Nemesis @ Alton Towers | Coaster Reviews

Roller Coaster Reviews

Nick is the founder and lead editor of Theme Park Tourist, a website which covers the latest news, reviews and money-saving tips for theme parks around the world. The site includes an extensive database of special offers and discounts for popular parks, as well as a “New Attraction Watch” which keeps track of the latest confirmed and rumored opening dates for upcoming rides and shows. You can follow the latest updates on Twitter – @ThemeParkNews.


The opening of Nemesis at Alton Towers in 1994 was a landmark event in the history of the park, setting it on the road to becoming a thrill-seeker’s paradise and the UK’s most popular theme park. The first Bolliger & Mabillard inverted coaster to open in Europe, it attracted huge media attention and was at the cutting edge of coaster technology at the time. It has since become one of very few British rollercoasters to achieve international recognition, having frequently appeared in “top 10” lists around the globe – despite being shorter and slower than most major coasters. So what is it about Nemesis that has made it such an enduring favorite – and does this 16-year-old ride still hold up against more modern attractions at Alton Towers and elsewhere?

Close Encounter – Nemesis’ Setting and Queue Line
From a distance, Nemesis doesn’t appear to be anything spectacular. Faced with severe restrictions on the height of attractions at Alton Towers imposed on the park by UK heritage bodies, designer John Wardley and his team took an innovative approach and simply built the attraction deep into a giant hole in the ground. This leaves the lifthill as one of few elements visible from ground level, although even that doesn’t emerge beyond the treeline. First-time riders will be unsure of what to expect on entering the queue, but once inside they should quickly begin to understand that it is Nemesis’ unique setting that sets it apart from other similar rides around the world.

The queue snakes around the outside of the excavated pit, giving a spectacular view of the coaster as it swoops and turns both overhead and below eye-level. Nemesis ranks alongside SeaWorld Orlando’s Manta as one of few coasters that are almost as much fun to watch as they are to ride. Both are set against a spectacular landscape which creates a captivating spectacle, as well as forming a key part of the ride experience itself. It’s a shame that more recent additions at Alton Towers, such as Air and Rita, are set in such bland locations (a patch of grass and a stretch of concrete respectively).

Taming the “Beast” – The Lost Nemesis Storyline
One aspect of Nemesis that has unfortunately been allowed to decline since its original opening is the theming. Although the setting is as impressive as ever, the backstory has largely been lost. This is based around an alien that was discovered when the site was excavated, and was subsequently pinned in place by the masses of steel that make up the coaster. Although the station continues to be loosely themed as the monster itself, and rivers of “blood” still flow down the sides of the pit, anyone unfamiliar with the story will probably not realize that there is one. Although not as big an issue for a rollercoaster as it would be for a dark ride, it’s a shame that something which could add some re-ride value has been dropped by the park.

Nevertheless, for most people the anticipation will be pretty high by the time they reach the station. There, they’ll have a choice of queuing for the front row, or selecting any other row of the train. My recommendation to any first-time rider would be to queue for the front – it adds significantly to the experience, and the ride’s solid throughput (around 1400 people per hour) should ensure that you don’t wait too long. It’s also worth trying out the right-hand-side of the back row for the most intense experience. The train itself is as comfortable as any other B&M inverted coaster, with the familiar over-the-shoulder restraints holding riders in place.

Into the Abyss – Nemesis’ Course
Unlike many others, Nemesis’ lifthill does not take riders well above the ground and leave them with a panoramic view of the park. Instead, it follows the contours of the pit until riders are just above ground level, before turning 90 degrees and descending down a smooth slope into the valley below. The slow start leaves just enough time for riders to take in what they are about to experience, before the ride begins to accelerate towards the bottom of the pit. Although Nemesis only hits a relatively low top speed of 50mph at the bottom of this section, it feels a lot faster since riders can see the ground and “blood” waterfall passing close beneath their feet. It’s a perfect use of an inverted coaster’s strengths, and something which has not often been replicated by many other rides of the same type, which spend much of their time dozens of feet off the ground.

Following the exhilarating first drop, Nemesis pulls sharply away from the ground into a barrel roll – providing a stark contrast as the comforting ground suddenly disappears from view. It then banks into a downwards helix, with riders’ feet again dangling close to the scenery, before plunging into an inline twist that veers close to the ride’s station building. After again following a waterfall – this time upstream – the coaster enters its signature section, and the one which was most often seen in marketing when it first launched. Plunging towards the water at the bottom of the pit, the train is pulled suddenly upwards into a vertical loop before swooping towards the water again and through a short tunnel. The loop itself supplies some excellent G-forces, while the near-miss sensation of heading towards the water is another classic example of how to design an inverted coaster.

There is still time for one more surprise, with a barrel roll finishing off an action-packed 80 second journey before the train hits the final brakes and returns to the station. Although fairly short in duration, Nemesis packs in a number of very intense elements and makes the most of its unusual setting. Most riders are windswept and out-of-breath when they reach the end, their eyes streaming as they reach for the buckle on their seatbelt. Many rush straight round for another turn.

Nick’s Take
There’s no underestimating the significance of Nemesis to Alton Towers and to the UK theme park industry as a whole. Not only did it put Alton Towers on the map, it established John Wardley as one of the world’s most respected ride designers and cemented the popularity of theme parks as a whole in the country. Part of a wave of major coaster openings in 1994 that included The Pepsi Max Big One at Blackpool Pleasure Beach (at the time, the world’s tallest, fastest and steepest coaster) and Shockwave at Drayton Manor (Europe’s only stand-up coaster), Nemesis has outlasted them all in terms of continuing popularity. Why? In my opinion, because it took an exciting new ride type and combined it perfectly with its surroundings – creating an experience which still ranks among the best rollercoasters in the world.

Ironically, it’s the planning constraints on Alton Towers which resulted in Nemesis becoming the classic it is today. It benefits greatly from being forced to hug the ground tightly, something which sets it apart from faster, taller inverted coasters like Dueling Dragons (at Islands of Adventure) and Montu (at Busch Gardens Tampa). It has been followed at Alton Towers by a number of high profile additions, including Oblivion (the world’s first vertical drop coaster), Air (the world’s first B&M flying coaster), Rita (an Intamin accelerator coaster) and, most recently, the much-hyped Th13teen. It has even spawned a “sequel” ride, Nemesis Inferno, at Thorpe Park. Despite its Roller Coaster Reviews Rating - Excellentage and a slight decline in the quality of its theming, Nemesis still holds its own against all of these and tops my list of my favourite UK coasters. Overall, I’d rate Nemesis at 9/10 on the Coaster Critic’s scale, and believe it is one of the finest inverted rollercoasters ever built. Final Rating – 9.0 (Excellent)

Thrilling Roller Coasters - For Brave Riders
Nemesis is rated TH for Thrilling. It’s a 3 out of 5 on my Thrill Scale. See the full scale here.

What’s Your Take?
Have you ridden Nemesis? What’d you think? Do you agree with Nick’s review? Leave a comment below. Images 1 & 2 courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons. Image 3 courtesy of Theme Park Tourist.

17 Comments

  1. Finally! A Nemesis review on CC's website! Although CC may not have written it, you did an excellent job, Nick.

    • I know where yor coming from CFC! 🙂

  2. First, at the moment, the images aren't functioning. Second, great review. Nemesis is one of the several reasons that I so wish to venture to the U.K. Nemesis may have had some great theming, but a couple grand should help easily and effectively. Sounds like a short, but very intense ride (even if it is only a 3 over 5 on the thrill scale).

    • I couldn't figure it out, but I finally got the images working.

  3. Great review Nick, very fun read and yet another reason to want to return to the mother country.

  4. Thanks for the kind comments, guys. I'm a long time fan of CC's site, so a great honor to have a review on here!

    If you do ever come to the UK, put Alton Towers at the top of your list…it's such a unique park and has several great coasters besides Nemesis.

    • oh! so thats what tpt meant! i`ve been to your site before, but in never new it was you, Great job!

  5. Its sad to say but imo alton tower's selection of rides isnt great, Nemesis is a classic coaster regonised the world over, however all the other rides are overhyped. Oblivion was boring for me, there was no fear factor as the ride dives into a hole so there isnt any height to it. Air is fun but not a world class attraction, Rita isnt great either and 13 looks like a gimmick. Im sad to say it but I think Thorpe Park will soon be taking over AT's title as the best english theme park, it has been adding some good rides over the years and whilst nothing they have is as good as Nemesis they are certainly adding interesting white knuckly attractions more frequently. In the UK we are seriously lagging behind america which is no suprise, but also europe which is abit annoying. We need a new woodie and im not sure which park will add it, I cant see one fitting in at TP, although something like terminator salvation could work.

    The woodie AT was going to build looked amazing and if they had got planning permission it would have probably been in the top 10 woodies in the world, however the height restriction rule struck again.

    However one great ride can put a park on the map like nemesis did in 94 or bring a park back to the forefront, so if AT next addition is great it could regain its title.

    • I have to agree that Thorpe Park is rapidly taking over from Alton Towers. It appears that Alton Towers is concentrating more on short 'world first' rides, rather than developing a longer more intense version.

      Oblivion, the world's first vertical drop roller coaster.

      Air, the world's first B&M flying roller coaster.

      Th13teen, the world's first horizontal free fall drop rollercoaster

      Nemesis, Europe's first inverted roller coaster

      Don't get me wrong, these are great rides and with the planning restrictions they have at Alton Towers, Oblivion is still a 180ft (55m) drop even though it only stands 65ft high; but the ride last 7 seconds from drop to stop.

      Alton Towers seems to be becoming more of a family park, whereas Thorpe Park is developing more for the real thrill seekers.

      • From Alton Towers' point of view, I suppose it already has quite a few coasters and it makes sense to try and expand its market by adding family rides. Merlin seems to have done its sums and decided that that is the best way to grow attendance and revenue.

        For Thorpe Park, Merlin has made a pretty clear choice to focus entirely on the teen/young adult market, because Chessington World of Adventures and Legoland Windsor are both nearby and cater for families. My bet is that we'll see a number of major rollercoaster additions to the park over the next few years. Having said that, the number of signs inviting guests to report "anti-social behaviour" is a pretty clear indicator of the type of visitor they are attracting as an unfortunate side effect of this policy.

        For me, Oblivion it is still the best vertical drop coaster I've been on. The drop below ground level really makes the ride and I think the vertical drop is much less impressive on coasters without it (e.g. on Sheikra at Busch Gardens Tampa)…but as you say, the ride is over far too quickly.

        • Yes it is definatly going for the family market more these days I feel, even the bigger additions to the park are not as intimidating as others and although we know this is partly due to the height regulations, I also think its clever on there part to make big-ish rides that are not massively intimidating. I realise we are in a tough economic and this approach makes alot of sense financially from a coaster enthusiasts point of view it is definatly disappointing.

          Even this review reminds me of how we used to be alot more cutting edge with roller coasters but now we are way behind. If they can get numerous world class woodies accross europe, whats stopping the UK? A few Intamin Mega Lites have popped up aswell to rave reviews but we probably will never get one over here. Its just really annoying

          • Thrope park does seem to be foucusing on bigger rides, like steath, and Alton Towers seems to be focusing on smaller family rides. It looks like Atlon Towers is stating to go with family rides with 13 here now.

          • or they could be saving up on money for a better attraction, but it could be prettey unlikley.

  6. Quil they did save up money for a better attraction and we ended up with 13 which was a waste of £14mn

  7. Best Rollercoaster ever rode this when first opened in 94..i was only 8…i am now 23 and it still remains my all time favourite coaster !!!

  8. This is real gem, and in my opinion it's better than Alpengeist. I wouldn't call it the best, but it's a joint 1st with Montu in my opinion. The 9 for me was a little bit of a mean mark 🙁

Comments are now closed for this post.

Lost Password