ThrowBack Thursday – Duke Nukem 3D

As a child, I played many games of every variety. Whether it was my sister or I, we would stay up hours upon hours blasting through everything we could. One of the first few times I played a game on PC, I was exposed to what would later become one of my favorite and nostalgic titles. While it might go down in infamy for terrible humor, unneeded sexualization, and a 10-year follow up that just couldn’t make it, Duke Nukem 3D stands out above the Dooms and Wolfensteins of that decade. Well, to me at least…


So, Duke Nukem has a very simple plot. Aliens of many races have invaded Earth and they have stolen all of the women. Cue the cigar smokin’, pistol wieldin’, bubblegum chewin’ savior. Unfortunately, the plot hasn’t really held over well simply due to aging over time and the natural maturity that the video game industry has grown into. Almost every earth-based level has a strip club or a sex store of some sort while you can pay the “patrons” to dance. Obviously, this hasn’t held up to certain standards over the years, but it’s hard to think of Duke Nukem without these features.

As a shooter though, it is a solid entry. You have a wide variety of weapons introduced to you over each mini campaign and some of them really do push creativity. While you have the generic pump shotgun and machine gun on one end of the spectrum, you have a shrink weapon and a freezing gun on the other. While there have been crazier things in recent AAA titles, this was really pushing itself for the decade it released. There are some issues with this though. Ammo for many of the weapons can be extremely scarce. To the point to where you may be left with no more than pistol ammo for a long stretch of a level which can be quite difficult.


If there are two things that we can remember from the older first person games, it’s the difficulty and the secrets. I can admit that I was never too great at these games and I had to play at the much lower difficulties (read: the lowest) if I planned on really succeeding. Spoiled from the modern mechanic of near immediate regeneration, it can be really difficult to play through this type of game while maintaining the same caution that we have essentially thrown out the window over the past years.

For those who like to explore though, secrets are always the greatest place to find weapons much earlier or even ammo for those tight moments. It’s a bit of a double-edged sword for myself. The secrets are literally everywhere. Sometimes as Easter eggs, and sometimes as the simple switch of a cross to pentagram. I loved looking for them, but it became irritating when the only way to progress was somehow in a secret corridor or behind a secret wall for some sort. Particularly, a cave system that was hidden behind a poster. I walked past it dozens of times and I eventually had to look up where to go and it was quite frustrating to realizing it was in front of me the entire time, yet so hidden.


Overall, many aspects of the Duke Nukem game haven’t aged well. The jokes are very outdated and the one liners grow old past the first level. The display of women was kind of funny on the first level in more of a “oh yeah, I forgot about that” kind of sense, but there’s no way it holds up to the standards today. In fact, the newest Duke Nukem reinforced this by labeling women in a derogative, almost objective standard and it fell flat. Where the game really shines though is the gunplay. As I have said, Duke Nukem is a solid shooter and many of the locations are unique and fun in variance. As of now, Gearbox is rumored to be looking for a developer to create the next Duke Nukem and if these were anything alike, I think I would definitely play it. Unfortunately, I think this is based more on nostalgia than anything else. If you want to give it a try, Duke Nukem 3D: Steam edition is currently on steam for a low cost and includes every piece of DLC released.


Camron Willey

Just finishing school with a bachelors degree in Game Design, I now spend my time working between Cynosure, and my personal projects. Being a full-time military member, I try to pass the time behind the keyboard or controller. If it involves design or deep narrative, I will be there day one. You can check out my blog and smaller past times on!

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