Duke Nukem Forever Atari 2600
I’ve written about Duke Nukem a bunch, but one thing I never did was something I did ages ago – made a functional prototype of Duke Nukem Forever for the Atari 2600. It was an April fool’s joke I released on the 3D Realms site back in 2003. The page I released for that is still online actually, you can see it here. But I wanted to take a moment and mention a few things about it.
This was something I thought of back in March of 2003, I thought it would be a funny idea to produce a Duke Nukem Forever game for the Atari 2600. So I set out to work on the page linked above. I got some text written, and then I realized from my brother he knew someone who can make actual cartridges so it moved forward in a way I wasn’t expecting.
At the time I hung out in the forums at the Atari Age website, so I knew a bunch of what the Atari community would find plausible, and I used that information to construct text that would be believable and not IMMEDIATELY dismissed as a joke or a fake. I mean – I was releasing this on April Fool’s Day so I knew it would be dismissed as a joke, but I wanted to put enough in there to make people think “Wait – maybe this is real?” – even for just a minute. I mean, we also released the source code to Duke Nukem 3D at the exact same time – and that WAS real. Releasing two things at once that was real, and one that wasn’t gave me the idea to bring out confusion there.
The friend of my brother came through big time. We ended up with several physical copies of Duke Nukem Forever for the Atari 2600. Some were in the red label and some were in the silver label. Two of them were real, and two of them were fake. By fake I mean if you put one in an Atari 2600, it would play Donkey Kong or Combat or some other super common 2600 game. But two honestly did what they said they did. Put it in, and it would show you the Duke Nukem title image from the artwork on the front. I took a video of myself for that page, and released that, too. I was accused of hooking my TV up to an external video feed, of faking the image on the TV – all wrong. The cart really did do that. Said friend of my brother had a program that would downrez any JPG to a 4k 2600 image which could then be burnt onto a physical chip – making it really work as a 2600 game. That’s what I had in my hand. Here’s a copy of that video (which I later stuck on Youtube).
I gave one of the real working copies to George Broussard, and kept the other one. The fakes were used elsewhere – two of them were in a display case at the 3D Realms offices. When that closed in 2009, the cases went over to the temp 3DR offices in the Gearbox building in Plano, and after that all stopped, I don’t know what happened to them (the physical models for the Rise of the Triad robots were there too, but also have gone missing in the years since). So I had one of the fakes left in my possession in storage, and one real one.
That is until June 2017 when I took the real functioning silver Duke Nukem Forever cartridge and donated it to the National Videogame Museum in Frisco TX. They had a display about home-brew video games I saw one time when I was there. I contacted the owner of the place, as he’s a friend of Randy Pitchford (someone else whom I know), and he thought it would be cool to have that in the display. So out to Frisco I went on 1 Jun 2017 and handed him the game (after plugging into one of the 2600’s there to show him it was real). I haven’t been out there since covid started, but the last time I looked it was still on display.
That’s pretty much the story. I had fun putting that together, and got a bunch of laughs when it was released – including he people who got legit angry that we’d waste our time developing THIS when we should be working on the “real game”. Gotta love internet rage sometimes.
Anyway, tkx for reading, if you have any questions about this, drop ’em in the comments.
UPDATE July 2023
I got an Atari Flashback Gold 50th Anniversary Edition. What’s cool about this is you can flash the drive and install your own roms. So guess what I did? That’s right – put the Duke Nukem Forever rom on there, with some of my old 20 year text as a description. Here’s a couple of pictures.
Got an Atari Flashback Gold 50 - love me some Atari 2600! You can flash the unit to play custom roms, which I've done. Has a stupid amount of games on there now, but I had to put Duke Nukem Forever 2600 on there. Still works just the same.— jᎾᎬ sᎥᎬᎶᏞᎬᏒ (@JoeSiegler) July 20, 2023
... and you thought it was fake! pic.twitter.com/7mTRUlpq2Q