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Fallout 3 Fat Man Nuke.jpg

Now you are become death, destroyer of worlds. The video game version of Nuclear Option or Nuke'Em, except here it's your responsibility to turn the key.

The nuclear weapon is one of mankind's most awe-inspiring achievements, so naturally video games have jumped on the activation of one as the ultimate thrill for players. Nothing quite matches the satisfaction of washing your enemy away in an explosion so bright it whites out the screen for a few seconds.

Oddly, nukes appearing in games are rarely as powerful as their real-life counterparts. Shooters in particular are usually forced to create a strange kind of portable mini-nuke with a yield comparable to an ultra grenade and use that instead. This will resemble a nuke as closely as possible, but on a far smaller scale. (While portable nukes might not be as far removed from reality as you'd think, you still wouldn't want to use them within 50 metres of the target.)

Compare Nuke'Em, for when the player isn't directly involved in the launch. On the opposite end of the scale to Nuclear Weapons Taboo. Can serve as a Deus Ex Nukina.

Examples of You Nuke'Em include:

  • Fallout 3 allows the player to detonate Megaton's namesake bomb, wiping out the city entirely. It also comes with a few varieties of the mini-nuke sort, and even exploded cars left over from before the war go up in a nuclear detonation. All such explosions irradiate the immediate area.
    • Earlier Fallout games usually ended with the player detonating a nuke conveniently stred in the Big Bad's main base. In Fallout Tactics, the player's team uses a nuke to break into Cheyenne Mountain.
  • Deus Ex: The player character chooses a new target for a nuclear missile already being launched by the big bad.
  • Mass Effect 2 features the M-920 Cain, the largest heavy weapon available. While the game goes out of its way to point out that the gun is in fact just a heavy kinetic weapon and not at all nuclear, it's still painted with classic radioactivity symbols, is referred to as the "The Nuke Gun" and creates the expected mushroom cloud. You only get one shot with it (two if you find all the ammo upgrades) and kills everything dead in a significant radius, including you if you're too close, with the exceptions of the thresher maw and the final boss.
  • Crysis has a few different yields, but they're all of the mini-nuke variety.
  • Civilization, being an empire game, allows you to use a full-power nuke on enemy cities.
  • Alpha Centauri (being a spin-off of the Civilization series) has the Planet Buster as its nuke analogue, which leaves a massive crater where an enemy faction's city used to be. Actually detonating a planet buster (or two, or three) is a good way to get all the other factions to team up against you, unless you revoke the UN Charter first.
  • World in Conflict
  • A 25 kill streak in Modern Warfare 2 nets you the ability to call down a tactical nuke, which ends the game in a wash of nuclear fire.
  • At the end of Mercenaries 2: World In Flames, you receive a mini nuke so you can break open Solano's bunker. You can buy more from your PMC shop after this.
  • The Scorched Earth game (and its many imitators) has nukes of various sorts, including large and small atom bombs. They act as mininukes, only blowing up a section of the screen.
  • This is the entire point of DEFCON: the game is a loose simulation of global thermonuclear warfare, and essentially the first half of the game is spent sending out scouts, building missile silos and generating planes and ships while patiently waiting for DEFCON 1, at which point the entire game map becomes a hailstorm of nuclear missiles. Verges on a Deconstruction of this trope, given its simplistic visuals and sombre atmosphere, whereas the trope usually entails a stunning spectacle and encourages the player to revel in the power.
  • Starcraft has mininukes too - they can take out a cluster of a few small buildings in a base.
    • Terrans have outlawed full scale nuclear missiles (which they are fully capable of building by the way) after some fighting in between them. However, the Nukes being called by the ghosts in combat are intentionally much smaller scale to prevent any lasting damage. That is not to say that they are weak, they can still drop most units in the game, but capital ships can actually survive them.
  • In the player made expansion to Halo: Combat Evolved named Halo: Custom Edition two of the most commonly used user made maps were Coldsnap and Hugea$$. Both of these maps are more than several kilometers long and contain at least two pilot-able Longswords, large fighters you never got to use in the "normal" game. While their main guns are pretty devastating, their alt fire launches a small tactical nuke. The resulting explosion is so large that many of the original Halo maps would have been completely engulfed. To balance this the bomb makes a loud whistling sound as it descends and falls rather slowly. Of course, you could always Fly nice and low to the ground so you don't have to wait very long for the bang.
  • In Destroy All Humans! one mission is to sneak a nuclear warhead onto a military base, then run away before it can detonate. If you succeed, you get to watch a big ol' mushroom cloud spring up, and for the rest of the game, when you revisit that level, the military base is replaced with a giant hole in the ground.
  • Syndicate Wars features the "Cataclysm" nuclear grenade, a hand grenade that will knock down a building in a little nuclear explosion.
  • Supreme Commander: the first video demo showed a big battle, implying several hundred units from each side, including tanks, battle bots, aircraft, and even a couple of ships. The whole scene of the battle was washed out at the end by a gigantic nuclear explosion, that blinded the screen for about 5 seconds, and ended with a massive ball of fire. This is what I call nuked. In later announcements however, we learned that the nukes were opposed by anti-missile launchers, and that an overload attack would imply more that 20 nukes (!). And they are not the ultimate category of weaponry.
    • To add to the humiliation of defeat, the destruction of the Supreme Commander, which are big robotic units that serve of starting the construction of the base, would result in a nuclear explosion. Too bad for you: not only your Sup Com unit is very precious, if it blasted in your base, you're screwed.
    • Taken Up to Eleven in the last UEF mission, where after your Hold the Line mission has been successfull for long enough you get to press the button on the Black Sun which destroys multiple planets. The button is simply marked 'Win the infinite war'.
  • Total Annihilation the Spiritual Predecessor to Supreme Commander, also has powerful nukes, and anti-nuke defenses. Since they were so much cheaper though, arranging for enough to pierce the missile shield was much easier. Of course, the Anti-nuke defenses were also much cheaper. The resulting stalemates were the cause of Supreme Commander's massive game-ending Experimentals.
  • Harpoon allows for the use of nuclear weapons, although you have to alter a setting to enable them.
  • Surprisingly ineffective in Command and Conquer. Tanks can survive the things, and it takes three to wipe a town centre.
    • They did get a boost in Tiberium Wars though; where they instantly destroy anything that isn't a Construction Yard, Superweapon or Epic Unit. The blast radius also got a significant buff.
    • The player also gets to launch two nukes in cinematics in the Nod campaign of Tiberium Wars, which are quite a bit more powerful — they wipe out GDI's space station Philadelphia and the city of Sydney, respectively.
  • Unreal Tournament has the Redeemer, which fires a miniature cruise missile with an allegedly nuclear warhead. Following this trope, it has a blast radius of a few hundred feet.
  • Missile Command, but you don't get to drop them.
  • In Hearts of Iron 2, nukes will permanently destroy a big chunk of a province's industry, wipe out most of the infrastructure and severely damage any units inside the province. Considering the timeframe (WWII) and the size of the various provinces (pretty large) this is probably not unreasonable.
  • Shadow Warrior has a nuke as one of the types of missiles you can shoot out of your rocket launcher. It's, of course, one of these "mini-nukes" which doesn't destroy an entire city - it just causes muchos damage to anything within a quite big range (you better hide behind a wall) and causes deadly radiation to stay around the explosion epicenter for some time.
  • Rise of Nations allows you to fire full-size, reduce a city to 0 hp and vaporize any units/buildings next to it nukes from silos, at first just "Nuclear Missile", then "ICBM". Or, if you want to shoot nukes at your enemies in the Ancient Age/circumvent the Missile Shield tech, point at the area in question and type in "cheat nuke". Stackable.
    • In addition, each nuke fired will count down the "Armageddon" clock. If the clock reaches 0, everyone loses as the planet becomes uninhabitable. In games terms, that means you can fire 9 nukes without serious repercussions, but one more and it's game over.
  • Occasionally, Super Robot Wars will let you use a nuclear-equipped GP-02 if you fulfill the right requirements. The nuke is good enough to let you be able to win otherwise hopeless missions.
  • MDK parodies this with the "World's Smallest Nuclear Bomb." True to the trope, the explosion is about as big as you are--but, then again, it is the World's Smallest Nuclear Bomb. It's mostly used to open doors.
  • In the add-on Secret Operations 2, for Wing Commander II, Maniac makes a big deal about the Mace missile mounted by the Morningstar fighter, a tactical nuclear missile that can one-shot smaller capships, or be used to take out a cluster of fighters via splash damage. Oddly, no such deal is made of regular torpedoes, which utilize matter/antimatter warheads that are even more powerful during the war with the Kilrathi[1].
  • This is a possible way to end the Civilization Stage in Spore: through a Nuclear War that wipes out all foreign cities not under your control. Just remember that you're gonna have trouble rebuilding, evidently due to radioactive rubble.
  • Subverted in Balance of Power - although nuking was an option in the game (whether playing as the USA or the Soviets) it meant you lost, as you're meant to create a world where your power is dominant, but the world still is viable (though you might chose to let the missiles fly if refusing to back down would cause your side to lose by more).
  • At the end of Shadow Complex, when the only way to take out the Restoration Project's flying carrier is to hit it with FOUR nuclear missiles. Poor, poor Washington populace...
  • Possible in the Empire Earth series. If you're quick at moving up the Tech Tree, you can direct your nuclear bombers to nuke the everloving crap out of armies on horseback.
  • Battlestar Galactica Online has powerful nukes, but they come at high cost.
  1. post-war torps are less powerful, primarily for cost-cutting purposes