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Images of Duke Nukem and Scorpion (from Mortal Kombat) looking totally bad-ass Image: 3D Realms / NetherRealms Studios

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Frickin’ Duke Nukem vs. Scorpion, who kicks more ass!!?!!!

Hold onto your asses, shitbags!!!!

Maddy Myers has run Polygon’s games section since 2020 as deputy editor. She has worked in games journalism since 2007, at Kotaku, The Mary Sue, and the Boston Phoenix.

Are you wearing pants right now? Well, you’d better take them off fast, because you’re about to shit yourself. Get in the bathtub, right now, and get ready to rinse that shit off, because it’s time for the manliest video game matchup of all time: DUKE NUKEM versus SCORPION!!!

Surprise, turd nugget! You’re going to have to wipe all of that vomit and blood off of your shirt now, too!

One eternal question spans all of pop culture: "Who would win?" That's why we're dedicating an entire week to debates that have shaped comics, movies, TV, and games, for better and worse. Prepare yourself for Polygon's Who Would Win Week.

The Mortal Kombat tournament has yet to see a fighter with testicles as rock-hard as Duke Nukem’s. Duke has a terrifying set of testes. As in, medical professionals would express extreme concern if they witnessed the sheer brassiness of these balls — but Duke isn’t about to let some doctor stroke his sweet sack. Unless that doctor was a hot babe, of course ... but how would she maintain her professionalism around Duke Nukem?!?

I know what you’re thinking: If Duke’s already on Shang Tsung’s island, wouldn’t he want to shatter Johnny Cage’s sunglasses straight into that copycat’s eyeballs, splattering bits of his brain matter into a big goopy skull Slushie? No need. Duke already chomped down on that bag of wet noodles for dessert last night, and he didn’t even stick around for breakfast. This all-American, alien-fighting hero could only face a formidable opponent: Scorpion, the blazing hot ninja who’s been to Hell and back. Everybody’s ass is about to get lit the fuck up!! We warned you about those pants.

Scorpion has been barbecuing fools like a Weber gas grill since the original 1992 Mortal Kombat, a game so blisteringly bloody that it led to a whiny pack of sore losers inventing the ESRB. Out of everybody in the old-school lineup, Scorpion’s got the highest cool factor. You’d think the winner of that belt would be the icy cold Sub-Zero, but with a name like that, he sounds more like subordinate zero, and that alone ices him out.

Scorpion’s the hotter property when it comes to both hellfire and machismo, and that’s not just because of the sting built into his moniker. Ever since his first appearance, Scorpion’s move set has only gotten deadlier. We’re talking about big flaming arcs that sizzle right through his opponent’s torsos, sick beheadings, and literal teleportation. He’s got ninja speed times a billion.

And don’t even get us started on the ear-splitting lightning strike that is Scorpion’s catchphrase. Gamers know this secret: If you scream “Get over here!” at just the right timbre, anyone who hears your command will piss their pants in abject terror, cowed by your dominance. If you happen to also be wielding a kunai attached to a chain at the time, they will piss blood, weep, and whisper “my lord and master” before spontaneously combusting into a pure, undiluted jet-stream of semen. (Scientists have observed this even in bodies that do not otherwise produce semen.) This rule also applies to Satan himself. Need proof? Well, how do you think Scorpion escaped Hell??!!!

Scorpion flings his kunai forward while the floor around him flickers with flame in a Mortal Kombat 11 promotional image Image: NetherRealm Studios/Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

Now that Duke Nukem’s realized that he’s been stacked up against all that brimstone and brawn, his poor little skeleton must be wiggling right out of his asshole, trying to make a break for it. NOT!!!! It takes a lot more than some Satan-themed sparklers to intimidate Duke Fartin’ Nukem! And that whole ninja teleportation trick? Sounds like some newb scared to face his fellow fighter. Cluck, cluck! Get a wedding DJ in here, because Scorpion just started doing the chicken dance!!

Duke doesn’t have Satan on his side because he would never accept help from a two-faced delinquent. Truth, justice, babes, and television are the only power-ups that Duke Nukem needs. The results speak for themselves: He’s an extraordinary specimen of man-meat who’s baffled alien and human scientists alike with his unmatched ability to kick fucking ass. More importantly, Duke’s got an arsenal of guns that includes a shrink ray. Honey, we shrunk the hellspawn!

There’s just one problem here: the cool factor. Duke’s got plenty of that, as millions of satisfied ladies would attest after leaving his bedroom. We haven’t heard any stories about Scorpion having sex for 10 hours. Plus, all that burning — doesn’t sound good for the crotch zone, huh, ladies? What’s more, Duke Nukem never met an action hero one-liner that he couldn’t repeat verbatim to an impressionable young audience of gamers who may or may not have heard those lines from Duke before they heard them from John McClane, Dirty Harry, or the Terminator. What we’re saying is, Duke’s cool factor is sky high. The only reason that’s a problem: Duke Nukem doesn’t actually have a health bar. He runs on pure, undiluted ego. And that means that if his ego takes a hit, he’s down for the count!!! BURNED.

That’s a serious weakness for ol’ Duke. The bigger problem here? Duke Nukem’s ego has taken a lot of hits in the past couple of decades. While Mortal Kombat has seen plenty of success ever since its very first entry, Duke Nukem has become so old that most of the people who clicked on this article have long since stopped reading it out of confusion.

Duke Nukem Forever - Duke smoking cigar in front of ‘Welcome to Morningwood’ sign Image: Gearbox Software/2K Games

Remember Duke Nukem Forever? Duke would rather not, and neither would we. Unlike the first few games in the series, which at least hold up as examples of high camp, Duke Nukem Forever was the game that made it all weird. It’s the game that weaponized literal pieces of shit. We all want a Duke Nukem game that makes us shit ourselves in excitement, but we don’t want to see Duke picking up pieces of shit and throwing them. I mean, OK, it’s badass in a “terrifying primate urges” sort of way, but that’s not exactly the vibe, you know?

Since then, Duke has been retired — smoking cigars, crushing beer cans, and entertaining a never-ending stream of beautiful babes. He’s a relic of a more machismo-addled time in video gaming, his pants-shittingly cool ass-kicking antics relegated to the history books (if old issues of GamePro count as history books, which they do). The Mortal Kombat tournament is his big chance to prove he’s still got it.

Meanwhile, Scorpion never stopped being cool. You might even say he’s gotten complacent. He’s a mainstay, an undeniable cultural icon who’ll be endlessly associated with bloody battles that got censored by concerned moms. But he’s also had it too good for too long. His coolness has no character, no pizzazz, no flavor. It’s just there, like a baked potato chip screaming out for some onion dip.

Duke Nukem roasting the Cycloid Incinerator’s testicles over a campfire. Image: 3D Realms via Beaudman/YouTube

Duke Nukem is that onion dip, and he’s going to slather that thick, white cream all over Scorpion’s grateful body. There is truly no other character like Duke Nukem, a man who has quoted every single badass in cinema history and then also quoted Brokeback Mountain while preparing to eat the testicles of the boss he just defeated. He is so straight and so masculine that he cancels himself out, becoming both homoerotic and sexless — like if a naked Ken doll and a naked G.I. Joe doll laid down on top of each other in the dark, cold recesses of an attached garage for Barbie’s dream house.

It’s 2022. Masculinity is dead; long live masculinity. Duke Nukem’s ego has been rekindled at last. And that is why, in the end, he will rip the eyeballs from Scorpion’s head and eat them like grapes, squeeze off Scorpion’s ballsack faster than he opens a twist-off beer bottle, and beat Scorpion’s beefy behind till it’s bruised and bloody. Scorpion will bow down to his epic master of manliness, on his lips the whispered acceptance of his crushing defeat: “Hail to the king, baby.”