Duke Nukem (character)

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Duke Nukem
Duke Nukem character
Duke Nukem.png
Duke Nukem as he appears in Duke Nukem Forever
First game Duke Nukem (1991)
Created by George Broussard
Scott Miller
Jim Norwood
Todd Replogle
Voiced by Jon St. John[1]

Duke Nukem is a fictional character and main protagonist of the Duke Nukem series of video games. The character first appeared in the 1991 video game Duke Nukem, developed by Apogee Software. He has since starred in multiple sequels developed by 3D Realms. Most recently, he starred in Duke Nukem Forever, developed by Gearbox Software, which now owns the rights and intellectual property.

The character was created by Todd Replogle, Jim Norwood, George Broussard, and Scott Miller of Apogee Software. Duke Nukem was redesigned as the present tough guy incarnation by George Broussard and Allen Blum for the 1996 game Duke Nukem 3D. A sequel to Duke Nukem 3D, Duke Nukem Forever, was released in 2011, after remaining in development since 1997.

Personality / appearance[edit]

In the original two games, Duke Nukem barely spoke and was portrayed as a self-proclaimed hero initially hired by the CIA to save Earth from the mad scientist Dr. Proton. According to the stats provided by the Duke Nukem Character Memory Card, he is 6'4" (1,93 m)[2] and weighs 240 lbs. (109 kg).[2] Duke's personality has, since the third game in the series, Duke Nukem 3D, been that of a wise-cracking, hyper-masculine tough guy. In Duke Nukem II he starts to evolve into a more traditional action hero. His missions generally involve killing invading aliens that have invaded Earth. He is apparently sexually adept and irresistible to women, and circumstances frequently find him surrounded by many buxom women. However, he frequently mentions an estranged love named "Lani" in numerous games, although he never elaborates on her. On the contrary, she becomes the butt of many of his jokes. (In Duke Nukem 3D, he has a tattoo of her name on one of his buttocks.) This is widely believed to be a reference to Lani Minella, a voice actress who has done several voices for Duke Nukem 3D.

Duke Nukem's character is a pastiche of a number of Hollywood action heroes, such as those played by John Wayne, Charles Bronson in Death Wish, Arnold Schwarzenegger in Commando, Sylvester Stallone as Rambo, Bruce Willis as John McClane in Die Hard, Kurt Russell as Jack Burton from Big Trouble in Little China, Roddy Piper's character Nada from They Live, and Bruce Campbell as Ash Williams from The Evil Dead series. In fact, Duke's most famous line ("It's time to kick ass and chew bubble gum, and I'm all out of gum") came from the movie "They Live" with Roddy Piper saying, "I have come here to chew bubble gum and kick ass. And I'm all out of bubble gum." Duke's appearance resembles that of Brian Bosworth The Boz as well as characters played by Dolph Lundgren and Jean-Claude Van Damme.[3] Voiced by Jon St. John in all incarnations in which the character speaks (with the exception of Duke Nukem II), Duke's voice is based on that of Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry.[4]

Like the characters often played by Schwarzenegger and Stallone, Duke is a confident, aggressive, and frequently politically incorrect muscle man, who, although not superhuman, nonetheless manages to achieve incredible physical feats of violence and conquest through sheer machismo and expertise with automatic firearms. (However, a poster in the "barracks" in Episode 4, Level 1, suggests Duke Nukem may have been genetically engineered. In Duke Nukem Forever, his massive ego is somehow capable of functioning like a shield from physical damage.)

Other than a wide array of automatic firearms, explosives, and energy weapons, Duke is best known for his trademark jet pack, which provides him with the ability to fly short distances in quick bursts. He is also known for his golden Colt 1911 pistol and Ray-Ban Wayfarer sunglasses, which completely conceal his eyes and which he has not been seen without (even at night) since Duke Nukem 3D. His other trademarks include his leathers, his motorbikes, his monster truck "Mighty Foot" (as seen in Duke Nukem Forever) and his platinum blond, military-style haircut, all of which have remained the same since the first game. In every game, he traditionally wears a red tank top and blue jeans. In some of the games, Duke executes a maneuver known as the "mighty foot," which is basically a strong kick to the face.

In Duke Nukem II, Duke has written an autobiography titled Why I'm So Great which will later be autographed by Duke in Duke Nukem Forever. In Duke Nukem Forever, he owns a casino on the Las Vegas Strip called The Ladykiller, in which the "Damn! ... It's Late Show" (hosted by Johnny O'Lenoman) is taped, and is home to the Museum of Duke. He is also linked to the EDF (Earth Defense Forces). In a news conference held at the end of Duke Nukem Forever, he announces his intention of running for president, which would make him the 69th U.S. president.


Duke Nukem was initially created in the late 1980s by chief programmer Todd Replogle of Apogee Software (now 3D Realms) as the protagonist for the video game he was designing titled Heavy Metal, which was set in the then-near future of 1997. After hearing the character's name, producer and founder of Apogee, Scott Miller, suggested the game should have the same name, and he helped design the character. Artwork was produced by George Broussard, Allen H. Blum III, and Jim Norwood. However, the character was somewhat different in this original incarnation. Although he was blonde and stocky, in the original game, Duke Nukem was a self-proclaimed hero hired by the CIA, to stop madman Dr. Proton, who has besieged Earth's largest city with his robotic servants, the Techbots. Duke was not voiced, but spoke through on-screen text.

In the sequel, Duke Nukem II, was released two years later, Duke Nukem must protect Earth from an army of Rigelatins who plan to imprint his brain patterns on their war computer. The same mostly-silent incarnation of the character was used, although he was now an American hero. Duke Nukem II features an intro with one line, spoken by Joe Siegler ("I'm back"), and a death scream by character co-creator Todd Replogle.[5]

For Duke Nukem 3D, the character of Duke Nukem was dramatically redesigned by George Broussard and Allen Blum[6] as the more familiar macho, wise-cracking character of today. Duke Nukem 3D was one of the most controversial games at the time due to its strong violence, cultural stereotypes, strong language, and sexual content. Duke Nukem 3D, as well as the dozen or so subsequent Duke Nukem games, feature Jon St. John as the voice of Duke Nukem.[1] Duke Nukem 3D was the first game in which the character has a significant speaking role.

Games with Duke Nukem as a protagonist[edit]

Other appearances[edit]


Duke Nukem has been listed on many "Best Characters" and "Best Heroes" lists over the years,[7][8][9] including being listed as number one in ScrewAttack's "Top 10 Coolest Video Game Characters" list in 2007.[10] Featuring him in the section "top ten forces of good" in their 2004 list of top 50 retro game heroes, Retro Gamer called Duke "the ultimate cheese hero, and a true remnant of 80’s action flicks."[11] He was listed at number 27 in the "Top 50 Video Game Characters" list by Guinness World Records Gamer's Edition 2011.[12] GameDaily also ranked him sixth on their list of best anti-heroes in video game.[13] In 2011, Empire ranked him as the 20th greatest video game character, calling him "one of the best action characters ever devised" and adding that "Film might have Schwarzenegger, but Gaming's got Mr Nukem".[14]

Reception of the character by the time of Duke Nukem Forever's release was mostly mixed. Dan Whitehead of Eurogamer elaborated on Duke Nukem's decreased relevance since 1996, and added that the character's "half-hearted digs" at rival franchises were ill-advised due to the game's datedness.[15] Charles Onyett of IGN likened Duke Nukem's maturity to a "12-year-old boy with Internet access" and expressed disappointment in the character's datedness and the missed opportunity on the developers' part to "[play] with the idea of Duke as an anachronism".[16] Ryan Winterhalter of 1UP.com noted that Duke Nukem had become "a caricature of his former self. He's crossed the line from charmingly foul-mouthed to obnoxious and embarrassing."[17] Cian Hassett of PALGN was more positive about the character, finding him to be "genuinely hilarious" due to his tongue-in-cheek rejection of video game traditions (such as finding a key to open a door or wearing a special suit of armor).[18] Complex ranked him as the first "douchiest" video game character, stating, "[t]he trench coat, sunglasses, cheap one-liners, and bevy of women make Duke Nukem the ultimate douche."[19]


  1. ^ a b Jon St. John at the Internet Movie Database
  2. ^ a b Duke Nukem Character Memory Card[dead link]
  3. ^ [1][dead link]
  4. ^ [2][dead link]
  5. ^ "3D Realms Forums - View Single Post - Jon St. John Confirmed To Be Back In DNF!". Forums.3drealms.com. Retrieved 2013-10-03. 
  6. ^ "Duke Nukem history - 3D Realms Forums". Forums.3drealms.com. Retrieved 2013-10-03. 
  7. ^ "Best Heroes of All Time". UGO.com. 2010-01-21. Retrieved 2013-10-03. 
  8. ^ "The Top 10 Male Badasses in Gaming". VGRC. 2010-06-17. Retrieved 2013-10-03. 
  9. ^ "Top 10 Biggest Gaming Bad Asses". CraveOnline. 2007-10-17. Retrieved 2013-10-03. 
  10. ^ "Top Ten Coolest Characters - The Last Boss". Web.archive.org. Archived from the original on 2007-08-09. Retrieved 2013-10-03. 
  11. ^ Retro Gamer, page 37.
  12. ^ "Guinness World Records Top 50 Video Game Characters - Voodoo Extreme". Ve3d.ign.com. Retrieved 2013-10-03. 
  13. ^ "Top 25 Anti-Heroes". GameDaily. Archived from the original on April 27, 2009. Retrieved July 22, 2013. 
  14. ^ Dyer, James; McComb, David; Plumb, Alastair; Scarborough, David (May 26, 2010). "The 50 Greatest Video Game Characters - 20. Duke Nukem". Empire. Retrieved August 2, 2013. 
  15. ^ Dan Whitehead (June 11, 2011). "Duke Nukem Forever Review". Eurogamer. Retrieved June 11, 2011. 
  16. ^ Charles Onyett (June 11, 2011). "Duke Nukem Forever Review - Xbox 360 Review at IGN". IGN. Retrieved June 11, 2011. 
  17. ^ Ryan Winterhalter (June 14, 2011). "Duke Nukem Forever Review for PC, 360, PS3 from 1UP.com". 1UP.com. Retrieved June 14, 2011. 
  18. ^ Cian Hassett (June 11, 2011). "Duke Nukem Forever". PALGN. Retrieved June 11, 2011. 
  19. ^ "The 25 Douchiest Video Game Characters". Complex. Retrieved 2013-04-20. 

External links[edit]