling the game, which became officially available in June 2011. An OS X version was released in August 2011.


See Also: Category:Games

Title Year Released Platforms
Duke Nukem: Total Meltdown 1997 PlayStation
Duke Nukem 64 1997 Nintendo 64
Duke Nukem: Time to Kill 1998 PlayStation
Duke Nukem: Zero Hour 1999 Nintendo 64
Duke Nukem: Land of the Babes 2000 PlayStation
Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project 2002 Microsoft Windows, Xbox Live Arcade

Portable games[]

Title Year Released Platforms
Duke Nukem 1999 Game Boy Color
Duke Nukem Advance 2002 Game Boy Advance
Duke Nukem Mobile 3D 2004 Tapwave Zodiac
Duke Nukem Mobile 2004 Mobile phone
Duke Nukem Mobile: Bikini Project 2005 Mobile phone
Duke Nukem Arena 2007 Mobile phone
Duke Nukem: Critical Mass 2011 Nintendo DS

Canceled games[]

See Also: Category:Canceled games

One of the first projects to be announced after the success of Duke Nukem 3D was a return to Duke Nukem's 2D side-scrolling, platforming format for a game named Duke Nukem 4Ever. The project was directed by Keith Schuler, main designer and programmer for the games Paganitzu and Realms of Chaos, and a level designer for the Plutonium PAK.

The 2D 4Ever was planned to combine many of the new concepts of Duke Nukem 3D with the old-style play of the first two games of the series. Duke's look, personality and armory from the recent shooter would be matched with run and gun platforming, with a few new objects, including a cloaking device and five-piece weapon named the "heavy barrel", added in. Players would face off against Dr. Proton's minions, the Protonite cyborgs, along with other level-specific grunt enemies. Each episode would end with a boss fight, with the last one fought against Proton himself. Development on Duke Nukem 4Ever stalled during the middle of 1996 when Keith Schuler was reassigned to work on maps for the Duke Nukem 3D expansion pack. The game's cancellation wasn't publicly announced until 1997, at a time when 3D Realms had decided to reuse the name for their sequel to Duke Nukem 3D. After cancellation, the game became a new game named Ravager, and that project was then sold to developer named Inner Circle Creations, which renamed it and released the title as Alien Rampage during 1996.

Duke Nukem: Endangered Species was announced during January 2001. It was designed to be a hunting game where the player could hunt everything from dinosaurs to snakes, using an improved version of the engine used in the Carnivores series. The game was cancelled during December of that year. The company that had been developing the game, Ukraine-based developer Action Forms, later developed its own game, Vivisector: Beast Within (originally titled Vivisector: Creatures of Doctor Moreau) instead.

A PlayStation 2 game named Duke Nukem D-Day (also known as Duke Nukem: Man of Valor), was announced during 1999. It was renowned for having had one of the longest development cycles of any title of the PlayStation 2's considerable history. Long-rumored to implement the same technology that powered the PC version of Unreal, the game sometimes erroneously referred to as Duke Nukem Forever PS2 (this console title was not to be a part of the PC game and, instead, was a new creation by developer n-Space), consistently struggled with delays, often putting in question its status as an active or cancelled game. The project was finally abandoned during 2003.

Legal wrangling between developer 3D Realms and publisher Take-Two Interactive over the non-delivery of Duke Nukem Forever after 3D Realms dismissed all development staff during 2009, revealed that the two companies had agreed on the production of a console-targeted Duke game during October 2007. 3D Realms accepted the deal in exchange for a $2.5 million advance on royalties in order to continue to fund development of Duke Nukem Forever. Gearbox Software was later revealed to be the developer of the game.

Duke Begins was a cancelled game that was the subject of litigation, but few details exist as to what was intended. From the name of the game and the court filings, the title was possibly intended to be an origin story, illustrating how Duke became the person he is in chronologically later games. Development on the title began within two months of the October 2007 agreement, with the intention of a mid-2010 release. 3D Realms alleged in court filings that the title was suspended during April 2009 in order to deny them royalties to pay back the $2.5 million advance. Whether Duke Begins was suspended after 3D Realms requested $US6 million from Take-Two to finish Duke Nukem Forever is yet to be confirmed.

Gearbox Software shifted to working on Duke Nukem Forever after finalizing a deal with 3D Realms to acquire the unfinished game and the rights to the Duke Nukem franchise.

When Duke Nukem Trilogy was announced during 2008, it was intended for release on the Nintendo DS and PlayStation Portable (PSP). Each game in the series was to have two versions that shared the same story – the Nintendo DS game was a side-scrolling affair, while the PSP version was to be a third-person shooter not unlike Duke Nukem: Time to Kill. The PSP version was said to be the more adult-oriented of the two games. It is unknown precisely when the PSP versions of the Duke Nukem Trilogy games were cancelled, however the drawn-out development of the title, low quality of the game and the poor sales of PSP software since 2008 were likely factors. Only the DS version of the first game Critical Mass was released.

An HD remake of Duke Nukem II was in the planning stages at one time.

A remake of Duke Nukem 3D called Duke Nukem 3D: Reloaded, was in development by Interceptor Entertainment, however Gearbox Software would only grant Interceptor a private licence; unable to obtain a commercial licence Interceptor abandoned the project.

Interceptor was working on a top-down action role-playing game called Duke Nukem: Mass Destruction for the PlayStation 4 and PC; however, due to a lawsuit by Gearbox, the main character was changed and the game was renamed Bombshell.

Duke Begins[]

Main Article: Duke Begins

The October 2011 edition of the Official Xbox Magazine reported that Gearbox Software planned to reboot the Duke Nukem franchise once Aliens: Colonial Marines was complete and out the door. The series, which began during 1991 with the original Duke Nukem PC game developed by Apogee Software, would be restarted with the long-discussed Duke Begins on an unspecified date.

Other media[]


Several Duke Nukem games contained popular tracks from well known bands, and a greatest hits album titled Duke Nukem: Music to Score By was released in 1999.

Proposed feature film[]

During the late 1990s, it was announced that film producer Lawrence Kasanoff was working on a Duke Nukem movie. The plot was to feature aliens invading Duke's favorite strip club. Kasanoff's Duke Nukem film did not advance past the pre-production phase for numerous reasons, primarily funding problems.

Plans were announced during 2001 for a live action Duke Nukem movie to be produced by Kasanoff's company Threshold Entertainment, however the movie was never produced.

During 2008, Max Payne producer Scott Faye revealed to IGN.com that he was planning to produce Duke Nukem as a movie. Faye, who runs production company Depth Entertainment, said he hoped to compliment these with "a Duke movie scenario that will compel a studio to finance a feature version ... Certainly, there's a large audience that knows and loves this character. We're expanding Duke's 'storyverse' in a very significant major way without abandoning or negating any element that's being used to introduce Duke to the next-gen platforms."

During an interview with Game Slice, Gearbox Software CEO Randy Pitchford hinted that there is work being done on a Duke Nukem film.

In March 2018, it was announced that John Cena will star in a Duke Nukem movie for Paramount Pictures & Platinum Dunes.

Comic series[]

A four issue mini-series titled Duke Nukem: Glorious Bastard was released during July 2011 by IDW. The story features Duke Nukem traveling back in time to the Second World War, to help the Allies defeat the Nazis and aliens. A special pack-in comic was also created for the Balls of Steel edition of Duke Nukem Forever. The Glorious Bastard series and the pack-in comic were eventually reprinted together in trade paperback format.


Duke Nukem was a short-lived toy set from defunct toy company ReSaurus. Primarily emphasizing Duke Nukem 3D, the set featured three versions of Duke (with a fourth "Internet only" Duke that came with a CD-ROM and Freezethrower accessory), the Pig Cop, Octabrain, and Battlelord. The toys were prone to breakage (Duke's legs were held on by a thin plastic rod which was easy to snap and the Octabrain had numerous fragile points). More toys were planned to coincide with the release of Duke Nukem Forever, however the game's delay halted production of the toys, and ReSaurus eventually went out of business. At Toyfair 2011, NECA revealed a new series of Duke Nukem Forever action figures with more details and articulation than the previous series from 1997.

During 2012, Sideshow Collectibles announced a new collectible statue based on Duke Nukem as he appeared in Duke Nukem Forever. The statue was released during April 2013.


The series has been generally well-received since its inception. Duke Nukem and Duke Nukem II, along with Commander Keen, helped make the genre popular on the personal computer, similar to games like Super Mario Bros. for video game consoles. The franchise reached critical acclaim, however, with the release of Duke Nukem 3D. The game, like others such as Star Wars: Dark Forces, was one of the first titles considered comparable to Doom. The Build engine program used for Duke Nukem 3D has also become one of the most popular programs used by developers.

Duke Nukem 3D was controversial because of its depictions of human sexuality, pornography, obscenities, graphic violence, recreational drug use, and other risqué topics. This caused the game to be banned in Brazil and, in other countries, the sale of the game was strictly regulated against purchase by minors. Despite this, Duke Nukem 3D was a commercial and critical success for 3D Realms.

The development of Duke Nukem Forever was delayed from 1997 until it was finally released on June 10, 2011. The exceedingly long wait had caused a number of jokes related to its development timeline. The video game media and the public in general have routinely suggested several names instead of Forever, calling it: "Never", "(Taking) Forever", "Whenever", "ForNever", "Neverever", and "If Ever". Fans speculated that the game's initials, "DNF", also stand for Did Not Finish, a common sporting term. Due to Duke Nukem games featuring many popular culture references, a joke on the "development hell" of Duke Nukem Forever's production was included in the title itself, where Duke is playing it himself within the game, and when asked if it was any good, comments, "After 12 fucking years, it should be!" The game has also won a wide variety of "vaporware awards".

Although anticipation was great, Duke Nukem Forever received negative reviews upon release from critics, with most of the criticism directed towards the game's clunky controls on consoles, shooting mechanics, and overall aging and dated design. The PR company responsible for the game's publicity, The Redner Group, reacted to these reviews in a statement on the corporation's Twitter account. This comment appeared to threaten to withdraw access to review copies for future titles for reviewers who had been very critical of the game. Manager of the PR company Jim Redner later apologized for and retracted this comment, and the original Twitter post has been deleted.

Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project, a spin-off from the main franchise released during 2002, generally received positive reviews in the video game press, with rankings around 7/10 and 80 out of 100. The game, however, did not sell as well as hoped, and its developer Sunstorm Interactive is no longer in existence. Duke Nukem Advance, which was also released during 2002 for the Game Boy Advance, did receive favorable reviews. Duke Nukem: Critical Mass, which was released the same year as Duke Nukem Forever and was developed for the Nintendo DS, received a negative reception.