Category Archives: Top Lists

Periodic columns where Theme Park Archive evaluates the best the theme park industry has to offer


Top 10 Launched Roller Coasters


Roller coasters these days are not always propelled by a lift hill.  Launches can provide a more thrilling way to start a ride.  They provide differentiation for the parks that have them.  Launches come in all different methods from using magnets (LIM or LSM) to hydraulic launch, to more primitive methods such as a winch, weight drop, or tires.

These are the launched roller coasters that we believe are the best in the business today:


Honorable Mention: Incredible Hulk Coaster at Universal Islands of Adventure
Incredible Hulk Coaster starts with a very unique lift hill tire launch found nowhere else.  The launch ends in a barrel roll inversion that starts the ride on a very exciting note.  For 2016, Universal Studios is performing a full track replacement of this ride.


Honorable Mention: Verbolten at Busch Gardens Williamsburg
Verbolten is the successor to Busch Garden Williamsburg’s Big Bad Wolf coaster.  Verbolten is a very unique coaster including several launch segments, an indoor ride portion, and a finale consisting of a dive off a rickety bridge into the River Rhine valley.


 

10: Full Throttle at Six Flags Magic Mountain
Full Throttle, built by Premier Rides, is known for its unique backwards-then-forwards launch mid course as well as containing the world’s largest loop that you both go through and then over.


9 : Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster at Disney’s Hollywood Studios
This is a wonderfully themed Vekoma launched coaster where you sit in a stretch limo and race through the streets of Hollywood to make it in time for an Aerosmith concert.


8: Revenge of the Mummy at Universal Studios Florida
The Florida version of Revenge of the Mummy is one of the most impressive indoor roller coaster experiences out there today.  This attraction features several launches and great fire effects.


7: California Screamin’ at Disney California Adventure
While not the most intense roller coaster, California Screamin’ does set itself apart based on its modern reinterpretation of a boardwalk wooden roller coaster.  Containing two launches, on-board audio, insane capacity, and a signature loop, this ride is loads of fun.


6: Thunderbird at Holiday World
In 2015, Holiday World surprised everyone when they successfully introduced the first magnetically launched B&M roller coaster.  Thunderbird sets itself apart with its unique layout that disappears into the woods.


5: Kingda Ka at Six Flags Great Adventure
If you are looking for the most intense launch experience, look no further than Kingda Ka.  This ride is one of the fastest and still the tallest roller coaster in the world.


4: Cheetah Hunt at Busch Gardens Tampa
Cheetah Hunt is one of the most scenic roller coasters out there.  The ride stays low to the ground and contains several launches allowing its riders to experience what it is like to prowl like a Cheetah.


3: Powder Keg at Silver Dollar City
Perhaps one of the more under-appreciated rides, this air launched coaster was reworked to remove its problematic water ride elements.  What resulted was an even more fun launched coaster diving in and out of the foothills of southern Missouri.


2: blue fire Megacoaster at Europa Park
Great theming, great pacing, and super smooth ride.  blue fire proves that Mack can make launched roller coasters too.


1: Maverick at Cedar Point
This seemingly unassuming roller coaster due to its height, makes it to the top of our list.  Maverick combines the best elements of other roller coasters into one package.  This includes a launched lift hill, quick transitions, air time hills, inversions and a second launch under the station.  Don’t miss this ride.




Top 10 Roller Coasters that drop over 200 feet


Since Cedar Point’s Magnum XL-200 roller coaster debuted in 1989 as the first roller coaster to drop from 200 feet, dozens of roller coasters have been built eclipsing that milestone.  Each hyper coaster (over 200 ft), giga coaster (over 300ft), or strata coaster (over 400ft) is typically its park’s signature ride.  Currently, Intamin and B&M are the most common manufacturers for this style of roller coaster. They build upon the legacy of Arrow Dynamics and Morgan.

These are the roller coasters that drop over 200 feet that we believe distinguish themselves from the rest:


Honorable Mention: Cannibal at Lagoon
While not in the top 10, it was hard not to recognize Cannibal.  This new for 2015 ride is one of the most unique 200ft+ roller coasters in existence.  It combines lap bars, an elevator lift, and multiple inversions to provide a very thrilling ride.


Honorable Mention: Griffon at Busch Gardens Williamsburg
Griffon is one of B&M’s boldest dive coaster efforts.  Set in the backdrop of the New France section of the park, Griffon contains the largest dive coaster trains (10 across) and a signature first drop under a bridge, not to mention a water splashdown at the end.  It’s hard to leave out the other 200 footer at the park, Apollo’s Chariot, too.


Honorable Mention: Top Thrill Dragster at Cedar Point
All current roller coasters that surpass 400ft are of a similar style.  The rides are very short, but exhilarating providing 100+ MPH speeds.  Of the strata coasters, Top Thrill Dragster gets our vote as the top ride due to its more comfortable and open train design.

10: Phantom’s Revenge at Kennywood
Originally the Steel Phantom, this ride was redesigned by Morgan transforming it from a rough Arrow looper to a fantastic hyper coaster.  This ride is famous for having its second drop be the longest on the ride, diving into the valley through Thunderbolt.


9 : Diamondback at Kings Island
Diamondback distinguishes itself through its use of B&M’s two across hyper trains and track layout that has it disappear into the Maumee river valley.  Diamondback’s finale is an interesting water splash element.


8: Skyrush at Hersheypark
If you like ejector airtime, few do it better than Skyrush.  This ride contains unique 4 across trains where you can ride over the track, or on a wing.


7: Leviathan at Canada’s Wonderland
Leviathan is B&M’s first giga coaster.  This ride carries incredible speed across its over mile long course that includes interacting with the park entrance.  This ride also includes one of the highest and longest brake runs.


6: Nitro at Six Flags Great Adventure
Of the first generation of B&M hyper coasters built, Nitro has the most aggressive and intense layout.  Nitro is one of the rare Six Flags roller coasters that ends up soaring through a forest and not over an abandoned parking lot.


5: Behemoth at Canada’s Wonderland
Canada’s Wonderland has two B&M roller coasters over 200 feet.  The original, Behemoth, still stands out as the best hyper design using their two across trains.  While Leviathan provides crazy speed, Behemoth matches with floater air.


4: Superman: The Ride at Six Flags New England
This is the ride formerly known as Bizarro and before that formerly known as Superman: Ride of Steel.  Whatever you want to call it, this is Intamin’s best hyper coaster.


3: Millennium Force at Cedar Point
If we are just ranking the best drops, this ride’s drop takes the cake.  There is nothing like getting yanked by the elevator cable lift system and dropping at 93 miles on hour while taking in the views from the Cedar Point peninsula.


2: Intimidator 305 at Kings Dominion
Intimidator 305 builds upon the precedent laid by Millennium Force and then takes it up another notch by adding crazy high lateral transitions swerving left and right while going over 90 miles an hour.  This ride had to be redesigned due to how many people were blacking out after the first drop.  Even with track modifications, the intensity did not go away at all.


1: Fury 325 at Carowinds
Fury 325 is B&M’s boldest entry to date.  The ride takes the speed introduced by Leviathan and adds several airtime hills that together land this ride at the top of our list this year.  At night, the ride comes alive with its great-very green lighting package.




Top 10 Wooden Roller Coasters


With Dollywood’s Lightning Rod just days from opening, it feels the right time to take a step back and recognize some of the best wooden roller coasters in the world today.  GCI, Intamin, Gravity Group and Rocky Mountain Construction are the primary manufacturers of wooden roller coasters today.  They build upon the designs of the past from legendary ride designers such as John Miller, Harry Traver and Herb Schmeck.  These are the wooden roller coasters we believe distinguish themselves from the rest:


Honorable Mention: Gold Striker at California’s Great America
Would it be built, wouldn’t it be built?  For a while there, we weren’t sure what was to come at California’s Great America.  Fortunately this ride was built, and it definitely is a hit.  Built by GCI in 2013, this ride packs a great punch.  Gold Striker contains sound shields around its first couple drops to keep the noise of screaming riders inside the park and not in the business parks it sits besides.


10: Wodan Timburcoaster at Europa Park
While some of the wooden coasters later in this list may be more thrilling, none is more themed than Wodan.  Built by GCI, Wodan is a short, but thrilling ride.  What sets it apart is its interaction with Nordic scenary, its immaculate station complete with flythrough and a fairytale queue.


9 : Raven at Holiday World
This former Golden Ticket Award winner for best wooden coaster still holds a special place in many coaster enthusiast’s hearts.  Built by CCI, the Raven is a terrain coaster that does not let up as it dives you in and out of a valley beside Lake Rudolph.


8: Phoenix at Knoebels
Dubbed by some as the perfect ride, Phoenix contains maybe the most floater airtime of any ride in the world.  This ride was designed by Herb Schmeck and originally built in Playland Park in San Antonio.  Knoebels rescued the ride and the rest is history.  On this ride, you will find yourself more often out of your seat than in.


7: Beast at Kings Island
The Beast, perhaps, may be the most notable wooden coaster.  Designed by Kings Island in house, this wooden coaster is the longest in the world.  It contains several tunnels, two lift hills, and a signature double helix finale during its course through the Maumee river valley.


6: Thunderhead at Dollywood
Thunderhead is GCI’s gem.  This wooden twister set in the heart of the smoky mountains was the first ride to contain a station fly-through mid course.


5: Ravine Flyer II at Waldameer Park
Ravine Flyer II was another ride that was in the works for seemingly a decade, in fact, Ravine Flyer 3 came before it.  The wait did not disappoint.  This CCI masterpiece crosses a bridge across the Presque Isle entry road twice.


4: Outlaw Run at Silver Dollar City
Let’s face it, everything RMC is touching is turning out amazing!  Outlaw Run was their first custom wooden coaster layout and they did not go for something simple.  Outlaw Run has gone and done what Son of Beast before it could not, successfully add inversions to a wooden coaster, and not just any inversion… a double barrel roll!


3: El Toro at Six Flags Great Adventure
Intamin’s prefab track changed the wooden coaster game.  El Toro provides possibly the smoothest wooden roller coaster experience ever.  Add a cable lift (think Skyrush and Millennium Force) and relentless ejector airtime and you get this ride.  Very easily this ride could have been #1.


2: Boulder Dash at Lake Compounce
Boulder Dash is a terrain wooden coaster that is built entirely onto a cliff.  Boulder Dash sets itself apart from the rest based on its unique layout and awesome airtime.


1: The Voyage at Holiday World
No ride touches the Voyage in terms of airtime, excitement, and intensity.  This ride goes underground 8 times on its 1.2 mile course.  The Voyage’s signature elements are a spaghetti bowl and a triple down after its mid course brake.  This is the one ride you absolutely need to ride at night.