Duke Nukem- Should he have been a bigger name in gaming?

When we think about popular old-school video games from the 90’s one of the few names that comes to mind aside from Super Mario, Samus Aran, Sonic the Hedgehog, Tifa Lockheart and Cloud Strife is Duke Nukem. The very first Duke Nukem game was released back in ’91 for the MS-DOS as a 2D platformer and slowly began to increase in popularity throughout the 90’s decade. By the time we got to the mid 90’s the Duke Nukem series had seemingly reached its peak especially following the release of the 3D title back in 1996. Duke Nukem 3D was arguably one of the best first person shooters from the 90’s decade along with the likes of Doom, Wolfenstein 3D and Golden Eye 007 from ’93-’97. Also, Duke Nukem: Time To Kill from ’98 was somewhat popular on the PS1 despite being overshadowed by a variety of games on that console during the late 90’s. As a video game character Duke Nukem had a lot of potential and many people feel that his popularity should have increased during the 00’s decade; especially considering how popular the shooter genre of gaming had become during that era. While we did get Duke Nukem: Forever in 2011 the game was heavily criticized for its cheesy dialogue and outdated graphics. If Duke Nukem: Forever was released back in the early 00’s for the PS2 or Xbox it could have been more popular than it was. However, one of the main problems with Duke Nukem was the fact that as a character he did not connect with the general audience enough to a point where he could have been a larger than life figure. Duke Nukem as a character was created mainly to appeal to teenagers & young adults and during the 00’s and 10’s; what was considered cool during both those decades was different than what was hot back in the 90’s. Also, people had more options in relation to shooter video games within the past two decades with the emergence of the Call of Duty, Halo and Unreal Tournament franchises which made Duke Nukem seem both lame and irrelevant at the same time. One of the reasons why Duke Nukem was so popular back in the 90’s was because he seemed ahead of his time while being in the right era of gaming. Unfortunately, the landscape of gaming had evolved to a point where first and third person shooter titles are nothing special in this day and age compared to the 90’s. Also, the Duke Nukem series would not be able to compete with other titles within first person shooter genre terms in popularity or quality.

1 Comment

  1. Duke is very much a product of his time. Not only was he created for teenagers/young adults but he was specifically made for a male audience. It’s interesting though that a series like Grand Theft Auto can persevere with similar themes while Duke was left in the dust. Obviously, the 3D shooter moved on without him and as you said, it became overshadowed by a lot of other great content. Duke certainly set the stage, though, and was likely a big stepping in the kinds of games we have today.


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