The series has been generally popular since its inception. Duke Nukem and Duke Nukem II, along with Commander Keen, helped make the platformer genre popular on the personal computer, as against games like Super Mario Bros. for video game consoles.
The games broke out of the shareware niche and into the mainstream gamer audience with Duke Nukem 3D, which also brought the series to the forefront of video game controversy. The game, like others such as Star Wars: Dark Forces, was one of the first titles considered comparable to Doom. The Build engine used in Duke Nukem 3D has also become one of the most popular engines among developers. Duke Nukem 3D was controversial, because of its depictions of sexuality, pornography, obscenities, graphic violence, drug use, and other taboo topics. This caused the game to be banned in Brazil and, in other countries, the sale of the game was strictly regulated against purchase by minors. Despite this, Duke Nukem 3D was a commercial and critical success for 3D Realms.
Duke Nukem Forever had been in development hell since 1997 until it was finally released on June 10th, 2011. The exceedingly long wait had spawned a number of jokes related to its development timeline. The video game media and the public in general have routinely suggested several names in place of Forever, calling it: "Never", "(Taking) Forever", "Whenever", "ForNever", "Neverever", and "If Ever". Many fans have noted that the game's initials, "DNF", also stand for Did Not Finish, which is an acronym widely used in motorsports to denote cars which did not reach the finish line (usually due to mechanical failure or crash). Due to Duke Nukem games featuring many pop culture references, a joke on the development hell nightmare of Duke Nukem Forever's production was included in the title itself, where Duke is playing it himself within the game, and when asked if it was any good, commented "After 12 fucking years, it should be!". The game has also won a wide variety of "vaporware awards".
Although anticipation was high, Duke Nukem Forever received negative to mixed reviews upon release from critics, with most of the criticism directed towards the game's clunky controls on consoles, shooting mechanics, and overall aging and dated design.The PR firm responsible for the game's publicity, The Redner Group, reacted to these reviews in a statement on the corporation's Twitter account. This comment appeared to threaten to withdraw access to review copies for future titles for reviewer who had been highly critical of the game. Head of the PR firm Jim Redner later apologised for and retracted this comment, and the original twitter post has been deleted. Despite the apologies, Publisher 2K Games has officially dropped The Redner Group from representing its products.
Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project, a spin-off from the main franchise released in 2002, generally received positive reviews in the video game press, with rankings around 7/10 and of 80 out 100. However, the game did not sell as well as hoped, and its developer Sunstorm Interactive is no longer in existence. Duke Nukem Advance, which was also released in 2002 for the Gameboy Advance, did also receive favorable reviews. Duke Nukem: Critical Mass, which was released the same year as Duke Nukem Forever and was developed for the Nintendo DS, received a similarly negative reception.