Revisiting and Ranking the Duke Nukem Console Games

The Duke had a number of titles on gaming consoles in the 90s, whether they were ports of Duke Nukem 3D, or original and exclusive titles for either the N64 or PSX. The N64 games generally offered better graphics thanks to N64’s hardware, but the PSX titles had better sound. That isn’t where the differences stop, though.


In this article, we’re going to look at the major Duke Nukem titles for the N64 and PSX consoles, and rank them in order of Dukeness.


Note: I’m aware a Sega Saturn version of Duke Nukem 3D exists, but it’s hardly worth mentioning, as it was a direct port with slightly enhanced lighting effects and a few levels stripped out, adding nothing new whatsoever to the game.

#6 Duke Nukem Forever (PS3 / Xbox 360)

I didn’t even want to mention this disasterpiece, but it was released on consoles as well as PC. Look, we all know Duke Nukem Forever was beyond disappointing. Not simply because it spent fifteen years in development, but because it was horribly outdated, clunky, and bug-ridden.


When a game spends an absurd amount of time in development hell, you know it’ll never meet expectations. But it felt like Gearbox swooped in, cobbled together the final pieces of 3D Realms’ trainwreck, and released it just to say they did it.


If I’m being totally honest, the most fun I had in Duke Nukem Forever was at the in-game casino slots, and I might as well just play some real 3D casino slots like the ones found at Casumo casino. At least I might actually win some money, instead of throwing it at a sorry mess like DNF.

#5 Duke Nukem 64 (N64)

Total Meltdown and Duke Nukem 64 are both console ports of Duke Nukem 3D, so it’s difficult to say which is better. It boils down to which extra features you prefer, although this YouTube video does a great side-by-side comparison of both games.


Duke Nukem 64 offered 4-player split screen, better 3D graphics than the Playstation version, and better game performance overall. In terms of graphics and engine, Total Meltdown was a much more polished console port, almost a “rebuilding” of the original game for N64. It also had some new weapons, and support of the N64’s Rumble Pak.


While Duke Nukem 64 had the better graphics, it also suffered from poor sound, in fact game music was completely removed due to cartridge storage limitations.


The game was also a bit heavily censored for Nintendo, removing all the strippers, sex and drug references that made Duke Nukem what it was, an adult-oriented shooter. 

#4 Duke Nukem: Total Meltdown (PSX)

While Duke Nukem 64 was a polished and upgraded port of Duke Nukem 3D, the PSX version Total Meltdown was a faithful direct port of the PC version, altering almost nothing from the original.


In truth, this made Total Meltdown a bit “uglier” than Duke Nukem 64 that had fancier 3D graphics, but Total Meltdown had the advantage of PSX’s CD-quality sound, as well as not being censored.


Total Meltdown also featured a completely exclusive fourth episode, “Plug ‘N’ Pray”, which featured 6 brand new levels not available in the N64 or PC version (it’s available on PC via fan mod).


Overall you can’t really say Total Meltdown is better than Duke Nukem 64 or vice versa, they both offered strengths and weaknesses depending on the limitations of their respective console hardware. I just give the slight edge to Total Meltdown for having the exclusive fourth episode.

#3 Duke Nukem: Land of the Babes (PSX)

As a sequel of Time to Kill, this Playstation title offered the same Tomb Raider-inspired gameplay, albeit slightly more difficult. There was nothing wrong with Land of the Babes, honestly speaking, and in fact it had slightly better graphics, control scheme, and new weapon designs over TTK.


It just overall suffered from “sequel syndrome”, and in today’s world, it would’ve been an expansion pack for Time to Kill rather than a standalone sequel. That’s not saying Land of the Babes was a bad game, it was a very good one and some Duke fans may even consider it better than Time to Kill.


I’m just saying it built very little on Time to Kill’s gameplay and would’ve been a DLC in modern gaming.

#2 Duke Nukem: Zero Hour (N64)

If you slightly alter the general plot of Time to Kill and give it upgraded graphics thanks to N64’s hardware, you’d have Zero Hour, because that’s what it is. It really does rehash the plot of Time to Kill almost ad-verbatim (travel back to different time periods, stop evil alien pigs from destroying the future), but it’s not a port of TTK to N64, it’s a completely new game.


The good parts of Zero Hour were familiar run-and-gun shooter action, a wide variety of weapons and enemy types, and intricately designed levels with tons of secret areas to find.


Zero Hour also had incredible graphics (for its time), thanks to the N64s Expansion Pak and a 32 megabyte cartridge. If using the Expansion Pak, you could enable a “high-res” graphics mode, but it absolutely murdered the game’s framerates.


A major flaw of the game that prevents it from being the #1 Duke Nukem console game was a total lack of save points during levels. This meant that if you died on a level, you had to start over all the way from the beginning.

#1 Duke Nukem: Time to Kill (PSX)

Arguably the best of all Duke Nukem console titles, Time to Kill offered some very unique gameplay compared to previous Duke Nukem games. It was heavily inspired by the platforming elements of Tomb Raider, which meant there were ledges to climb, platforms to jump across, and secret buttons to press, in third-person camera view.


Duke wasn’t shy about this obvious inspiration and made many jokes and references to Tomb Raider throughout the game, like discovering Lara Croft’s outfit in a closet.


Aside from being Duke Raider though, Time to Kill had a really cool plot that sent Duke back in time to cowboy-western, medieval, and Roman empire eras, to stop the aliens from altering the future.


The game offered crystal-clear sound thanks to Playstation’s hardware, and thousands of little Dukes were introduced to industrial-metal band Stabbing Westward, featured in TTK’s opening cinematic.