Monster Mania: The Hunt Never Ends with Resident Evil’s Nemesis

Monster Mania is a weekly column celebrating the unique and varied monster designs in horror gaming.

Since their inception, horror games have tried to capture the terror of the silver scream scares that inspired them. Recreating the feeling of being hunted by a deranged killer or an eldritch monster has been attempted countless times over the decades to varying degrees of success. And while many games claim to have successfully recreated this primal fear, for my money, few games have achieved what Capcom already accomplished back in 1999 with Resident Evil 3: Nemesis

Our friends at the Umbrella Corporation have been hard at work on yet another bioweapon, and it seems that the third time is the charm. Let’s start with Nemesis’ look, which is fittingly grotesque, as every badass monster should be. Take Resident Evil 2‘s Mr. X’s towering frame, replacing its trench coat with an S&M leather outfit that would make Clive Barker’s Cenobites blush. Oh, and did I mention the tentacles protruding from its body? How about the stapled-together face? Our boy Nemesis isn’t winning any beauty contests anytime soon, just as I like my monsters. Imposing doesn’t even begin to do this monolithic monster justice, and despite its DIY piecemeal construction, Nemesis is more than prepared to ruin Jill Valentine’s Day. 

Resident Evil 3 Nemesis

As with most memorable creations, Nemesis is a combination of inspirations. Similar in utilization to Mr. X, a powerful foe who pursues the player, but with the added flavor of the destructibility of the T-1000 from Terminator 2: Judgement Day. Unlike Mr. X, the Nemesis can be temporarily “killed” should the player choose to do so during encounters. This decision to fight back also plays out in Resident Evil 3: Nemesis’ brief moments of player choice. These revolve around whether the player chooses to fight or flee Nemesis from a contained environment (such as the RCPD courtyard). These moments of choice are unique to the traditional, unskippable boss fights that occur with Nemesis throughout the game, but their choices can alter the game’s narrative elements.

Where Nemesis’ T-1000 influence stems from (and was apparent in Mr. X’s stalking redesign from the Resident Evil 2 remake) is its persistent pursuit of the player. Countless instances of the player thinking they have escaped Nemesis’ clutches, only for the beast to crash through an environment later on and continue its hunt. Nemesis’ persistence was the crucial paranoia-inducing balance to Resident Evil 3: Nemesis’ more action-oriented nature. Just because you have more resources and ways to fight back doesn’t mean you’ll be able to shake Resident Evil’s classical survival horror roots.

A few decades later, Capcom would return to Resident Evil 3: Nemesis. Coming hot off the success of 2019’s Resident Evil 2 remake (which, as of 2023, is the top-selling Resident Evil game ever), Capcom looked to the obvious next entry primed for a top to bottom remake; Resident Evil 3 (and dropping the subtitle ‘Nemesis’). Unlike the previous remake, I found Resident Evil 3 to be an entertaining but ultimately short-lived and flawed understanding of what makes Nemesis one of the most terrifying creations in all horror games.

Gone were the frequent instances of Nemesis crashing through walls and striking when the player least expected the monster to return. Instead, the remake focused on more obvious set pieces for Nemesis to attack, making him feel more in line with more traditional boss encounters rather than an unwavering hunter. Pacing-wise, there was also more emphasis on Nemesis mutation forms that occur much earlier than in the original, making the original’s cat-and-mouse dichotomy feel short-lived. Ultimately, The remake was utterly devoid of the paranoia that the original titular monster would induce, obsessively checking ammo reserves and peering over your shoulder for fear of being blindsided by this rocket launcher-wielding monstrosity.  

To the remake’s credit, of which I have little to give, I prefer Nemesis cosmetic design tweaks. Gone is its dated leather getup, replaced with trash bags plastered over its recently spliced-together skin. This makes it seem as if Umbrella only just finalized the go-ahead to unleash Nemesis on the Raccoon city streets, further signifying their unwavering commitment to their nefarious goals.

Also notable is the lack of Nemesis’ traditional abundance of tentacles under his wardrobe, though he still uses them to attack. His tentacles have been replaced with metal tubing and what resembles an engine that powers his heart. These slight cosmetic changes do not fundamentally rewrite Nemesis’s identity but reinforce what an absolute unit it is. My fondness for Resident Evil 3: Nemesis stems from the game reinvigorating the fear of Resident Evil. While undoubtedly the most action-oriented entry in the series at that point, the game revealed its evolutionary approach to horror that refused to allow Resident Evil to become set in its ways.

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