Duke Nukem is the sole protagonist of the Duke Nukem franchise. He was created by George Broussard, Todd Replogle, Scott Miller, and Allen Blum of 3D Realms/ Apogee Software. Since the debut of Duke Nukem 3D, Duke's iconic voice was fueled by voice actor Jon St. John. Originally a disgruntled TV viewer who took offense to Dr. Proton interrupting his shows, Duke's personality in all his games since Duke Nukem 3D has been that of a hyper-masculine, egotistical, machismo-filled womanizer, and his missions generally involved killing aliens that had invaded Earth to enslave its women.
Duke Nukem's character is a pastiche of a number of Hollywood-action heroes. Duke is a confident, aggressive, and frequently politically incorrect muscle-man, who, although not technically superhuman, nonetheless manages to achieve incredible physical feats of violence and conquest through sheer machismo and expertise with automatic weapons. Nukem is also a smart-mouth and his sneering visage is often found speaking cheesy one-liners while slaughtering his enemies. He is also apparently extremely sexually adept and irresistible to women, and circumstances generally find him surrounded by many buxom members of the fairer sex.
Other than a wide array of automatic firearms, explosives, and energy weapons, Duke is best known for his trademark jet pack, which gives him the ability to fly short distances in quick bursts. He is also known for his golden Desert Eagle pistol and a pair of eye-obscuring sunglasses he has worn since since Duke Nukem 3D. He also has blond hair cut in a short, military-style crewcut; a style maintained since his first appearance.
In 1991, Duke Nukem first appeared in the self-titled Duke Nukem, an Apogee platform game. It consisted of three episodes, the first of which was distributed as shareware. Two years later, Duke Nukem II was published, and took advantage of 25-color VGA graphics, MIDI music, and digitized sound.
The character's popularity grew with the release of Duke Nukem 3D, released in 1996, which exchanged the previous games' side-scrolling action for first-person shooting. At the time, Duke Nukem 3D was highly controversial due to it's high amount of violence, sexual content/nudity, and strong language. The game established the Duke Nukem persona as a parody of masculinity.
In 2011, Duke Nukem appeared in the long-delayed Duke Nukem Forever. In promoting the game, Gearbox Software referenced the lengthy development cycle of fourteen years by revealing information on where Duke has "been" over the years. Images of these exploits have been posted on the official Duke Nukem Forever website as well as within the game itself. These images indicate that Duke led an eventful life over those years, having done everything from winning the World Series of Poker to traveling into space.
In the present of Duke Nukem Forever, Duke is considered a hero and a celebrity, adored by fans everywhere. He also owns a variety of businesses including a chain of Duke Burger fast food restaurants. At the start of the game, Duke is preparing for an appearance on a talk show when Earth comes under attack by aliens that are set on kidnapping women from Earth, including Duke's babes, the Holsom twins.
Duke Nukem is notorious for spouting one-liners, though a number of his most famous quotes are actually taken from movies such as Army of Darkness and They Live.
- In the intro cutscene for Duke Nukem II: "I'm back!"
- "Come get some!"
- "Hail to the King, baby!"
- "Let's rock!"
- "Damn I'm good!"
- "Your face. Your ass. What's the difference?"
- "It's time to kick ass and chew bubble gum...and I'm all out of gum."
- "Life is like a box of ammo"
- "Blow it out your ass"
- "All aboard the Midtown Express...TO HELL!"
- "I'm gonna get medieval on your asses''
- "I go where I please and i please where I go"
- "It's a good day to die"
- "Nukem till they glow then shoot them in the dark"
- "Looks like it's time to kill"
- "Eat shit and die"
- "Take that, You bastard alien mother fucker!"
- "I'm looking for some alien toilet to park my bricks, who's first?"
- "Time flies when you're kicking ass"
- When giving strippers money: "Shake it baby"
- When starting third episode: "It's time to kick ass and chew bubble gum. And I'm all out of gum."
- When encountering the boss of the first episode: "You're an inspiration for birth control."
- When encountering the boss of the second episode: "I'll rip off your head and shit down your neck!" (Sidenote: in the cutscene following Duke's defeat of the Overlord, the boss of episode 2, he does just that.)
- When examining the Duke Nukem II arcade machine: "Hmm, don't have time to play with myself."
- When examining the Balls of Steel arcade machine: "I've got balls of steel!"
- Seeing a corpse of a space marine from Doom: "Hmm, that's one doomed space marine." (Referring to Doom as being "old and forgotten.")
- After experiencing a minor earthquake: "I ain't afraid of no quake." (Referring to the competition from id Software's Quake.)
- Whenever an alien is blown to bits: "Oooh, that's gotta hurt!" or "Hehehe! What a mess!"
- When "using" a mirror: "Damn! I'm looking good!"
- When landing on the rooftop in the first level: "Damn. Those alien bastards are gonna pay for shootin' up my ride!"
- When landing on a road after a helicopter crash: "Damn! That's the second time those alien bastards shot up my ride!"