The announcement of Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour coming to modern consoles was certainly an intriguing one, offering fans the same nostalgic experience with vast improvements and an additional eight new levels to boot. Whilst we wait for Oct. 11 to roll around, here are the best games from across the King’s history.
12. Duke Nukem Mobile
Duke’s appearance on the handheld Tapwave Zodiac was decent enough, but not one that will live long in the memory. It combined the key strafe-and-shoot features we’ve come to expect from Duke games, yet it sided more with the cell phone release of Duke Nukem Mobile compared to anything released on PC.
It is such a short experience as well, taking less than a couple of hours even on the hardest difficulty. Nevertheless, it was an impressive pick up and play experience for a Zodiac release.
11. Duke Nukem Mobile II Bikini Project
Following on from Duke Nukem Mobile was Bikini Project, picking up from where the original Duke Nukem Mobile left off. Despite narrowly missing out on the top 10, this was actually a decent sequel, offering a surprisingly fast pace with aliens constantly attacking Duke from all sides, and even threw in a jetpack and flamethrower for good measure.
Through 15 levels of hopping over pits of acid or crossing burner rafters there wasn’t that much to brag about, however. The gameplay became somewhat repetitive, and dodging shots was just as difficult as it was in the first game.
10. Duke Nukem: Critical Mass
2011 was a terrible year for Duke. With Duke Nukem Forever widely considered the worst game of that year on home consoles, Duke Nukem: Critical Mass was branded the worst handheld game of the same year by many critics. The variety on offer within the game nudges it into the top 10, with 36 levels of mixed styles of gameplay, from third-person to first-person and even top-down shooting sequences.
It was an admirable effort to bring such a cocktail of different elements into the Nintendo DS game. Having said that, this was one ugly-looking game. The poor graphics in turn left buildings looking blurry and unfinished, and enemies lacking any kind of personality, let alone the kind of looks we’ve become so accustomed to over the years.
9. Duke Nukem Forever
Yeah, it makes the top 10. Just hear me out first, okay? Please? Listen, I was just as upset with this game as you were. The mechanics were clunky, the graphics were dated and the loading times were ridiculous. In fact, even as a Duke fan I found some of the humor offensive, including particular moments in the Hive level, and it rightfully deserved to be branded as the most disappointing game of 2011.
But that aside, the game wasn’t unplayable. If you were running a checklist of what you expect from a Duke Nukem game, you would find the chauvinistic, over-the-top silliness that goes hand in hand with Nukem games, holding no regard to offending the audience. It may have aged badly, yet a lot of the criticism stems from the fact that this was a game stuck in developmental hell for over 10 years. That is a heck of a long time for expectations to build, so it seemed destined to displease fans if it was anything short of the modern day shooters we’d become accustomed to. That’s about as far as I can go for defending Duke Nukem Forever, it was nice to see him back but the game nowhere near lived up to the expectations after such a long period of time.
8. Duke Nukem Advance
Unlike Duke Nukem Forever, putting this entry on hold to fine tune the game did wonders for Duke Nukem Advance. Eventually releasing in September 2001 after a short delay, Duke Nukem Advance was considered one of the best shooters ever released on the GBA, with 19 levels and a four-player deathmatch mode making this a game that would last beyond completing the game.
The presentation was remarkable considering the platform it was on too, with simple cut-and-dry gameplay of blasting aliens with the odd puzzle-esque moment here and there. But mainly it’s sheer firepower, just how we like it.
7. Duke Nukem: Zero Hour
The Nintendo 64 entry in the franchise had a lot going for it. Over 30 different levels, a wide range of traditional and new enemies, a huge arsenal of weapons and plenty of one liners to satisfy your inner Duke. And this wasn’t your typical storyline either, as an alien plot to use time travel took players to both present day and post-apocalyptic areas of New York City, the Wild West and Victorian England.
The variation of the game made this stand out from the rest in terms of its narrative, and a smooth multiplayer mode made this worthy of its spot on the list. An in-game map would’ve come in handy, though.
6. Duke Nukem
Where it all began, and before the days of the iconic sunglasses no less! The original Duke Nukem release was a fairly straightforward one, set in the then not-too-distant future of 1997, as Duke was tasked with taking down the insane Dr. Proton and his army of tech robots.
Duke Nukem is a well worth experiencing even for nostalgic purposes alone if you haven’t tried it out, not to mention being the catalyst for superb set of sequels and spin-offs that would cement Nukem’s place in gaming folklore.
5. Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project
It may be seeing things through rose-tinted spectacles to put this particular entry so high up, but Manhattan Project certainly had its moments. Taking more of a Pandemonium-style approach rather than the Dukes of old, Manhattan Project is a straight-shooting platformer with double-jumping and quips about boobies galore. Taking place surprisingly in New York City, the man with “the greatest job in the world” is tasked with hunting down the dastardly Mech Morphix and his band of merry mutant minions.
Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t without its shortcomings (not being able to shoot diagonally was a pain in particular) but it was still a well-polished product, which even threw the odd puzzle into the mix to keep things interesting. Definitely worth a play through, and as an added bonus the Xbox Arcade version offers easy to get achievements, and I mean EASY.
4. Duke Nukem: Land of the Babes
Looking for a cliche-riddled 80s-style action movie video game? As a direct sequel to 1998’s Time To Kill, Land of the Babes mirrored a significant amount from its predecessor. The mechanics are more or less the same and bar the game being a bit tougher, it didn’t really add much more than Time to Kill had already given. It makes the top four on the basis that it used so much that worked well from TTK, but other than that it didn’t offer much to get placed any higher.
3. Duke Nukem II
Given that this came three years after Duke Nukem 3D and the handheld console it was released on, expectations couldn’t be too high for a Game Boy Color outing for the resident foul-mouthed alien hunter. Yet this brought to the table what Duke Nukem 3D had brought to the PC previously, giving gamers that little bit of extra oomph and detail to help it stand out from other franchises.
Boasting 16 levels, a whopping 25 different types of enemy, slick animations, and a ton of weaponry, Duke Nukem II (titled Duke Nukem on Game Boy Color) took a lot of us by surprise. Many a childhood night was spent squinting at a small screen as Duke pulverized alien scum with his never-ending shotgun shelling. Happy days.
2. Duke Nukem 3D
The whole reason this article is here in the first place. Commercially, this game was a big hit, selling nearly four million copies worldwide. Duke Nukem 3D was praised when it was released on PC for its fluidity and recognizable environments. More importantly, it’s considered to be one of the catalysts for the popularization of first-person shooters, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Doom and Wolfenstein 3D.
Duke Nukem 3D was set sometime in the 21st century somewhere on planet Earth. Why so vague? There wasn’t much to learn about the story when this was released, bar a short text prelude found in the help menu and a cutscene here and there. This was also a time when there wasn’t so many risqué games with such crude, tongue-in-cheek humor. It was also able to offer gameplay features such as using a jetpack and swimming, not to mention all the babes and Jon St John catchphrases you could handle, so be sure to pick up the remake when it hits the current generation next month. “I’m here to kick ass and chew bubblegum….” You know the rest.
1. Duke Nukem: Time to Kill
With the exception of Crash Bandicoot and the odd FIFA game, this is where the majority of my time on the PS1 went. This was the perfect Duke game in so many ways; it was Duke Nukem in third-person form with Tomb Raider-style controls (which is often referenced in the game) with explosive gameplay and a kickass soundtrack, courtesy of industrial metal band Stabbing Westward.
As Duke makes his way to the Bootylicous strip club in downtown LA, he’s set upon by teleporting pig cops who arrive to ruin his party. Not cool, man. A highlight of the game was the two-player deathmatch feature, set in areas loosely based on levels in the single-player mode. This was before the confines of multiplayer objectives and rules, so it was left up to your imagination to make your own fun on it. A rendition of dynamite dodgeball in Ancient Rome or banning the RPG because it was too overpowered to use on your fellow sibling, friend or neighbour.
But most importantly, Time to Kill was such a well-rounded game with a decent storyline, impressive and fun to use mechanics and an overall authentic experience of Duke completely in his element.