Ask any survivor horror fan what their favorite entries in the legendary Resident Evil franchise are and you’ll get a multitude of responses from the Gamecube remake, Resident Evil 2 or its remake, the underrated Code Veronica, or Resident Evil 4, which changed the genre as a whole.
But one entry you’d be hard-pressed at the very top of anyone’s list is Resident Evil 3: Nemesis. RE3 was originally released on the PlayStation before getting ported to the Sega Dreamcast, PC, and eventually GameCube but has received only a fraction of the long-standing love that its predecessors and successors have gotten over the years.
Why is that? What made it distinct or notably different at the time of its release? And, perhaps most importantly, what makes it the perfect candidate for a remake over 20 years later? Let’s break it down.
Check out a slideshow of images from the original Resident Evil 3: Nemesis below.
How Resident Evil 3: Nemesis Was Conceived
Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, as it exists, was not originally intended to be the canonical follow-up to the massively successful Resident Evil 2 in 1998. After that game’s release, there were multiple Resident Evil projects in active development. Originally, the next numbered entry in the franchise was planned to be a much larger and more complex game in scope and would require multiple years of development. But, since Resident Evil Code: Veronica was booked as a Dreamcast exclusive, Resident Evil Zero was still in its early stages, production on Resident Evil 4 for the next generation of systems had begun, and Sony had announced the PS2, Capcom realized it would be finished much too late with the planned RE3 project for a PS One release. There wasn’t time to upgrade the existing idea for the third game, so it was canceled.
As a result, Capcom decided to promote an existing spin-off prototype to become the third mainline game in the series for the original PlayStation. Resident Evil 3: Nemesis came out one year and eight months after the second game in September of 1999, which was a surprisingly quick turnaround time for a numbered sequel. Originally, the spin-off was going to focus on a brand new character in an infected and overrun Raccoon City. However, Capcom eventually decided to shift focus to known character Jill Valentine, and a Raccoon City that was completely destroyed.
Check out a slideshow of images from Resident Evil 3 Remake below.
The Features Resident Evil 3: Nemesis Introduced
Resident Evil 3: Nemesis pioneered a lot of features within the franchise and the horror genre as a whole. For starters, it marked the beginning of Resident Evil’s shift towards action-oriented horror (obviously Resident Evil 4 picked up that baton and sprinted with it).
Compared to the previous two games, RE3 had more enemies coming at you, more ammo to use against them, a wider assortment of weapons, the ability to dodge and spin around 180-degrees to traverse environments more quickly, and the ability to make ammo from crafting materials for the first time. Exploding barrels were now scattered around the environment, a first for a Resident Evil game: the first three games all used pre-rendered 2D art for backgrounds with 3D character models (this technique allows for high-quality backdrops and also cuts down on the polygon count so characters and enemies look sharper) so including destructible objects scattered around was a big deal.
It managed to do all this while still maintaining the same camera perspective, art style, and control scheme as its predecessors. Essentially, RE3 bridged classic survival horror and more action-packed third-person shooters that proliferate the industry to this day.
The original Resident Evil 3: Nemesis took roughly six and a half hours to beat (approximately half the average length of an original Resident Evil 2 playthrough, provided you played through both campaigns). In terms of flow and design, RE3 took place across all of Raccoon City (with locations like Uptown, Downtown, and Raccoon Park) as opposed to the indoor labyrinthian environments of the first two games. It also included the ability to make key decisions in the story that could alter the story or uncover secret items, like an early version of a branching narrative. These “Live Selections”, as they were called, took the form of quick time-restricted decisions such as staying to fight an enemy or fleeing into a building. This feature, as well as the original’s multiple endings, are not included in the upcoming remake.
How The Nemesis Worked
Resident Evil 3 is the only numbered entry in the entire series to have a subtitle, as the primary focus was on a singular, relentless villain. Yet despite the under-the-hood wizardry that made you think he was an ever-present force that wandered the game driven by his own AI, he was actually a heavily scripted enemy that only showed up under very specific circumstances.
At the time though, it was still a big advancement for AI in the franchise, particularly over Mr. X in the original Resident Evil 2. Back in 1998, Mr. X acted as more of a super-powered guard on patrol, not the nearly unstoppable force of nature that sought out the player like in 2019’s remake. In fact, the current iteration of Mr. X in the Resident Evil 2 Remake feels more in step with the original Nemesis; hence why a remade Nemesis is an even more terrifying prospect. More, since Resident Evil 3 was released, the ‘horror simulator’, which pitches you against relentless, seemingly immortal terrors, has grown in popularity. There has never been a better time to capitalize on this with what is arguably Resident Evil’s greatest villain.
Resident Evil 3’s Legacy
Resident Evil 3: Nemesis was considered a success story at the time. According to Capcom, the PlayStation version alone sold more than 3.5 million units worldwide in total and surpassed 1 million copies sold within the first couple of months, while it also got mostly positive reviews across the board.
No matter how you look at it though, it will always be seen as an in-between release in the history of the franchise. It introduced some new features to the series – and genre as a whole – but will likely be remembered as the game before Resident Evil 4 than anything else. It was designed as a stop-gap to tide fans over and that’s exactly what it did.
But from what we’ve seen of Resident Evil 3 Remake so far, Capcom is following the Resident Evil 2 Remake model and completely rebuilding it from the ground up; taking inspiration from the original’s bones and broadening its scope significantly. Nemesis is much more terrifying this time around based on our hands-on impressions, while players will see more of Raccoon City, supporting characters will get bigger roles, and there will be more polish from top to bottom.
Who knows – perhaps this ground-up remake will inspire a new-found love for the original?
Since the remakes of both Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3 will feature over-the-shoulder third-person cameras now, similar to Resident Evil 4, is where does Capcom go next? Perhaps a remake for the original, again, or for Code: Veronica? Let us know what you’d like to see in the comments.
David Jagneaux is a freelance writer for IGN. Talk RPGs with him on Twitter at @David_Jagneaux.