Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour review

Last Updated on March 19, 2024

It was a strange week. My uncle had split with his wife and moved in with my gran, setting up his latest Windows PC in the spare room. That was where I first encountered Duke Nukem 3D, in the form of a demo disk from the cover of a magazine. This was the first (few?) levels of the game, but I was instantly hooked.

  • Platform: Nintendo Switch
  • Developer: 3D Realms
  • Publisher: Gearbox Software

Little did I know that 25 years later I’d be revisiting it on arguably the most flexible games console ever released. 

Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour came out in mid-2020 on Nintendo Switch (following an earlier 2016 release on Xbox One and PS4), a remastered but faithful port of the original title and its various add-on packs. There’s the option to switch between the remastered True 3D graphics with increased framerate and fidelity, or switch to the original 1996 look. Whichever option you choose, you get the fully remastered audio of Jon St. Jon uttering the various Duke Nukem catchphrases, and aliens declaring “I’m coming to get you!” and “Suck it down!”

It’s all there.

“Content that may be considered outdated

If you’re new to The Duke, a word of warning. Most games with 16 certificates have a bit of violence in them. Duke Nukem 3D manages to add bad language, lewd graphics, and other adult references. In short, this is not a family game.

You may also consider it to be a game unsuitable for the current prevailing sensibilities. Fortunately, there is an off switch.

But it would be a shame to abandon ship on the first glimpse of something sleazy, given the latest version of Duke’s greatest adventures features a multiplayer option supporting up to EIGHT players in ad hoc multiplayer locally or over the internet (also a featured in the Xbox One and PS4 version).

However, if you have children, a video game that features strip joints and adult book stores is not suitable entertainment.

A sleazy shooter

Let’s get the unsavoury stuff out of the way: this felt exciting in the 1990s, but it’s arguable that a proliferation of adult estalishments and video content over the past three decades has been detrimental to society.

What this game does, however, is retain all of that cash-for-tricks, video nasty material from the original and provides a good look at the world of 1996. And all the way through, we’ve got the voice of Jon St. John, with the original and new catchphrases, giving Duke that magnetic personality we fell in love with.

The sleaziness is a problem as far as a home console game might be concerned, but it does at least ground Duke’s world in a recognizable 1990s Los Angeles.

Additions to Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour

Don’t think this is simply a reissue of the original game. Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour features the classic three episodes (“L.A. Meltdown,” “Lunar Apocalypse,” and “Shrapnel City”), the Atomic Edition’s new episode “The Birth,” and a new fifth episode, “Alien World Order.” This has been created by the game’s original designers (Allen H. Blum III and Richard “Levelord” Gray, with new music by Lee Jackson) and ultimately amounts to 40 levels and 8 secret levels.

Beyond that, the game features what can only be described as “DVD extras” which includes a behind-the-scenes commentary from the original development team, which you can listen to as you play.

Additionally, you can switch between the original graphics engine and Gearbox’s all-new “True3D Rendering” mode in-game. From a personal perspective, the new graphics work much better on a modern TV, but the original graphics are perfect with the Switch in handheld mode.

You can also rewind through a level if you’re killed. Note that if you finish a level on low energy and get instantly killed on the next level, you’re going to have to rely on saves.

Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour gallery

The best way to play Duke Nukem 3D

In light of recent “remastered” releases (notably those from Aspyr), revisiting the Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour shows just how well a classic game can be brought to modern systems with the right amount of love and attention.

I’m not saying you wouldn’t enjoy cranking these games up on a classic 1990s PC or laptop, but there is just something perfect about the way the game responds and can be controlled using the Nintendo Switch. For example, gyroscopic aiming is far superior to WASD+mouse – my 21-year-old self would never believe it. Then you have the FPS rate, and the audio which I piped through the speakers of my Samsung flatscreen, and not at any point did I think “this really needs a Soundblaster.”

Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour : It might be 28 years old, but this game still rocks. The controls are pixel perfect on the Nintendo Switch, while the new episode extends your game time with a memorable addition. I'll probably never listen to the commentary, or play the online multiplayer again, but both are nice to have. Having the classic graphics option is also a smart choice, as is the death/rewind feature. In short, this is the ultimate Duke Nukem experience. I bloody love it! Christian Cawley

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About the author

Gaming since 1984, retro gaming since 2004. Contributes to Linux Format magazine, TechRadar.com, and other publications.

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