A Masterful Duality of Horror and Action: ‘Resident Evil 3: Nemesis’ Turns 20

As we near the end of 2019, the Resident Evil 2 remake still stands as one of the year’s finest releases. Not only does the game look incredible with its revamped visuals, but it is also a remarkable experience in survival horror. Taking the old-school gameplay and adding a modern spin has not only impressed the minds of fans, but has since got them asking for more; and what would be more exciting for the Resident Evil series than a remake of its third entry?

Having released twenty years ago on the PlayStation, Resident Evil 3: Nemesis marks a pivotal moment in Resident Evil history. 

The events of RE3 take place at the same time as the events in Resident Evil 2; players took on the role of Jill Valentine (returning from the first Resident Evil), guiding her throughout Raccoon City and attempting to survive the hordes of undead. While players would find themselves in a variety of enclosed locations, RE3 involved a more open setting, with players running around the streets and alleys of the city. As Jill, you would have to navigate around broken-down cars and fires, scurrying past debris while combating or evading zombies. The open setting of Raccoon City, allowed for a more chaotic atmosphere; where there’s more of an ominous ambience walking down a shadowy hall in a mansion, the streets of Raccoon City were alive with rampant terror.

Like the previous entries before it, players would have access to different weapons and items throughout their journey. With Jill traveling to different locations, enemies would be able to follow her; to allow for a chance at survival, RE3 added faster means for players to move, such as the ability to dodge and to perform a 180-degree turn. But a lot of zombies are the least of your troubles, for if there is one aspect of RE3 that is most fondly remembered, it is that of its titular villain:

Nemesis.

The hulking monstrosity that is Nemesis is by far the most nerve-wracking threat throughout RE3. As a recurring boss, the player could decide to either try and fight Nemesis, or make an attempt to flee from him. What made Nemesis more intense was the fact that he could appear randomly; at certain points in the story, the player would be provided some choices to make, and depending on what they picked, an appearance from Nemesis may trigger. The unknown of when Nemesis would strike left a feeling of anxiety in the air as the player ran to each objective, never knowing when he may chase them down.

These choices would also appear in other parts of the game, with certain options impacting how the story would play out and leading to different endings. Some of these choice sequences would also involve consequences that harmed the player depending on what they chose. 

As an additional bonus to the game, the player could partake in a minigame called “The Mercenaries: Operation Mad Jackal”. Taking on the role of one of three characters, the player would have to get from one end of the city to the next in a set amount of time; this time could be extended if the player performed certain actions like killing zombies or saving civilians. 

When you take all these elements together, RE3 makes for a thrilling game; these elements also make RE3 the series’ first shift into more action-oriented gameplay. Even though there’s still a great deal of survival horror at work, the setting, along with the frenzy of zombies and lingering threat of Nemesis, make for a more hostile atmosphere. It’s interesting to look back on this game and think of later action-driven entries like RE46; one can see how the unique theatrical and technical aspects of RE3 made their way into these later entries. What also stands out though is how the later entries of RE5 and RE6 present tension compared to RE3, and why the latter makes for a more effective experience. 

When we look at those more recent entries, there’s a great sense of theatricality at work, stripping away tension to make way for more action; those games feel more like action movies with monsters added to them. With RE3, however, the action is used to feed into the game’s horror and make the player aware of their surroundings; they are not a character with loads of heavy weaponry and endless ammo on their side, but a single person in the midst of a city gone to hell. The player feels small when compared to the frantic energy of everything going on around them. In the case of RE3, the title remains an incredible example of how action and horror can work together to amplify story, gameplay, and atmosphere.

Resident Evil 3: Nemesis was, and continues to be, a stellar addition to the Resident Evil family. Where as the games before it created a sense of dread and suspense through isolation, RE3 spun things around and established hysteria through action-driven tension. It is fair to say that RE3 is one of Resident Evil’s more impactful games, having pushed the series towards more action; that said, it is important to note just how masterfully RE3 used action alongside its horror. With it having been twenty years, along with seeing the release of the Resident Evil 2 remake, here’s hoping we see a remake of Resident Evil 3: Nemesis.