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Drop-In Nemesis

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The Drop-In Nemesis is triggered when you do a certain thing in a particular video game setting. Suddenly, a bad guy or environmental obstacle enters the scene (often by Offscreen Teleportation) and wastes no time in killing you. Paralyzed by Cutscene Incompetence, you have no option but to stand there helplessly as you are put out of your misery. Apparently, whatever you did was the wrong thing, in the eyes of the bad guy and of the game designers. Have a Nice Death!

For an enemy to be a true Drop-In Nemesis, there shouldn't be blatant warnings (like the sound of the monster's approaching steps or that it is one moment away from coming to eat you/stab you/shoot you/zap you with a spell), giving you a chance to hide. You are more typically given vague and misleading warnings that the enemy could be passing through/returning to the area at any unexpected time. This won't be so unexpected when you've been killed by the villain every time after performing the trigger action.

This trope includes vehicles which only appear to get the player into deadly highway accidents.

This whole scenario borders strongly on Paranoia Fuel: as if environments filled with Everything Trying to Kill You weren't enough, there are things hiding offscreen that you can't see coming until they're the last thing your character will ever see.

Compare Teleporting Keycard Squad, Giant Space Flea from Nowhere, and Easily Angered Shopkeeper (Stealing is bad!). If they serve to prevent you from going Off the Rails, they are Border Patrol.

If you were expecting an article on videogame bosses that drop from ceilings, you may be looking for He Was Right There All Along or Ambushing Enemy.

Video Game Examples:

  • Air Buccaneers features invulnerable murderous mushrooms that sprout from the ground and will lunge at you — thus making the ground less safe than the air, where you're barraged by cannonballs, scorched by flamethrowers, or stabbed by vicious boarding parties.
  • Zork gives us the famous example:
    Oh, no! A lurking grue slithered into the room and devoured you!
  • In the 1980s RPG Ragnarok, you can use a potion of phasing to walk through the walls of the game map. If you make it out to the edge, there's nothing but sea ... and then Jormungand eats you.
  • Within a Deep Forest. If you try to jump across the water at the far right of the forest, a dragon's head pops out from offscreen and eats you. You need to travel to the Bad Future, where the dragon is long dead, to get across.
  • Early Clock Tower games did this. Decide to play the piano loudly? Say hello to Bobby literally dropping right in!
  • The evil wizard Manannan had a bad habit of showing up at any time in King's Quest IIIno matter where you are in the world — and killing you on the spot if you gave him even the tiniest excuse. If you left his mountain, or were carrying anything that could be used as a magical ingredient and/or couldn't be picked up in his house, or forgot to cover your tracks, he'd zap you. It felt damn good to finally dispose of him.
    • The sorceress in King's Quest VII performs a similar function.
    • And Mordack in King's Quest V.
    • The Minotaur in King's Quest VI. Worse, he appears if you don't have the right item in your inventory when you enter a required room — but it's one of the items you can't backtrack to obtain once you've entered his labyrinth. And if you do have the item, it lets you spy on him as he fiddles around in a different room entirely.
    • The Dwarf in the original, although it didn't kill you, would steal your treasures, rendering the game unwinnable.
    • I and II also had the Enchanter and Ogre who will show up randomly on certain screens and kill you if they get too close.
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • Super Mario 64: Done very literally in the Tiny-Huge Island level. If Mario spends too much time in the two bodies of water that exist there, an Invincible Minor Minion known as Bubba will be dropped from the sky into the water and attempt to gobble Mario up.
    • Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, you're at one point given a diary by a ghost and told not to read it. If you read it anyway, the ghost reappears and kills you on the spot.
    • Super Paper Mario: Consider that Dimentio spontaneously appeared in Merlon's house, interrupting a conversation, to kill your entire party. Shortly after doing the same thing to Luigi. The unsaid implication is that, if he wanted to, he could have done that at any time, in any stage...
  • In Leisure Suit Larry 1: In the Land of the Lounge Lizards, if you try to cross the street, a car will appear out of nowhere and flatten you. And if you wander into a dark alley, a thug beats you to death.
  • Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers has a nice example of this scenario: regularly, the Voodoo Museum is a safe place, but entering on a certain day causes Gabe to have a potentially fatal run-in with a constrictor snake.
  • I Wanna Be the Guy:
  • In the original Jurassic Park game for the SNES, entering a darkened room without night vision goggles will result in your immediate death-by-unseen-dinosaur. There are also several spots on the world map where stepping into the wrong location will cause a T-Rex to suddenly appear and eat you.
  • Laura Bow:
  • Less deadly, but lacking in any particular trigger (and still seeming like a "Drop-In Nemesis"), is Dr. Goldfire, the Mad Scientist Big Bad in Blake Stone. He eventually shows up as a normal boss on the ninth level of each episode, but occasionally teleports in from nowhere on one of the first eight levels, teleporting back out (and apparently healing any damage he takes) after you shoot him a few times. Yes, the main villain acts as a random encounter in a First-Person Shooter, a genre that doesn't have random encounters. Of course, being the type of villain to normally rely on his genetically modified monsters and other guards, he's only armed with a pistol, so he's more of a nuisance than an instant death.
  • Resident Evil:
  • This happens a couple of times in games based on Indiana Jones.
  • Both orcs and elves (as well as Gollum and a mysterious tree-dwelling monster) made appearances in the old text-based game of The Hobbit. Whether you could escape before they attacked seemed to be random (except the monster, which could be eluded only by a specific set of commands). The wood elf, although he only captured Bilbo rather than killing him, also tended to capture orcs and vicious wargs, or even the Balrog, and send them to the same prison cell.
  • Puzzle Pirates has the Black Ship, a nigh-invincible NPC ship that punishes players who try to pick on far weaker opponents. It takes the place of your opponent in battle to beat the crap out of you and take nearly everything on your ship. It has been defeated a handful of times, being made stronger by the developers after each defeat.
  • There are several of these in Shadoan, and most have a different way of insta-killing you, with the result of Trial-and-Error Gameplay.
  • Most (probably all) Beat 'em Up arcade games have a hidden timer that will instantly kill you if you sit idle for too long, or take too long to finish off a boss. (See also Stalked by the Bell.)
    • Spider-Man: The Video Game and X-Men (1992) (bombs drop on your head)
    • D. D. Crew (the Big Bad knocks you out)
    • This happens literally in Zombie Revenge if the timer runs out. A demon you'll never see anywhere else in the game, suddenly appears in the room, says something unintelligible, waves his arms, and suddenly a big, blue explosion rocks everything, causing everybody to lose a life. It's made even more jarring by the fact that afterwards, you're right back in the exact situation you were in before he showed up, as though he somehow aimed the explosion.
    • Battle Zone 1980 kills you with a homing missile if you go too long without killing anything.
  • Silent Hill
    • In Silent Hill, you encounter a kitchen cabinet tied with a chain and a dagger stuck in it. If you remove the dagger and try to leave without using a ring picked up earlier to secure the chain, a couple of tentacles will suddenly emerge from it and kill you instantly in a cutscene. There's no warning given beforehand, of course.
    • The sewers of Silent Hill 3 have a monster that kills you instantly if you try to cross a certain bridge, unless you electrocute it by throwing a hair dryer in the water. Then there's the roller coaster in the amusement park that always runs you over unless you turn it off (it turns itself back on, but Heather jumps off just in time).
  • Déjà Vu II:
    • Stogie, a supremely annoying mob goon who will magically appear to kill you should you try to stray out of town. He doesn't seem to care where you are at the time, either. Trying to ride a train out? He hopped on too. Trying to escape through the desert? No good, he's right there to get you.
    • A non-lethal example: The first game had a mugger that beat you up and took your cash, though there's also an armed mugger that will kill you if you don't give him your money...or just punch him in the face, but that only works so many times.
  • In the original Space Quest, attempting to read the data cartridge on the library computer causes a Sarien to immediately pop in and blast you, the desert of Kerona has sand worms that devour wanderers, looking into the hole in the cliff gets you Stripped to the Bone, walking across the grate gets you pulled through the and eaten, and wandering around the Deltaur's exterior gets you blasted into space dust. In Space Quest II: Vohaul's Revenge, if you go into the cliffside cave without the glowing gem, you get eaten by a Cave Beaver. If you fail to deactivate the hovercraft's distress beacon, Vohaul's troops will eventually track you down and kill you with a Disintegrator Ray; the same thing happens if the landing platform guard spots you. If you go the wrong way in The Maze, you get eaten by a Cave Squid. III has Arnold the Annihilator, who you must lure into a trap to obtain his Invisibility Cloak, and the Scumsoft Henchmen, who will trap you in a block of Jello if alerted. IV has the Cyborg who summons the inescapable Droid of Death, the Sequel Police, who will shoot you dead if you take a wrong turn, and the Super Computer security bots, which in addition to patrolling the complex, will immediately hunt you down if you mis-enter the code for the control room door.
  • 720 Degrees has the "Skate or Die" killer bees that chase you down and kill you after the timer expires.
  • If you touch any of the ghosts in Alone in the Dark (1992), they will come to life and chase you down, killing you instantly. Other instant-death nemeses include the De Vermis Mysteriis book, the Eldritch Abomination / Man-Eating Plant guarding the front door, and the giant worm (Chthonian) in the catacombs (if you enter them from the basement).
  • In the game of Below The Root, there are some random NPCs that show up on certain screens. Running into them will lead to your character being captured and put in a prison house by one of two renegade factions opposed to Green-Sky's unification, or roughed up and sent back to your home with an ominous "you were found unconscious," and a day of game-time lost.
  • Police Quest:
    • In the original Police Quest, if you don't do a search on your police cruiser, it will be booby trapped and kill you. If you do, you'll find nothing wrong and the game continues normally. Wrap your head around that logic... Additionally, you must put your gun in the locker outside the jail before uncuffing a suspect, or he will turn it against you.
    • Enter the Big Bad's apartment in Open Season without first looking through the door with a MacGyvered stick mirror, and his dog will maul you to death. Later, he unavoidably knocks you out and empties your pockets. At this point, don't go back into the bedroom without first equipping the lighter and hairspray.
    • In the first SWAT game, go around a corner without slicing the pie and the criminal will ALWAYS be waiting there to shoot you. Worse yet, incorrectly planning your entry as Element Leader on the Eastman Enterprises mission results in your team immediately being gunned down.
  • In Alex Kidd in Miracle World, the Grim Reaper appears out of specific ? blocks, in addition to being triggered by pink skull blocks. Avoiding the ? block he's scheduled to appear in simply shifts him to the next available one, replacing the item normally within. If he appears, the only ways to escape are to scroll him off the screen or make too many other sprites appear (money, items etc), forcing the game to erase him to make room for the newest sprite. If it happens to be in a bonus room, there's no escape.
  • On The Adventures of Rad Gravity's second planet, if you fail to retrieve Kakos from the Conveyor Belt o' Doom, he turns into a Killer Robot and kills you.
  • In Frenzy, if you shoot Evil Otto in the room with the giant version of Otto, a swarm of Ottos appears and instantly kills you.
  • In Unterwegs in Düsterburg in one dungeon is a sword in a stone next to a Lava Pit. If you choose to take it, a giant hand comes out of the lava and kills you. Considering this happens in a dungeon full of deadly traps, you could've seen it coming.
  • The titular Ao Oni likes to pop up both when you might expect him, such as when you've just discovered a vital item or clue, and when you're just wandering around his house. Typically, you can survive by outrunning him, or trying to hide in a cabinet... though it's not a good idea to try that while he's in the room. Another example happens when you pick up a certain key in the basement. If you don't close the door behind you, he will rush you with no chance to move. See it here.
  • In Kickle Cubicle, running out of time would result in Striker, a big yellow star, swooping in for an almost instant kill.
  • In Baldur's Gate II, if you kill a plot-central character during the opening few acts, an invincible assassin named Arkhanis Gath will appear and gib you.
  • In Dreamscape, an RPG Maker game from Aldorlea Games, these appear often such as a bunch of guardian trees electrocuting you if you get too close or Jack the Ripper murdering you if you step into the wrong areas in Victorian London.
  • In Ambition, you'll get the mysterious murderer coming back, causing Ted to accidentally shoot you if you pick the wrong answer in the parking lot, and Ted cutting off the Courtroom's light supply if you ask Duke about his notebook on the last day of the trial.
  • The antagonist wizard from A Tale of Two Kingdoms, who has been watching you by crystal ball, but this will stop if you sneak into his house and break the ball.
  • Spend more than five days on your mission in Pathways into Darkness, and the W'rkncacnter awakens and causes The End of the World as We Know It.
  • Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of the Titan: In each mainland except Cloudy Stronghold, one of the Elemental Dragons will periodically start soaring around, and its motion and speed per step make them difficult to dodge. And if the party gets caught by it, the Elemental Dragon will shoot down their skyship, making them respawn in Tharsis with only 1 HP per character left and all food lost. Luckily, if the party manages to evade the monster, it will leave after a while and the mainland will be safe once again. The Great Dragon appears in Windy Plains, the Storm Emperor appears in Scarlet Pillars, and the Blizzard King appears in Snowy Mountains. During the Playable Epilogue, there will be sidequests that require performing tasks while the dragons soar, which further increases the difficulty (since the dragons will not leave the mainland this time); but once those sidequests are completed, the dragons can be finally challenged in Superboss battles.
  • Fallout:
    • In Fallout 3, heavily-armed hit squads will be sent after you if your reputation is either too high or too low. If you fast-travel to one of their spawning locations, they will appear in a scripted encounter and immediately open fire on you. If you're at a low experience level, your chances of survival are slim.
    • Fallout: New Vegas has a similar system based around factions instead of karma: if you've pissed off either the NCR or Caesar's Legion (or both) enough, they'll send the occasional hit squad after you.
    • Lonesome Road has a literal example where if you enter a trailer on the High Road, a Deathclaw, which in this DLC is an Instakill Mook that level scales with the player, drops down from the overpass and lands near the trailer entrance, likely inescapably trapping the player.
    • In Fallout 4, if you decide to explore the shed near the swan boat pond in Boston Common, a Super Mutant Behemoth named Swan will emerge to smash you with thrown boulders and a giant anchor hammer. If you don't have Power Armor and a Fat Man on hand, or a lot of levels on you, you're dead meat.
  • In Unreal, dropping into the arena in the SP level "Dark Arena" will cause a Titan to break through one of the stone gates. Enter the first proper boss fight of the game!
  • In the Marathon game mod Infection, taking the wrong level exit drops you in an inescapable Lava Pit.
  • In Quest for Glory I . If you sleep anywhere that isn't the Hero's Tail Inn, Erana's Peace, or The Dryad's grove. You will be killed by a Night Gaunt, which no-one, not even characters in the games know what it actually is.
  • The notorious demon-monster thing from SkiFree, that would come out of nowhere and eat you if you went too far.
  • Baku Baku Animal has the lion that crushes losing players in its jaws. Only with a continue will they be spared.
  • There's a number of things you can do in Planescape: Torment to get the attention of The Lady of Pain (trying to worship her, committing wanton murder, etc.) The first time, you'll just get dumped into an extradimensional maze, but the second time, you're not getting out alive, immortality be damned.
  • This is practically the entire premise of Five Nights at Freddy's; letting your guard down for a single moment can easily result in one of the killer animatronics slipping in unnoticed, ready and waiti—EEEEEAAAAAHHHHHH!
  • The shareware version of Combat Tanks spawns the invincible and inescapable Death Chopper after playing a certain amount of time.
  • In Cold Fear, Anna dying results in a brief cutscene where Tom shouts her name and is promptly thwacked by a monster from behind.
  • In Ori and the Blind Forest, Kuro will immediately One-Hit Kill you if you fall in the Valley of the Wind while climbing up to distract her with a boulder, or if you remain out in the open too long while she's stalking you after the Forlorn Ruins or during Mt. Horu's Escape Sequence.
  • In Ori and the Will of the Wisps, once Ori steps into the darkness of Mouldwood Depths, he only has a few seconds to run to a light source or activate the Flash spell before an unseen entity kills him.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Hyrule Castle has two Gatehouses on the middle level of the structure on the path leading to the Sanctum. If Link walks into them, the gates will slam shut and a Lynel will suddenly appear to attack.
  • In Fe, being spotted by a Silent One spells doom for the furry protagonist unless they quickly get out of sight. Also, certain bodies of water are home to a fish that immediately swallows Fe whole if they fall in.
  • In the original Japanese home computer versions of Valis: The Fantasm Soldier, picking up a power-up when you have insufficient HP results in the message "Ill gotten goods never prosper!" and a swarm of flying squid projectile-spamming Yuko to death in seconds.
  • Ultima VIII: Breaking the law in Tenebrae will cause the town sheriff Beren to teleport in right next to you and to graphically blow you to pieces, No Saving Throw allowed.
  • In Red Dead Redemption 2's story mode, players who evade the Border Patrol in West Elizabeth will immediately be shot dead by an invisible assassin upon crossing into New Austin.
  • Several of Monster Hunter's eponymous beasts like to do this:
    • The first example would be Deviljho of Monster Hunter 3 (Tri) fame, who is known for burrowing up from underneath the ground in search of food and proceeding to murder almost everything in the area, more often than not including you. Its danger level makes the resulting Background Music Override from its sudden appearance a serious red flag that your hunt quest will go south.
    • Though Rajang almost never does this in the second-generation games (despite having debuted in Monster Hunter 2 (dos)), and outright never does it in Monster Hunter 4, it started doing it in subsequent appearances, from the Updated Re-release 4 Ultimate onwards. In the latter game, it is the most recurring intruder among those powered by the Apex state, and is capable of appearing in such a dangerous form as early as when you're hunting a Desert Seltas (which would otherwise be a welcoming first boss in G Rank). Then, in Monster Hunter: World Iceborne, it can appear on any map and will jump into the fray, fists flying, if it so much as sees you or another monster, even an Elder Dragon. If its theme starts playing, one of you is about to have a very bad time. It's even worse in the Guiding Lands, since its patrols encompass almost the entire locale.
    • Introduced in Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, Seregios flies in at high speed, with your only warning being the whistling its scales make mid-flight, then pokes whatever's in the area to death.
    • Monster Hunter: World:
      • If Bazelgeuse is on a map with you, it'll come running in search of a free meal if it hears the distressed cry of another large monster (which it can do from a surprisingly large distance due to its acute hearing.) Once its theme overtakes the area's battle theme, you'd best start running or get those Dung Pods ready, else you're in for an explosive surprise. The frequency with which it does this is such that Monster Hunter: Rise gave it the title "Party Crasher".
      • Banbaro in Iceborne is normally a docile monster that can appear almost anywhere. If it sees you fighting another monster, however, it will flip out and start tossing boulders and dead trees at the both of you.
      • Ebony Odogaron and Fulgur Anjanath appear in all biomes. They usually thrash the resident apex monster of the region in a Turf War, however, so it's sometimes a relief to see them charging into the fray.
      • Ruiner Nergigante is constantly on the hunt for other Elder Dragons to chow down on, so it appears anywhere they can appear. It beats all of them in Turf Wars, so this can be used to your advantage; you just need to watch out for its spike attacks, which inflict bleeding.
      • On a lesser example, Tigrex and Velkhana can appear in all but one region (the Coral Highlands and the Elder's Recess, respectively) at any time; the latter, being an Elder Dragon, will ruin your prey's day, while the former, being a hyperactive, aggressive Pseudo-Flying Wyvern, will normally ruin your day instead.
    • Crimson Glow Valstrax in Monster Hunter: Rise is an Elder Dragon that appears as a red comet high in the sky, then comes hurtling down to earth. It can appear in Unstable Environment quests. If you see a red light in the sky, and you don't take any evasive actions, you're about to learn firsthand that a giant dragon with jet engines for wings crashing into you at Mach 5 from the stratosphere hurts a lot.
  • Spore features the sea monster in the creature stage that swallows you in a cutscene without warning. It doubles as Border Patrol as well as the page image for the game's Nightmare Fuel. The Grox fill this niche in the space stage, randomly dropping in and torching both your allies' colonies and sometimes yourself unless you can drive them off in time. Note that Take Your Time is NOT in effect here.
  • In Minecraft, the Deep Dark normally has no monsters spawning in it, despite the darkness. However, triggering a sculk shrieker by either touching it or making noise within earshot of a nearby sculk sensor four times will spawn a Warden, a Nigh-Invulnerable Lightning Bruiser intentionally designed to be a Hopeless Boss Fight even with endgame-level equipment. Its only weakness is that it is blind and primarily relies on its hearing to find you, which can be exploited by sneaking and making decoy noises with thrown snowballs to draw its attention away from you... however, you will find that simply staying completely still is of no help, as it can also smell you and will slowly close in on you even if you make no sound at all. And once it has a good enough guess of your location to roar and give chase, you are dead: in addition to its extreme toughness (more health than the actual final boss and more than even the Superboss) and massive melee damage (enough to kill in two hits max even if you're wearing a full suit of netherite armor), it also packs an impossible-to-dodge Armor-Piercing Attack that bypasses almost all defenses and even go through walls.

Non-Video Game Examples:

  • The Fighting Fantasy series of Gamebooks really likes doing this.
    • In Temple of Terror, you spend most of the adventure searching for five dragon statues, preventing the Child of Darkness, Malbordus, from obtaining any of them (should you miss even one of the artefacts, you're immediately greeted with a Non-Standard Game Over as Malbordus reveals himself with one of the dragons you missed, which is apparently enough to help him Take Over the World). Once you've gotten all five and are preparing to destroy them, Malbordus then shows up from out of nowhere for a final duel.
    • Island of the Undead have a small, dragon-like creature that gives you valuable information if you befriend it. But before the creature can reveal too much, a Stone Wight will show up from out of nowhere and crush it before attacking you. If you don't have the creature, you'll never encounter the Stone Wight even once.
    • Master of Chaos, similar to Malbordus above, have most of the quest revolving between you and the Dark Elf warrior, Naas, trying to obtain a magical staff from an evil wizard. If you slay the wizard in combat, you're allowed a short break to regain some STAMINA points... before Naas teleports into the slain wizard's room to challenge you to another duel.
    • In the final encounter of Night Dragon, you'll need to navigate your way throughout the dragon's domain. If your Nemesis score is high, you'll get attacked by Draconic Stalkers at random intervals. With a low score however you'll NOT encounter any stalkers even if you try.


Clock Tower (1995)


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