The exit button, also known as the auto-destruct button or nuke button, is a button that must be hit in order to complete most levels in Duke Nukem 3D, as well as in most levels of the game's many ports, mods, and expansions.
Exit buttons are normally red, with a silver trefoil in the shape of the international symbol for ionizing radiation. While directly facing the exit button, pressing the "use"/"open" key on the keyboard, mouse, or controller will cause the three leaves of the silver trefoil to open, revealing the words "AUTO DESTRUCT" printed on a layer of glass. Duke will then wind-up his fist and punch the button, completely shattering the layer of glass.
When the exit button is hit, the level automatically ends, and the player is shown a level-end screen that includes the player's time, par time, 3D Realms' time, the number of enemies killed, the number of enemies remaining, the number of secrets found, and the number of secrets missed.
Secret Exit Buttons
Some levels contain secret exit buttons. Secret exit buttons behave exactly like regular exit buttons, but they are green instead of red. A secret exit button is supposed to be a hidden alternative to the regular exit button found elsewhere in the level, though most levels don't contain a secret exit button. Hitting a secret exit button will take the player to a secret level. Secret exit buttons also behave as regular exit buttons on secret levels.
In Duke Nukem 64, secret exit buttons are red with a green-tinted silver trefoil.
In the Sega Saturn port of Duke Nukem 3D, secret exit buttons are indistinguishable from regular exit buttons.
Redundant Exit Buttons
Apart from levels containing secret exit buttons, a few levels actually contain redundant exit buttons. These all serve as regular exit buttons during multiplayer matches ("Dukematch"), but they are still accessible during singleplayer runs.
Red Light District
Red Light District contains two exit buttons. First, there is the exit button that, when approached, triggers Duke's capture. However, there is also a second exit button. This second exit button is used as the primary exit button during multiplayer matches ("Dukematch"), but it is also accessible during singleplayer runs.
The second exit button in Red Light District can be found by following these steps:
- Enter the pornography store to the left of the elevator at the start of the level. In the hallway at the back of the store, enter the second-to-last viewing room behind the blue curtains, and collect the Steroids from inside the trash can.
- Exit the pornography store, and use the Steroids. While the Steroids are still active, use the SR-50 technique to jump up the ventilation shaft on the outside of the building across the street. Jump from the ventilation shaft to the left-hand ledge with the "Duke Nukem Must Die" sign.
- It is crucial that this is performed with a running start and that Duke does not stop moving at any point. Due to a strange feature of the physics in this game, Duke will build momentum and move slightly faster than he would otherwise.
- This trick will not work if Duke stops moving or runs out of Steroids at any point between Steps 2 and 3.
- On the ledge beneath the "Duke Nukem Must Die" sign, jump from the left-hand corner of the sign while continuously performing the SR-50 such that Duke is moving leftward off the ledge, but quickly change directions mid-air such that the SR-50 is now taking Duke rightward towards the windows. Land where the windows beside the Armor intersect with the ground. Hold the "Crouch" button while landing. If done correctly, then Duke will clip through the windows (see video demonstration).
- If Steps 1-3 failed, then type "dnclip" on the keyboard to activate the no-clip cheat, and enter the windows beside the Armor. Upon entering this hidden room, the windows will slowly open behind you, such that you can now enter and exit this room without using cheats.
- This hidden room is opened during multiplayer matches, and players can spawn in this room. In fact, it may automatically open upon entering because the level doesn't distinguish between singleplayer and multiplayer runs; the fact that there is a player in the room may be taken to mean that a player must have spawned in the room as part of a multiplayer match.
- Find the teleporter that opened beside the toilet in the pornography store bathroom. Use this teleporter to reach the attic behind the stage in the strip club, near the end of the level. (You can instead progress through the level as normal if you wish.)
- Hidden teleporters like these are found on many levels throughout the game. They are normally inaccessible without cheats, but they usually open during multiplayer matches ("Dukematch").
- Head towards the normal exit button at the end of the level.
- You will discover that it is not possible to approach the normal exit button because the prison cage has already emerged from the ground. However, you will also discover that a new passage has opened in the section of wall between the prison cage and the secret compartment containing the Portable Medkit. Hit the exit button at the end of this passage.
- You can hit this exit button without being captured, but you will still begin the next level on Death Row, with none of your weapons or items.
- Alternatively, you could just wait until the end of the level and then use the no-clip cheat in this final hallway. Without cheats, it is only possible to reach the second exit button by following these steps as outlined above. Although extremely difficult, multiple speedrunners at the top of the Duke Nukem 3D leaderboards have successfully performed this trick (see the Red Light District leaderboards).
The Abyss contains a regular exit button, even though the level is supposed to be completed by defeating the Battlelord. The exit button serves a necessary role during multiplayer matches ("Dukematch"), but it is still accessible during singleplayer.
Prior to the 20th Anniversary Edition
When you drop down the hole into the room before the Battlelord, turn 90 degrees to your right, and walk around to the other side of the column. A hidden compartment containing ammo for the Chaingun Cannon will open. Behind the back wall of this compartment, there is a regular exit button that can only be reached using the no-clip cheat.
Hitting the exit button will take you to Launch Facility. However, if you complete Launch Facility, then you will be brought back to The Abyss, and if you hit the exit button again, then it will instead take you to Faces of Death, a level that cannot be completed (prior to the 20th Anniversary Edition, Faces of Death did not contain an exit button) and was not supposed to appear in the final game.
20th Anniversary Edition
In the 20th Anniversary Edition, this exit button appears as a secret exit button, and it can be reached without using cheats, by simply pressing the "use"/"open" key on the back wall of the hidden compartment described above. This secret exit button will take you directly to Faces of Death, which can be completed normally in this version of the game.
Duke Nukem 64
Overlord contains a regular exit button, even though the level is supposed to be completed by defeating the Overlord. The exit button serves a necessary role during multiplayer matches ("Dukematch"), but it is still accessible during singleplayer.
Prior to the 20th Anniversary Edition
After dropping through the spinning fan into the Overlord's battle arena, don't open the main door to initiate the battle. Instead, stand in the middle of the room facing the main door, and turn 90 degrees to the right. Walk all the way to the wall. Although it may not look like it, you are actually facing a door, and the bottom of the door is located roughly a meter off the ground.
On the other side of this door, there is a button that opens the door, but you can press this button - through the wall - from outside the compartment. Relative to your current position, the button will be on the left-hand wall inside the compartment.
Reposition yourself such that you are offset a couple meters to the left and facing at a slight angle towards the left. You may need to experiment with positions until you succeed (or see the screenshot below). Mash the "use"/"open" key while repeatedly jumping up and down, and you should be able to activate the button on the other side of the door, thus opening the compartment.
Hitting this exit button will take you to Spin Cycle, but (prior to the 20th Anniversary Edition) the progression of exit buttons from that point will take you to Tiberius Station, then Lunatic Fringe, then Overlord, then Raw Meat, and then Spaceport. Level progression will always proceed normally from there.
20th Anniversary Edition
In the 20th Anniversary Edition, the exit button is still accessible as described above. The only difference is that, after the exit button takes you to Spin Cycle, level progression will always proceed normally from Spin Cycle.
Duke Nukem 64
In Duke Nukem 64, this exit button has been moved to a compartment inside the Overlord's control room overlooking Earth. After opening the main door to confront the Overlord, walk to the very center of the Overlord's control room and turn 90 degrees to the left. Now you must pass through the wall in front of you. In contrast with the PC version, this can only be achieved while using the no-clip cheat. After passing through the wall, you will find a tiny compartment with the exit button inside.
Hitting this exit button will simply take you to Raw Meat, and level progression will proceed as normal.
Exit Button Not Required
A few levels can be completed without hitting an exit button, even though some of these levels actually do contain an exit button.
Duke Nukem 3D
- Red Light District: Upon approaching the exit button, Duke is ambushed by the aliens and caught in a prison cage. After a few seconds of a menacing message from his alien captors, the screen blacks out, before transitioning to the level-end screen.
- The Abyss: The level ends when the Battlelord is defeated.
- Overlord: The level ends when the Overlord is defeated.
- Stadium: The level ends with the Cycloid Emperor is defeated.
- The Queen: The level ends when the Alien Queen is defeated.
- Hollywood Inferno: The level ends when the Cycloid Incinerator is defeated.
Duke Caribbean: Life's a Beach
- Caribbean Catastrophe: Upon approaching a babe in a hot tub, Duke is suddenly captured in a prison cage. After a few seconds of a menacing message from his alien captors, the screen blacks out, before transitioning to the level-end screen.
- The Alien Remains: The level ends when the Cycloid Emperor is defeated.
Duke It Out In D.C.
- The first five levels are completed by opening a door with the Red Access Card and then walking down a passage marked with an "Exit" sign.
- Nuke Proof: The level ends when the Cycloid Emperor is defeated.
Duke: Nuclear Winter
- The first four levels suddenly end upon reaching certain areas, which are usually unmarked.
- Here Comes Santa Claws: The level ends when Santa Claws is defeated.
Duke Nukem 64
- Gun Crazy: This is a modified version of Red Light District from Duke Nukem 3D, and it ends the same way (see above).
- The Abyss: Unlike the original Duke Nukem 3D version of this level, the level ends when Duke drops into the hole before the final battle. The final battle occurs in a separate level of its own.
- Battlelord: This level is based on the final boss area from The Abyss in Duke Nukem 3D, and the level ends when the Battlelord is defeated.
- Dreadnought: This level is nearly identical to Overlord in Duke Nukem 3D, but the level ends when Duke drops below the spinning fan into the final boss room.
- Overlord: Despite its confusing name, this level is based only on the final boss room - not the entire map - from Overlord in Duke Nukem 3D, and the level ends when the Overlord is defeated.
- Stadium: This level is a complete overhaul of Stadium from Duke Nukem 3D, and the level similarly ends when the Cycloid Emperor is defeated.