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The Duke Nukem franchise started early in The Nineties as a series of regular side-scrolling platformer games. It started under Apogee Software/3DRealms development, but in 2010, the rights of the series went to Gearbox Software.
The series is composed of several games which follows a loose continuity:
- Duke Nukem I (1991)
- Duke Nukem II (1993)
- Duke Nukem 3D (1996)
- Duke Nukem Manhattan Project (2002)
- Duke Nukem Forever (2011)
There were also several spinoffs for consoles.
- Duke Nukem: Time to Kill (1998)
- Duke Nukem: Zero Hour (1999)
- Duke Nukem: Land of the Babes (2000)
There are also hints of a live-action film being made.
Tropes found across the series include:
- Badass: Duke Nukem, of course!
- Bag of Spilling: In the first three games, Duke loses all weapons he picks up across episodes. Averted in Forever until the final battle.
- Brass Balls: One of Duke Nukem's catchphrases.
"I've got balls of steel!"
- The company that made Duke Nukem, 3D Realms, later released a Pinball game named Balls of Steel, which featured a Duke Nukem-themed table.
- Canon Dis Continuity: The third person shooters Time to Kill and Land of the Babes, for the original Playstation, while decent in their own right, aren't regarded as canon. The fact that they were made by different developers probably has something to do with that.
- Chivalrous Pervert: Duke is a royal jackass who has no problem shitting down an alien behemoth's neck after killing it, but he will never insult a woman directly.
- Damsel in Distress: All of Earth's women.
- Inconveniently-Placed Conveyor Belt: All four installments to date have at least one.
- Lock and Key Puzzle: The games are full of them. Lampshaded in Forever, where the trope takes on a more creative twist.
- Mascot Mook: The L.A.R.D pig cops have become this.
- Names to Run Away From Really Fast: Duke Nukem. Kinda obvious to see what happens when you piss him off.
- Negative Continuity: Implied. The guns at the Duke Museum in Forever state that they were used by Duke in 1996 ... which refers to the year when 3D came out. II was supposed to happen way into the future, since Duke Nukum sends Duke into the future ... from 1997, with 3D happening immediately after II's conclusion.
- One-Man Army: Duke Nukem, alone, takes on a mad scientist and his robot army, followed by two alien armies, the latter of which had already at least partially conquered Earth the first time. Acknowledged in a 2001 trailer of Duke Nukem Forever when a SWAT Officer asks "Hey pal, what are you gonna do, save the world all by yourself?"
- Pop-Cultured Badass: Duke, of course.
- Pre-Ass-Kicking One-Liner: Duke has many of these.
- Rated "M" for Manly: And how!
- Refuge in Audacity: Duke's bread and butter.
The Secret to Duke's Humor is that he and his universe actually are serious. In his world, it makes perfect sense for families to be visiting the Fellatio hotel (i.e., the Bellagio) in Las Vegas. Everything in his world is real for them, authentic. It's only when we look at it through the lens of our world that we get the joke.
—Randy Pitchford, April 2011 US Xbox 360 Magazine on why the game's humor is so effective