After a turbulent couple of years for the travel industry, 2022 was suitably huge to make up for it all. Things all kicked off with a first time trip to Florida in March, the most obvious of all theme park destinations and one I had been dreaming of since as far back as I can remember. Mere months later we were back in the USA once more, on the roadtrip of a lifetime, ticking off more major parks and coasters than ever before.
These two trips back to back did begin to stir an inevitable realisation into the foreground of the hobby. I am beginning to ‘run out’ of fresh experiences when it comes down to what’s widely considered the ‘world’s best’. It’s a thought that is equal parts humbling and terrifying. Having come so far feels like a tremendous achievement and there’s still plenty more I want to see and do, so will continue to make the best of it in whichever ways I can.
With such a strong first half of the year, there was a noticeable wind-down towards the end of 2022. A quick traditional weekend jaunt to France in the summer, followed by a few days to and from Denmark at the end of August saw out the remainder of the international travel. Closer to home there were still a couple of minor establishments to visit, but I almost feel obliged to keep a couple of these left in the tank for a (non-)rainy day at this stage.
And so, with all that going on, how do the figures stack up?
Rather well. A record 242 new rollercoasters beats out 2019s best efforts and puts the steady climb of a trajectory back on track for where it was in the pre-covid era. I’m honestly not sure that this figure can ever be reached again, but it’s certainly not impossible. Park-wise, there were 55 new establishments visited, a four year high that is still, somehow, yet to come anywhere close to the all-time high of 2018. The most important number for me remains the amount of days spent visiting parks and making this hobby happen in any way, in any given year. A total of 48 of these made up 2022, tied with 2019 and marking a significant step back into normality.
Now that quantifying everything has made me infinitely happier, let’s talk about some highlights.
Favourite Coaster in 2022
By the slimmest of margins this year, God Damn Iron Gwazi reigns supreme. There were several very close contenders, some more surprising than others, along with a good many potential big names that simply fell by the wayside. Nothing else quite had the power and potency of this new for 2022 creation however and the style of ride experience is right up my street. The coaster developed a bit of a character for itself too, over our visits, which always helps. RMC back on top again and not a Gravity in sight, let’s save that particular discussion for another time though.
Favourite Dark Ride in 2022
With a visit to dark ride capital of the world Florida on the table, this list could have been endless amongst all the incredible experiences Disney and Universal have to offer. The honourable mentions instead chooses to name two of the big guns and two respective highlights of trips with other focuses that had small scale attractions punching well above their weight.
But the biggest gun of all is virtually untouchable. Rise of the Resistance was beyond anything I had ever dreamed of on a technical level. While I don’t think I had the opportunity to pay it as much attention as it deserved (due to the circumstances of the park in which it is situated) and therefore didn’t quite develop the emotional attachment to the attraction that I was also desiring, the sheer magnitude of achievement here cannot go unrecognised. It’s insane. Disney back on top again and not a Fantawild to be seen, we’ll blame a certain country for that.
Favourite Park in 2022
This pains me, I have a spreadsheet to tell me exactly this type of thing and yet I keep looking at the numbers to find something doesn’t add up. So, for the second year running, I’m awarding this one to a park that was a revisit. All the remaining contenders have caveats. While the attraction lineup at IoA is astounding, it’s a stressful place to simply get around. Whilst I adored Kennywood, we had our own personal issues going on that day and it doesn’t quite sit right. Though I fell in love with Knoebels, the visit was a little brief. Kings Island was pretty special too, but too intense.
Tivoli Gardens was just as magical as the first two times I visited and provided me with an inescapable homely vibe almost instantly. It has a bit of everything and everything about the place is just right. It’s fantastic to see how it’s continuously being rejuvenated throughout it’s long and rich history and I’d happily go back at any time, even with nothing to gain.
Favourite Cred Hunting of 2022
Speaking of gains, the fun one. The celebration of the ridiculous lengths I go to for this hobby. A lot of it went wrong this year to be fair, and some days were pretty grim. This particular day was completely chill though, cheap too, and everything went to plan, while still being silly. Eerily identical establishments sandwiched two other visits, one with a bit of bonus redemption and it was all just to break up a casual drive through four separate countries on the way to Denmark.
I seem to always be talking about how the UK failed to spark my interest in so many aspects and today is going to be no exception. I was never particularly enthralled with any of the wooden coaster offerings we have back home as they never showed me what made this seemingly antiquated construction material so special. It was old, it bounced around a lot, it wasn’t very good.
It fell to Great Coasters International to be the first company to introduce me to what highly enjoyable wooden rollercoasters are really all about and for a good couple of years they managed to establish themselves as my favourite wooden coaster manufacturer. Today I’d say that I potentially get more excited about riding a new woodie than I do a steelie and that’s not just because they’re outnumbered by about 25 to 1 in this modern age, substantial credit goes to this lot. The company built their first layout in 1996 and quickly developed into one of the key players in modern wooden rollercoaster design. It’s a very niche market these days dominated by only 3 or 4 names and as things currently stand, GCI have remained the most traditional of the bunch – building on their signature twister style layouts and relentless pacing. Traditional is all you need sometimes and they still top my list for all-time favourite woodie, though sadly as I have travelled further and experienced more, the consistency hasn’t quite always been there. As we near the end of 2022, I’ve ridden a total of 25 coasters from GCI, with only 4 left to go that are currently operating worldwide and a couple more under construction. Hopefully the full set will not elude me forever, but for now I’d say that’s more than enough to sink my teeth into for one of these lists.
The aforementioned first build in 1996 was here in home state Pennsylvania and as this is the one that started it all I feel I can’t judge Wildcat too harshly. Plus, it’s now deceased, shouldn’t speak ill of the dead. It’s reasonably tall, fast and long, but mostly uneventful – they had to learn from something. Big swooping curves form the majority of the layout and sadly I have no recollection of any interesting transitions or airtime.
Still in the early days, this ride hasn’t yet been treated to the manufacturer’s signature rolling stock (the Millenium Flyer) and that fact, combined with style of the layout, makes Roar almost unrecognisable as one of their creations. Aside from the big swooping curves, there’s big traditional airtime hills in here, though again they don’t really do anything. I can’t think of any other GCI that’s been made since to have a hill shaped anywhere close to that, probably with good reason. Shallow and powerful is much more their forte.
I was initially very excited that after over 20 years we were going to get a modern woodie so close to home, from a manufacturer that I believed I could count on to deliver a quality experience. As the construction developed it began to look a little underwhelming and when the day finally came to ride it, I was left with nothing but mild disappointment. Most people love the Wicker Man and I wish it every success, but I’ve seen and felt what GCI can do and this does none of it. Though it certainly looks the part, there’s just no energy in this tiny layout and I stand by what I said in the introduction. Nothing wooden in this country excites me. Hopefully by the time we reach the end of the list you’ll see why. It has been improving steadily over the last couple of years as the tracking deteriorates ever so slightly, so that’s a good thing.
With the bottom 3 out of the way we now enter a large cluster of almost inseparable experiences. I will say that everything from here on is at least a decent ride worth multiple laps so try not to focus on the negatives too much, I’m just better at talking about them. Great Desert-Rally began with the promise of much greater things, taking a fast and powerful first drop similar to a certain European cousin. It then spends far too long in this bit, up high, sapping all the momentum from the ride and the remainder is a little underwhelming.
As easily one of my favourite parks in the world, oh how I wish Dollywood had even a mid tier GCI. Sadly the ride clings in desperation to a pointless claim, something along the lines of ‘most corners in the world’ and that’s about as interesting as it sounds. There really isn’t a whole lot else going on here.
Two thunders in a row and it takes a significantly powerful memory to be able to tell these apart. It took 10 years for GCI to go continental, bringing Thunderbird to Europe and I’m sure that was an amazing moment. The layout tries, tries to do more than corners. There’s that hill in the picture that acts like a second drop and a little section of straight bunny hills that don’t really deliver.
Gold Striker was aggressive, almost in the wrong sense. It gave me a headache on my first lap but I persisted and grew to respect it, to a degree. Offride I love the design of this one (Santa not included), the way the queue sits inside the intimidatingly loud starting sequence. Later on you climb some stairs towards the station where once again the train comes roaring past in very close proximity at a defeaning pace. The signature station flythrough is subverted with these moments and you get a lot more time to appreciate it while you wait. Onride it’s more of the above. I just found myself willing it to do a little more.
The ingredients of what makes GCI special are beginning to fall into place and I believe I can pinpoint this as the first ride in the list with notable kinks in the corners, something I assumed would always be a part of the manufacturers recipe. These unusual track shapings provide a satisfying moment of unexpected airtime as you either enter or exit a turn and would serve to elevate all of the aforementioned big swoopers by giving them a moment of significance. After all, that’s what you need to stand out in a list like this. Invadr was small, fun and punchy. Things are starting to get exciting.
Most notable to me for being my 200th coaster, I’ve always found this one a little underwhelming in the grand scheme of things. Take that first drop for instance – it doesn’t really go anywhere. Just a big swooping turn (here we go again) into some more swooping turns. The transitions start to liven up a little at this point in the list and Troy does have a good bit of kick to it. I just can’t tell you where or when. I find it’s a particularly good ride at providing the illusion of being more aggressive than it actually is.
Wildcat clearly wasn’t enough for Hersheypark and only 4 years later they ended up with not one, but two more GCIs. This time it was a racing coaster with two tracks intertwined in a spectacular tangle of timber. The racing element certainly enhances things for me, though I still found the layouts lacked a little definition. One side was running slightly better than the other (I couldn’t say which, but it was winning every time without fail) and my favourite moment was the surprise airtime hill in a shed. More of that please.
I can only really separate these three on theming. The two in Europe are owned by the same park chain, share the same layout (albeit mirrored) and they both rode exactly the same – a welcome change to the standard GCI styling with a lot more straights, a lot less corners and a lot more airtime hills. The one in America is the original of the design and has nothing going for it on a visual level whatsoever. They’re very good for the size, but with so little speed to play with there’s a distinct lack of aggression. Which is fine, for a family coaster. For what it’s worth I preferred the look of the one with the werewolves.
The ones that started it all for me remain a relative highlight. During my first two visits this was a real standout experience although the most recent lap we had was far from ideal. Fire breathing dragon aside (RIP), these exhilarating racing coasters throw so much at you in a short space of time and simply deliver bags of fun. The soundtrack is addictive and should be sung on any racing attraction in the world because it perfectly sums up the experience, as does the theming in the station with the cheers and jeers. A proper package.
While still comparatively a baby, this little GCI has that extra spice that defines the manufacturer for me. A relentless feel from start to finish, with a good mixture of twisty bits and bumpy hills. It’s amazing how such seemingly minor changes can make a huge difference to the overall experience.
A well above average woodie experience from GCI, again with a relentless feel, a good mixture of elements and just a little bigger than the above. The signature twisted s-bend drop was a bit of a let down, looking far better visually than it actually rode. It faced some very stiff competition in the week that it was experienced, but can’t really complain about the rest of the layout.
And here’s just one example of that competition. It was unhealthily hot on the day that we happened to experience Prowler and I could barely tell what was going on. From sticking to the seat in a semi-comatose state to the ride breaking down under the stress a few minutes later, I have fleeting memories of surprisingly intense laterals, an interesting layout and a solid all round package propping this ride up amongst the greats.
The sinister statues in the station alone should put this ride in the top half, but it’s the aggressive start and unpredictable ending that really did it for me. While the middle section loses pace for a short while, I always found myself laughing uncontrollably with joy by the time the train hit the brakes.
What a curveball, I expected very little out of this ride and it delivered on every count. It was declared a ‘top 5 GCI’ at the time of riding and that just about holds, even after the rest of the trip was done. Relentless rumbling, with a design that’s much more killer than filler, even the double-cornered first drop is unpredictably wild and puts Renegade’s attempt to shame
I went in to this one expecting something on par with the #1 in this list and subsequently left disappointed. Fortunately I have come to appreciate it a lot more looking back on the experience, it was still a monster. It had all the ingredients to be truly special – the sheer size and the location on the hillside, the queueline even has a lift to take you up to the station, so there was plenty to play with. It ended up a mixed bag though. As though paying homage to the days of Wildcat, a lot of the terrain was used for large swooping corners off the side of the hill and they didn’t really deliver. What made the ride was the straight airtime sequences, which were amongst GCIs very finest for getting me out of that seat again and again.
I went into this one thinking my better days with GCI were well behind me. Instead it was like a warm welcome home, exactly the type of stuff I enjoy most out of this type of ride. A low to the ground, wild romp through the forest with airtime all over the place. By the end of the day the train was tearing itself apart from the track and making noises not heard before, which is of course a good thing. On top of all that, the theming package gives this attraction bags of character and the shed shall forever remain a legend of the industry.
Now we enter the God tier. Stupidly huge, overgrown and built into the side of a mountain, ride location simply doesn’t get better than this. Wood Coaster goes on forever, never stops being aggressive and is just about perfect in every way. I can’t believe this ride exists, I can’t believe how much I went through to experience it and I still can’t believe how much it gave me in return.
But if there’s one ride to beat that, it has to be the snake, just. While the views might not be as spectacular, the experience is even longer and contains more airtime moments than there are grains of sand in the universe. GCI must have thrown absolutely everything they have at these marvellous creations and it really couldn’t be more apparent. I can’t wait for the day when another park attempts something of this magnitude again.
Within a single decade, Rocky Mountain Construction have established themselves as the boys to beat when it comes to making the best rollercoasters money can buy. Their rides are seemingly tailored to what enthusiasts like myself enjoy the most – a blend of powerful airtime, interesting elements and minimal gimmicks. They began their days by converting and revitalising older wooden rollercoasters in certain parks – removing the track, leaving the structures intact and using their unique steel rails to create a brand new and vastly more experimental experience. Since then, several ‘ground up’ installations have been built, which tend to use the same system, though also having a layer of wood underneath the rails in order to replicate the classification of a wooden rollercoaster, just ones like you’ve never seen before. While they haven’t really branched out into specific ride types other than the recent single rail Raptor model, the label ‘RMC’ itself is by far the most consistently rewarding in the world right now. I believe they have also played an important role in demonstrating to more casual guests how the most fun coaster in the park doesn’t have to be the biggest and fastest. It should be something repeatedly enjoyable rather than just a scary experience to try once for a laugh, and I’ve already witnessed dedicated followings and numerous marathons first hand. As of this 2022 update I’ve now experienced 17 out of a total 23 operating RMCs, with half of the remainder being cloned layouts, so there’s only really three left out there for me now – a harrowing thought.
#17 Jersey Devil Coaster (Six Flags Great Adventure, USA) – We begin with the aforementioned Raptor model. Admittedly I’ve only done the two of these, but that does encompass both of the layouts that exist in the world right now, which is enough to know that I’m not a fan of sophomore design. The prototype was a marvel for the industry, I’d never seen anything quite like it before and it brought a completely fresh style to the table. Taking the hardware and then running with nothing but a remit of ‘taller, longer, faster’ led to a ride that lost the spirit of the single rail. There’s no reason this couldn’t just have been a regular two rail RMC other than for a bit of short term marketing. It also rode poorly and had restraint issues. It’s the worst RMC, but it’s still world class.
#16 Goliath (Six Flags Great America, USA) – More records were up for grabs here, with an early installation of the ground-up wooden coaster design. Goliath was huge, as the name suggests, but for all that height it doesn’t do a whole lot to back it up. It’s a compact and succinct layout that introduces a lot of RMCs early hits, most notably the stall element, and this makes it a quintessential experience that just doesn’t have enough going for it when stacked up against the rest.
#15 Outlaw Run (Silver Dollar City, USA) – It was on this trip that I learnt that ‘wooden coasters like you’ve never seen before’ might not stand the test of time for RMC, in their current form. The most aggressive of the bunch has already received extensive re-tracking to the point at which it can no longer be classified as a wooden rollercoaster. Outlaw Run, the very first of these, is suffering from similar issues. The wheel seats were a dud for me, due some rather headache-inducing tracking and the front of each car was definitely the place to be. There are some amazing elements in this layout and the setting is to die for, but it’s once again very short and I don’t really rate any of the inversions, particularly the final two, which are a rare miss.
#14 Wildfire (Kolmården, Sweden) – Talking of wooden rollercoasters like you’ve never seen before, how about this monster? This was the first RMC in Europe and the first one I rode (eventually). I was already aware of the hype surrounding the manufacturer at the time and though an amazing ride in its own right, it didn’t quite live up to the exceedingly high reputation. At the time of riding, I couldn’t pinpoint the spark that was missing from Wildfire but having since ridden other RMCs it’s blantantly obvious – other than the first drop it lacks any of the characteristic airtime moments that punctuate the other special elements on offer. The combination of the two is the literal definition of these rides for me and if you only have one half of that, you’re going to come up short. The other nitpick I have is though it is marketed as the greatest wooden rollercoaster in the world (and it isn’t), I didn’t think it rode like a woodie at all and I have since confirmed (further down the list) that RMC are capable of generating this feeling in a good way, and (further up the list) a bad way.
#13 Joker (Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, USA) – I struggled to get the most out this comparatively baby RMC due to poor operations on the day. It has all the classic fun elements throughout along with airtime in greater quantities than Wildfire, but no definitive moments that stand out quite as much.
#12 Railblazer (California’s Great America, USA) – This (almost) unique looking attraction is nothing short of ridiculous. As we’ve already seen, the Raptor model uses just one rail and trains that straddle the track with single file seating. Railblazer takes the whole layout from start to finish at a ridiculous pace and contains several intense airtime moments. The downfall is that it’s just really short and it may have been slightly elevated for me by being both a completely fresh experience and only riding in the back row at night for every lap.
#11 Twisted Cyclone (Six Flags Over Georgia, USA) – This is where we hit RMC’s true mix of elements at its prime. What this ride does is as good as its wicked and timber brothers, only the layout feels half the length and leaves you wanting more. My favourite part is the immensely intense hill out of this magical element that you don’t even see coming from the back row.
#10 Untamed (Walibi Holland, Netherlands) – Europe’s 2nd RMC after what felt like a very long wait. I didn’t find it to be the most intense of their creations and it contains noticeably weaker sections than any of the below. Untamed still gives an amazing, lengthy ride that delivers a lot of incredible moments. My head says it’s objectively better than the next ride in the list, but my heart just won’t let that happen at this point in time. It lacked a little character.
#9 Lightning Rod(Dollywood, USA) – Aww. I wanted this ride to be the best thing ever, but it wasn’t. Expectations may have let me down slightly as I thought it was going to be one of the bigger RMCs feat. quad down, but it’s actually short and the legendary quad down is 50% of the ride. I have been led to believe that the initial launched lift has been toned down and that I may not have experienced the rod in all it’s glory. If true, I sincerely hope there comes a day where this can happen. As I found it, the first half is a little too underwhelming for what follows and then just when it gets absolutely amazing, it ends.
#8 Wicked Cyclone (Six Flags New England, USA) – This was another case of not getting as much time to appreciate the ride as I would have liked (thanks again Six Flags), so it’s harder to big it up. Contrary to the above, Wicked Cyclone feels like just the right amount of length and the way it flows and bounces between the mixture of inversions and airtime is simply beautiful. In particular, the surprise wonky hills hidden inside the structure are some of the best in the business.
#7 Storm Chaser (Kentucky Kingdom, USA) – Somehow Storm Chaser almost manages to be forgettable in such a lineup. By no means is it to be underestimated though, even with the understated grungy look, it has big bad airtime and a satisfying raw power to the other key moments of the layout. I found it to be the best of the weather related ones by the tiniest margin and that’s all down to personal preference really – more aggressive airtime.
#6 Zadra (Energylandia, Poland) – The first RMC in Europe to go over 200ft and earn classification as one of the ‘big boys’ that get rated the world over as the absolute best of the best. It’s not hard to see why, this monster has a piece of everything that makes these rides so special, is insanely fast paced and delivers amazingly throughout a satisfying length of layout.
#5 Steel Vengeance (Cedar Point, USA) – And here’s the OG ‘big boy’, literally regarded the best rollercoaster on the planet by an overwhelming majority. I agree that it’s just so damn good, but Steel Vengeance didn’t have that killer instinct I was hoping for, to tip it over the edge. Chuck in a handful of moments that try to hurt me, make the inversions more interesting and you’ve got the best in the business. For now, this is as far as it goes.
#4 Twisted Timbers (Kings Dominion, USA) – As we enter the top tier, things get truly intense. I had Twisted Timbers down as a variable performer after our first visit, but more recently it seemed to be out to prove a point and was holding absolutely nothing back. Mere days after the revelations on Steel Vengeance, this one definitively demonstrated to me that it’s just more my cup of tea. It’s insane, it hurts and it has all of that killer instinct. And that’s exactly what I’m looking for in my RMCs.
#3 Iron Gwazi (Busch Gardens Tampa, USA) – God Damn Iron Gwazi. The new American monster is so wild and full of extremities at every level. Unlike the above, and it’s biggest rival over at Cedar Point, it’s not the biggest airtime machine but it makes the best use of the fast paced approach by being packed full of killer manoeuvres. Several of these elements stepped up the manufacturer’s creativity and range of sensations another notch. As if that was even possible.
#2 Hakugei(Nagashima Spa Land, Japan) – This is nothing short of a beautiful creation. It was never quite as wild as some of those that came before, but it was a consistently incredible ride at all times of day in all parts of the train, even in the direst of situations. Hakugei has perhaps the most to offer, of all RMCs, in its combination of both length and power. The resultant layout probably has the closest to perfect mix of elements, from someone who over-analyses these things to the point of detraction. It did lack character for me and maybe has one zero-G too many so that, combined with not being the most intense, holds it back from the top spot.
#1 Twisted Colossus (Six Flags Magic Mountain, USA) – Still the king and I’m as much surprised as you probably are. Using pain as the measure for intensity (in a good way), no other RMC has come close to hurting my legs (and neck?!) with airtime as much as Twisted Colossus did. The out of control feeling exiting the high-five element hasnt been matched either, in a ride type that starts to feel a little calculated and clinical the more you delve into it. In a list where several coasters suffer from the feeling of hitting the brakes and wanting more, you hit the brakes on this ride, then you get more. The easy way. In a list where several coasters just didn’t quite hit the mark with everything they could throw at me, every single moment counts on this ride, to the point of physical duress. The simple knowledge that there’s more fun to come while creeping up the second lift hill is easily enough to keep me happy, but the interaction between the two trains during the layout adds an extra special layer to this mind blowing experience, truly setting it apart from the rest.
Bolliger & Mabillard are great at gifting me list topics. With a narrow portfolio of ride types that almost all happen to be large thrill coasters they become instantly relatable, comparable and it’s easy to know where you stand with them. I’d better pace myself before I run out of posts on such things.
Characterised in their own words by ‘the straight vertical drop with riders facing down’, the Dive Coaster has had an interesting presence in the industry over the years. It began life at Alton Towers in 1998 with the highly famous Oblivion and has since taken form in various different shapes and sizes, both larger and smaller. Within a couple of years a mirrored clone of the original was bizarrely built on the side of a cliff in Taiwan, but it took a full 7 years for the product to start shifting more seriously when the Busch Gardens parks decided to change the style somewhat – from intimidating and mysterious to imposing crowdpleasers with inversions, splashdowns and even bigger track and trains.
China, much as I love it, wasn’t one for setting any industry trends in those days and soon said “we’ll have a couple of those cloned as well”, but the 2010s found new ground in the birth of the mini version. Europe put fear and theming back on the agenda in conjunction with tighter manoeuvres and the smaller trains, suddenly the order book for Dive Coasters was more full than it had ever been. It felt like Cedar Point marked a turning point in how enthusiasts (or perhaps just me) viewed these creations, with Valravn making silly boasts about the tallest, fastest and longest (of a specific manufacturer and model), only breaking those statistics by miniscule amounts and clearly just for the sake of easy marketing, while not doing anything more interesting with the design or layout. Suddenly the attitude became “oh no, not another dive” and though the last 5 years has seen the population of these double, the spark of excitement for them seems to be fizzling out.
Again that could just be me, I’m up to 12 out of 16 on the checklist with only 3 unique layouts left to try and feel like I’ve already seen everything that they have to offer. Hopefully Cedar Fair can still surprise me, but in the meantime let’s have a look at how the rest stack up.
And here we are, the turning point itself. Valravn was a massive let down in all regards. The cars being a narrower eight-across rather than the usual ten for a Dive coaster that’s well in excess of 200ft tall had me believing, for a brief moment, that it would be nippier than other North American brethren. It was not, combining all of the worst aspects of the relative sluggishness that comes with a coaster of such scale with a jarringly unpleasant rattle that also made it the roughest and least entertaining of it’s type.
Hmmm.. apologies to all the Oblivion fans still out there, the original just doesn’t do it for me any more. Part of the blame can be laid on the park, who have managed to strip the attraction of all its atmosphere over the years. We can’t play the audio any more, we can’t show the queueline videos any more and we can’t use the holding brake as much. All that’s left is a big drop, which is admittedly still one of the best for doing what it does, and then the brake run. I like it enough, but it’s almost at flat ride status.
While I admire the aesthetic here, the layout leaves a lot to be desired. It borrows nearly all the features from the bigger brothers including the mid-course brake run, but this in particular seems entirely unjustified against both the pacing and the reduction in height (plus Happy Valley one train operations) to then just enter some uninteresting corners, the not overly spectator friendly water feature and end.
Similar issues on a different scale. I absolutely love the theming, preshow and presentation package of this coaster and I would have thought the short layout would lend itself to being potent and pacy. It somehow doesn’t though (space saving helix?) and the actual ride just isn’t punchy enough to seal the deal for me.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record (the predictability of the ride type is beginning to kick in), the forces weren’t strong enough on this mid-sized installation. The theming didn’t land very well with me either, but overall it looks great, the views were spectacular and I admire the attempted airtime hill.
The first of the giants in the list. Truth be told there’s very little separating these few, and even the ones that came before. If there’s one word I’d use for these Dive Coasters it’s ‘solid’. As a Happy Valley resident this one was again plagued with operational issues that bothered me. The big drop is serious business, but the mid-course brakes were biting a little too hard (on the only train on track) for the second half to deliver in equal measure. Hold that thought.
It’s fine, absolutely fine. Nothing more than that though. I think the only thing that puts this one above the previous clone in the list is the presentation of the splashdown area, which is particularly gorgeous. It’s amazing how much the Chinese park missed the mark on that feature when plonking it down in their own space and a true testament to how lazy cloning attractions can be.
It’s fine, absolutely fine. Nothing more than that though. I think the only thing that puts this one below the following clone in the list is the fact that the restraint put grease on my jeans. A mark that still remains today as a memory of better times.
Oh, and the queue. This Korean cousin had a really nice exterior buliding, queueline and even a bit of storyline. It was also an absolute mission to get a ride on this one at all, making the reward feel all the greater.
Still holding that thought? Good. My original experience with the big boy edition remains my favourite. It didn’t stop at all on the mid course brakes and therefore had a much more powerful second drop, which was further enhanced by a tunnel and misters. Chimelong did a really good job of integrating this layout into the surroundings and operate it surprisingly well, two things I can’t say for that other Chinese one with the lazy name.
This sea monster taught me that these rides could have pace. While the larger versions have an impressive sustain in their drops, that’s the only real trick up their sleeve and they spend the rest of the time wandering around in a cumbersome fashion. Even with the risky use of an early splashdown, this one still delivers effectively in each subsequent element (however few there may be) and that airtime hill is the best of the bunch. Even though it’s amongst the smallest, Krake was also another long overdue masterclass in intimidation factor – just look at it (granted, that sky helps). Heide Park surpassed all my expections with this one and raised the standard by which I measured the genre. Oh, and it has a great soundtrack too.
This marked the second time the Dive Coaster game changed for me. With a much more significant layout (and no pause for thought on any brake runs) Valkyria absolutely blasts its way through the course, providing several forces along the way that I previously believed these rides weren’t even capable of producing. Construction began at the aforementioned time when I thought I was over them and foolishly I didn’t even have faith in my own favourite park to pull off anything special with the hardware. They did of course, in spectacular fashion. I now love Liseberg even more for it. And no, I won’t hear a word against the vests. We can save that discussion for the Wing Coasters.
I was impressed with how solid the rollercoaster selection is at Busch Gardens Williamsburg. A common trend among larger amusement parks is having a glaringly disparate gap in quality between the one or two headline attractions and the large quantities of what I would call ‘filler’ for an enthusiast. You’re more than likely in this hobby to come across a lot of clones and experiences that aren’t unique to a park, so it’s refreshing to experience a lineup such as the following.
#9 Grover’s Alpine Express Due to its location, the smallest coaster in this park is often the first ride to open for the day, making it easy pickings for adding +1 to the count. While it is twinned with a ride at the other Busch Gardens park, at least the Zierer Force 190 is reasonably hard to come by.
#8 Tempesto The number of Premier Sky Rocket IIs in the world is growing at quite a rate and this is one of the newer installations, so it was a little disappointing to see it built here. It filled a very limited niche in the lineup when it was built, now nullified, by having both forwards and backwards direction of travel, and now multiple launches are already covered better multiple times elsewhere in the park. The main reason it’s a popular ride type to buy is most likely the tiny footprint and compact layout that still provides a high thrill level to the average guest. Sadly Tempesto has the worst restraints available for this model of ride the form of ‘comfort collars’. The restricting nature of these shoulder straps make the experience more of a chore, rather than something to enjoy.
#7 Loch Ness Monster Though it has somewhat legendary status as a classic ride of an earlier era, in todays terms Nessie isn’t a coaster I would describe as exciting. Arrow loopers can often lean towards being rough and ready due to their interestingly shaped track transitions and older technology, but this particular installation posed no issues to me whatsoever. In fact it was a rather amusing experience with a big square helix in a shed and a smaller second lift that seemed rather out of place. The interlocking loops are a great off-ride spectacle, it’s just that the layout itself has very little to offer.
#6 Griffon The other clone in the park comes in the form of this B&M dive coaster. It isn’t Busch Gardens fault however, as the other version arrived much later at a park in Korea, nor is it their fault that I happened to ride that version first. These are always solid fun, with a ride experience that generally centres around their one or two massive vertical drops. The drops themselves provide a well sustained out of the seat moment but due to the sheer size of the track and trains the remainder of the layout can often feel a little slow and meandering. Griffon is no exception to this, but it is a good looking ride – the well positioned splashdown section provides an impressive off-ride experience as well.
#5 Invadr I’ve found that GCI are at their best when their rides are huge so that they can really make the most of the relentless sensations they are capable of creating. Invadr is small for its type and yet still manages to pack a certain punch, though perhaps nothing on the scale of an equivalent sized Gravity Group, but it still means that Invadr is worth several laps of good fun. One of the features I enjoy most about these rides is the unpredictable forces that come out of their unusually shaped corner transitions. On certain GCIs these have been nowhere to be found, but they were back and in plentiful supply within the layout here. The ride looks great from outside the entrance, but leaves a little to be desired in the barren landscape that surrounds the majority of the track.
#4 Alpengeist B&M inverts used to be one of my favourite ride types. The first few that I encountered were all smooth, stupidly intense and offered well varied layouts so I was firmly of the belief that you could’t go wrong with one of these. I did eventually stumble upon a few that didn’t meet any of the above criteria. It turns out it is possible for some to ride rather poorly, lack intensity or have the monotony of repeating the same elements, in order. Alpengeist suffered mainly from the first of these. On the day I experienced it, this did ride poorly, particularly towards the back of the train and in the outside seats (usually the most enjoyable positions) with an unpleasant rattle that, although perfectly tolerable, detracted from the performance somewhat. The layout is very refreshing, with the huge swooping downwards spiral that turns far more than your average first drop and the following unique inversion sequence. After the mid course brake run however, the ride ran out of steam to the point of hilarity. We couldn’t help but laugh when Alpengeist was almost travelling at a walking pace through the final turns that dangle your feet over the fake snow trenches carved into the landscape. Speaking of the landscape, the attention to detail in the theming of this ride is wonderful and I really did appreciate the overall aesthetic it provides. It’s a shame the hardware couldn’t match that standard on this occasion.
#3 Apollo’s Chariot The main aim of most hyper coasters is to provide you with a plentiful supply of large hills and a great deal of speed with which to experience them. In an ideal world, these hills will be trying to kick you up out of your seat and the B&M train design for these rides has an almost unrivalled sense of openness and freedom which can only enhance that sensation. Apollo’s Chariot pulls this off a fair few times, but sadly not quite every hill is a hit. The strongest moment of the ride turned out to be the exit of the mid course brake run which angles back to a steep drop much faster than any of the camelback sections of track and provides a great surprise moment of ejection for riders.
Another challenge in designing rides of this scale is keeping things interesting in between the signature hills, finding a good way to transition from one element to another. Most notable in this layout is the turnaround, which is a very long, flat, banked corner that offers nothing to riders other than a means to get them and the train facing in the right direction to head back to the station. Moments like this always bug me as it feels like wasted potential and one of my most sought after characteristics of a ride is that it doesn’t give you any time to stop and think. That corner aside, Apollo’s Chariot is one of the better B&Ms hypers that I have ridden and although the frequency is just a little too low for my liking, in the moments it does deliver, it delivers well.
#2 Verbolten I have to admit that I was surprised to walk away from Busch Gardens Williamsburg in 2019 with Verbolten as my favourite ride in the park. This attraction is usually billed as somewhat more of a family-thrill adventure as opposed to the many taller and faster offerings that surround it, but the ride experience contains a good number of factors that set it apart from the rest of the lineup for me. The queueline, station and overall theming is on the same level as the strongest examples in the park with particular little details like the number plates on the trains all having unique references to elements of the current ride and in one case, the retired ride that once operated where Verbolten stands today.
Beyond the station, the ride has the most extensively themed coaster section of any in the park with a large show building containing the most significant portion of the layout. The train initially takes you wandering into the forest before hitting the first launch, which thrusts you into this building with a surprising amount of gusto. It’s completely dark inside to begin with and you cannot see that the launch track ends in a hill and corner transition that provided me with wickedly fierce and out of control airtime moment before it navigates some tight corners with strong positive forces. The building begins to light up with various themed effects around you as the train continues its journey into an apparent dead end!? Verbolten is one of few rides in the world with a section of drop track. The train comes to a complete stop and one of (I believe) three sequences begins with the lighting and scenery again, one of which, pays homage to the ride’s predecessor ‘Big Bad Wolf’. The train and track section drop together in unison with a gleefully powerful moment of surprise airtime, usually only enhanced by the anticipation and reaction of unsuspecting riders around you – a real crowd pleasing scare element.
The ride picks up a pace again as you leave the building from here and enter a second launch track. My main gripe with the layout comes here in that it doesn’t use this multi launch aspect (usually one of my absolute favourite elements on any ride) to any significant effect. All the energy is immediately sapped from the train again by a single uphill section into the next trick. The trick itself involves crossing a bridge that appears to be collapsing beneath you and a significant drop follows, leading you into some final turns back towards the station, unfortunately again with somewhat less vigour than the immensely strong first half of the ride. Overall I loved Verbolten. It’s a very special attraction and it stands out as the most complete ride experience package in the park and is certainly, so far, the best ride Zierer have ever made.
New for the 2022 season, after a particularly agonising series of delays, Busch Gardens Williamsburg finally opened their Intamin multi-launch coaster. We had known this was coming ever since the previous visit in 2019 and, for various obvious reasons, it took 3 years both for us to visit again and for the park to be able to construct and sign off the attraction. It was wholly worth the wait as by sheer merit of the ride type alone, Pantheon slots comfortably into position as best coaster in the park, the headliner. The comfort of the trains, the modern quirky elements and the moments of serious airtime all blend together into a world class coaster experience, and one that is exactly the sort of thing that keeps me on my travels.
The ride was full of pleasant surprises, but also had its fair share of minor flaws. The very existence of the initial launch and inversion had managed to escape my knowledge and gave Pantheon a very strong start, reminiscent of another world-beating Intamin. From this moment it does get a little messy and convoluted however, with a very abrupt change of pace followed by the signature triple launch section. This segment undoubtedly provides some fantastic moments, the bursts of acceleration over what is essentially a speed bump and the weightlessness of that intimidating vertical spike, but I find it’s hard to gel with the flow of the overall experience with all this starting and stopping going on. This also comes at the price that once the ride does get fully going and takes all the biggest, hardest hitting elements, it then hits the final brakes very suddenly. None of that can take away from the power of the top hat, beyond vertical drop and banked airtime hill however, which all seal the deal on a spectacular package. My surprise favourite moment in fact came from the backwards launch when seated in the front row. The violent nature with which this chucks you over the mid-launch hill is very special and unlike anything else I’ve experienced.
Busch Gardens Williamsburg already had a very impressive lineup, but it just got even better.
At last we reach the end of this 50 year series. Things have come an extremely long way from Gold Rusher in 1971. It’s not an entirely happy ending though. Of course with a worldwide pandemic going on, rollercoaster construction took a significant downturn with around 40% less opening across the planet compared to the previous year. There were still a surprisingly high quantity of new builds in historical terms however, matching the same sort of numbers we were seeing just a decade ago. The hardest hit were some of the most major projects which would have been planned out for several years, with many either deciding or being forced to defer and this is also evident in the overall quality of the lineup today.
The other issue here is that I barely even have 10 rides to my name that were built in 2020. Both the travel restrictions and recency of the builds mean I simply haven’t had the chance to seek enough of these out. In fact it’s a good thing that I have dragged this series on so long now, with just under a week until I ride my first new for 2022 coaster, as I wouldn’t even have been able to fill the list back when this idea all started.
You know it’s a desperate situation when the list begins with a children’s coaster, the ubiquitous Wacky Worm no less. We haven’t started with something of this scale since 1996. These strawberry flavoured worms are particularly fine examples of the model and we had a great and memorable day riding four of them at different Karls parks in Germany over many, many miles.
I’d be half tempted to put the next two behind the worm, but I have to at least acknowledge that they offer a rarer experience in the grand scheme of things. I didn’t get the point of Hummel Brummel and I’d also struggle to call it a rollercoaster with the way it behaves. Better stop talking about it before I do myself out of a cred.
And while these are a bit more legit, they’re just so dull. Controlled braking at every turn sucks the life out of what very little movement is going on anyway. I think inherently there’s nothing to be done for them without introducing another dimension, but other rides have those anyway.
Disappointing, for Efteling, I have to say. While it was nice to see the comeback of the Mack powered coaster, I feel like nothing was done here to progress it forwards in any way, with some very lacklustre layout design and not even what appeared to be good attention to the way that this pair duels. Instead it relies solely on the charms of station theming and onboard audio, which are undeniably the saviours here.
This goat paid plenty of attention to interaction in the way that it weaves through the layout of the adjacent suspended coaster and even bursts through it’s roof at the end (not that there was a roof at my time of riding). I rather enjoyed the more linear approach to the junior boomerang design here, favouring those humps and bumps, particularly in the backwards direction, over drawn out turns.
This ride had such a sense of fun to it, from the catchy dispatch theme to the way it teasingly accelerates up the second lift hill. There’s plenty going on here, from weird and wonky track elements to the tricks at the end with a reverse spike and switch track. A real crowd pleaser and another fine example of Gerstlauer continuing to nail these lower-key installations.
The dawn of the Vekoma Suspended Thrill Coaster conjured up many dreams of a world entering a new age, one in which we no longer had to live in fear of their dreaded Suspended Looping Coaster. This first example wasn’t quite pitched at the same level of extremity however and seems more suited to bridge the gap between their increasingly popular family model. The lap bars are highly welcome of course and it has some decently forceful moments, though the inverion sequence is rather repetitive and struggles to let the ride break away from that meandering feeling.
It was great to see a new Eurofighter layout appear out of nowhere and put this little known French park on the map for us. It did leave me wondering why lap bars aren’t default on these models now as we certainly know they are possible. Aside from that minor misfortune, Vertika is a great and re-rideable coaster with a well rounded selection of elements.
One of the finest Gerstlauer Bobsled creations to date combines a fun and quirky theme with a stacked compact layout full of everything you could wish for from one of these. A true gem in an overwhelmingly underwhelming lineup of coasters at Wiener Prater and a real surprise hit.
And so Vekoma are getting their first win since 1992, once again spurred on by the surroundings. While this was nowhere near as effective of a ride layout as I had hoped it would be, I can’t deny the sheer spectacle of F.L.Y., nor how much I enjoyed witnessing the technology at play. The way the trains transition themselves from loading to flying and vice versa is totally inspired and I have to admit it somewhat blew my mind. I’m glad the boundaries have been pushed, but I think the limiting factor here was the setting. Being yet another heavily themed Phantasialand multi-launch coaster left no room for the types of elements I love to see on other flying coasters and so we basically got Taron again, in a less comfortable format. What a glowing review for the best coaster of the year (for now), had to end the series in style!
It’s interesting that in the absence of any of the familiar manufacturers we’ve seen at the business end of this series, Vekoma and Gerstlauer were doing all the heavy lifting. The two safe bets for the year however were the big B&Ms, Candymonium and Orion. Though I already have experience with loving the layout of Forest Predator, the fact that it has backwards seats could be totally game changing. I still can’t quite believe that I had planned to ride Launch Roller Coaster during a trip in 2018 and it has taken until now, of all years, to actually open. These S&S air launchers with actual layouts are usually the bomb. It’s hard not to remember the time when speculation said that Pitts Special was a layout extension for Junker and not a coaster in it’s own right. Need to see what that’s all about. Shred the Sewers snuck up out of nowhere, can’t say no to an Intamin launch coaster with the added bonus of that indoor interaction. Texas Stingray was the only wooden coaster able to open as far as I’m aware, good old GCI. The construction of West Coast Racers was the reason I missed a different GCI during my visit to Magic Mountain, so more than double the revenge to have there with these exciting looking racing coasters. Wrath of Zeus is yet another of these amazing looking Vekomas that I will always have my doubts about now, but it won’t stop me from trying.
I’m sure plenty of that lot would make a reasonably solid 10 to be fair, I’ll be sure to revisit this particular list at some point, along with any others that might see a significant change in the years to come. It’s been fun.
The end is in sight and this feels like the last great year, partly because I don’t appear to have a large enough sample size for 2020 yet and partly because, well, you know… This is a very, very solid list at the very top, proving yet again that this really is a magical era we’re living in right now, when it comes to the construction of coasters at least.
The novelty of being able to choose a backwards facing ride on this Gerstlauer Infinity was easily the most exciting thing about it for me. That very first lap, launching into the unknown and unable to see what was coming, was a rather special experience. It’s not their finest of layouts but it delivers a fun, mixed bag in an impressively tight footprint and was definitely another step towards a promising future for the park.
Vekoma’s Space Warp model debuted as a compact launch coaster in 2015 at Energylandia, Poland. By 2019, Chinese theme park chain Fantawild had taken on several more for a number of their newly built properties – with 2 opening in the same year. There were a couple of key differences in the design, both in that Celestial Gauntlet uses a conventional lift hill and first drop for it’s momentum and the final section of humps and bumps was extended around some extra corners in order to allow for some additional interaction with theming. I found it a far more satisfying ride than Formula for those two reasons, the little kick off the top of the lift adds a fun moment and of course a longer ride of this style is generally a better ride.
But very short and punchy rides can have a charm of their own. I was initially a little disappointed to learn that Dynamite would be far more scaled back than the original Mack BigDipper, Lost Gravity. While it did always leave me wanting more after each lap, the elements it does have are executed brilliantly, with powerful bursts of airtime in unexpected places and a satisfying set of inversions.
These compact designs were really on a roll this year, perhaps showing a direction in which the industry is headed – finding new ways to bring amazing thrills into overcrowded spaces. I’m all for it when the result is anything like Mystic. It’s a vicious combination of the many things Gerstlauer do really well, from that awesome first drop to the completely ridiculous inverted spike.
One of the more frustrating encounters of my coaster career so far was with this thing. You can certainly appreciate the majesty and ambition of a dueling Intamin triple-launch coaster that consists of both a sit-down train and an inverted train, along with that strikingly massive loop structure. Visiting just 6 months after opening however had me finding that they generally don’t tend to bother operating both simultaneously, in typical Chinese park fashion. In fact, where they used to at least alternate between the two ride systems during the day, this policy had also been abandoned embarassingly early into the operating life of Dueling Dragons. But, hey, I got to ride the invert at least (not through lack of trying with the other, including rearranging the entire trip and wasting valuable time) and it was pretty amazing. I look forward to Intamin doing more to revitalise this ride type now that it has those amazing lap bars, just perhaps not at a Sunac park next time?
More launches, more mesmerising mixtures of airtime and inversions, it all feels so 2019. While I’d much rather some parks would throw a ton more money at Mack Rides when asking them to build a multi-launch coaster, this relatively baby version is still a really satisfying ride that brings a lot to the table, including bags of character and that silly set of LSMs over a hill.
Look who’s back and (mostly) dominating the top spots for another year. Europe’s second RMC creation is a lot more representative of their key skills than I found Wildfire to be, with that highly refined blend of quirky inversions and out of this world airtime. I wasn’t quite as enthralled by Untamed as I would have liked to have been, certainly not as much as others. To me it was mid-pack for this type of ride, which of course still means world class and a personal top 25, I just had a couple of meaningless nitpicks with a few moments that didn’t quite land and that somewhat harder to define feature I call a lack of character.
Europe’s 3rd RMC followed hot on Untamed’s heels and went a lot harder and faster with all that it does. That makes Zadra top tier to me, it comes with that extra aggression that really takes your breath away during certain moments of the ride and combines many of the best features or inspirations from other creations that came before it.
Asia’s 1st RMC (they really were spreading out this year) was even better still, by a whisker. It goes on a little longer, has a couple more elements that I completely adore and felt like a slightly better all round package, in my head at least. My heart tells me that I’m less emotionally attached to Hakugei however, though that may be the circumstances of the park talking. Which is ridiculous because it’s Japan, it just shouldn’t be that way.
And so we head over to Finland for my #1 pick. Taiga had all the signs of something special for me, the combination of a Nordic city park, a hillside and an impressive multi-launch coaster. This time it was Intamin taking the reins and you have to believe that it crossed someone’s mind during the process that it was setting out to beat rival Helix at it’s own game. It didn’t manage that for me, but it certainly gave one of the best rides I’ve ever experienced anyway and really highlighted to me how much these multi-launchers really are ‘my kinda coaster’.
More? Surely not. I’m thinking the top 4 would be rather hard to crack at this stage but there’s plenty of room for movement at the lower end.
The fact that I have to put the other side of Dueling Dragons here irks me to no end, but as an individual experience it could easily be a contender for the list as well given the ride type and inherent similarities with the Invert side. Of course if I’m ever fortunate to catch both of them running together it could be an entirely different story with that extra enhancement of interaction. Need I say anything more than look at the size of this wing coaster, Falcon. Also more from B&M and China where that came from, with the catchily titled Flight of the Himalayan Eagle Music Roller Coaster It wasn’t just Happy Valley coming up with long names though, with famed Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure also bursting onto the scene. I was wondering where the Gravity Group had got to this year, bit of a quiet one with only Kentucky Flyer for me to look forward to. It took a long time for the revitalised S&S air launch coaster designs to escape China, but we finally got one with Maxx Force. It seems they still didn’t manage to do a huge amount with it, but I really want to try it and see. An even more intriguing development also from S&S was Steel Curtain however, and the simple fact of not really knowing how this sort of thing will ride excites me more than most. Because when I look at something like Yukon Striker, I feel like I’ve already been on it and could say exactly what it will be like. But it’ll still be good.
Another incredible year on the cards and it feels like a surprisingly long time ago to me. I suppose with all the mess that has been going on recently, those care free travel times that I associate with 2018 are nothing but a distant memory. The 10 today are a strong showing from pretty much all of the most well established ride designers in these lists by now, a well rounded bunch with plenty to offer.
There was another surge in B&M wing coaster popularity and it was a big year for the manufacturer all round, with an impressive 7 coaster installations worldwide, their most since 2002. China continues to lead the charge in filling those order books and an all-new-for-2018 park in the gorgeous Yunnan Province opted for this striking design as their star attraction. It’s a mostly graceful experience with some particularly drawn out inversion-based thrills that is only enhanced by some impressive and ambitious theming, which we’ve come to expect by default from Chinese parks by now.
Over in Europe, this up and coming Dutch park had lofty ambitions of their own and it was quite the surprise when Toverland announced that they were going for such a premium product. The coaster itself and the new land in which it resides was a stunning achievement, though for some reason I can’t stop thinking about how great the queueline was.
My primary fondness from this ride comes with the blatantly obvious way in which it shows off the effects of a minimalist restraint. Most of the namesake ‘hang’ in the ride comes from a holding brake that follows the vertical lift hill, which points riders down towards the ground at an impressively steep angle, with nothing holding them in place but a comfy lap bar. It’s a wonderful feeling of freedom that I hope to see a lot more of in future.
Case in point with the B&M dive coaster, although they’ve managed to dominate the holding brake game over the years with their near-vertical first drops. Vests leave a little to be desired in comparison to the above, but the subsequent coaster of Valkyria is full on, fantastic and, for me, quite a leap forward for this ride type.
The Gravity Group continued to defy gravity with their compact designs. A mere 50ft of height on Wood Express is somehow able to offer a fast paced, highly varied and thrilling ride with far more airtime than seems physically possible.
2018 was a big year for the UK with not one, but two major attractions that were real head turners and had the potential to make a major difference to the local amusement park landscape. We may be a bit of a miserable and spoiled bunch, but it felt like that hadn’t really happened since the ’90s. Icon was the standout for me, comfortably cementing itself as my favourite coaster on home turf, earning such strong praise as ‘the only one I want to go back for’.
Meanwhile America were being treated to their usual slew of world class attractions, mostly at the hands of RMC when we look at 2018. This Raptor design was like nothing we had seen before, a revolutionary ride system that also holds it’s own amongst the best of the best in the world rather than just being a bit of a quirk. Straddling the single-rail track and being subjected to some of the manufacturer’s finest forces is a surreal experience, and a welcome one.
This might well have been the year that secured them with true legendary status as manufacturers. Since 2011 it had seemed that they could do no wrong and this was also their busiest year to date. Comparatively, Twisted Cyclone is tiny, but that doesn’t stop it from treating you to a whole host of amazing manouevres throughout the slightly stunted ride time.
Almost all quiet on the Intamin front, but they went and knocked out something extra special in Poland. What has quickly become known as the world’s fastest growing amusement park really stepped their game up by splashing out on a 250ft hyper coaster that really put them on the map. The trains come with a similar winged seating design to that of Intamin’sfinest and though it doesn’t quite produce the same extremes as those, it’s easily one of Europe’s best.
The bigger of the Twisted twins (no, not these) was superior for me. Unlike the cyclone, the timbers have plenty of prime ride time that is packed with some really powerful punches. The sequence of 3 camelbacks is one of the most sublime moments I can think of on any coaster and there’s so many more surprises along the way with this masterful design.
Elsewhere I can see that there are a few other potential threats. The glaring hole in this list is of course Steel Vengeance, which has become ubiquitous with the phrase ‘best rollercoaster in the world’. As if RMC didn’t dominate the year enough already, surely their largest and most popular creation yet will deliver the knockout blow when I finally get around to it. Heaven’s Wing is yet another (Chinese) B&M wing coaster with at least as much potential as the others already present. I probably should mention Hyper Coaster, although I feel like I wouldn’t include it in the list for being a clone in this hotly contested era, even if it is a particularly spectacular one. I already applied the same (flawed) logic to my favourite Jungle Trailblazer that was copied this year. Steel Dolphin looks like a lot of fun, on the smaller end of the Intamin multi-launch scale. I don’t think they can do much wrong with that hardware at this stage. I don’t know if I want Time Traveler more or less, now that I’ve experienced the extremes of the Mack Xtreme Spinner first hand. Surely it can’t be game-changing for me twice in a row. Even if it can’t live up to the follow up, it will undoubtedly be a quality ride.
It’s been fascinating to see the ebb and flow in how strong the lineups have been over the years and that’s as apparent as ever coming off the back of what I considered to be the greatest year of all. 2017 looks good, but it’s nowhere near in the same league. Of course it’s never been the full sample size in any of these as I haven’t (yet) ridden them all, but there appears to only be a handful of potentials in each list over the most recent years and, from my humble opinion, never a group that can fully change the landscape of success in any given year, at least in a way that threatens that sacred 2016.
As evidenced by starting with a prolific clone. Threemore ofthese opened at Six Flags parks in the very same year. To be fair to Arashi it stands head and shoulders above the others of this model I have experienced and I probably wouldn’t mention it otherwise. Saying that, yet another Mega-Lite opened this year that could do rather well in this list, it just isn’t the best example of one. I know, I’m inconsistent, like them. There appears to be a huge scope for altering the ride intensity on S&S Free Spins by means of magnetic fins that affect the namesake free-spinning. This Japanese terror is turned up to 11 and is by far one of the most intense and scary pieces of hardware I’ve come across. It takes a lot for a ride to get me nervous these days, especially after a few goes. I respect that, a lot.
These Gerstlauer family launch coasters are about as premium as you can get when it comes to a milder thrill package. They’re drastically underutilised around the world in lieu of generic stock models with an obvious ‘that’ll do’ attitude to appease younger audiences. While I can’t comment on the business perspective of this, I can say that the hardware lends itself so well to inspiration and sheer joy. The comfy trains and versatility of lift hills, launches, forwards and backwards travel tend to go hand in hand with great story telling and really make these a cut about the rest.
I was heartbroken to find that this was by far the weakest of the Jungle Trailblazers, not only through the amount of effort required but also because it’s the only installation so far I’ve managed to drag Mega-Lite along to, after raving to him about these coasters so much. It let me down, the pacing is all over the place and it doesn’t carry itself well over at least 75% of the hills. But that’s all relative, this is good for a woodie, just not for a Gravity.
I want to love this thing, I really do. It’s so visually appealing and there’s that undeniable aura of intrigue around these ‘new-age’ Vekomas that understandably makes you want to elevate your opinions of them, if only in stark contrast to what the manufacturer used to be like. That’s not fair though. Many of the other major manufacturers have come out with some trash over the years, but they dusted themselves off and honed their craft over time, rather than doubling down on it for at least a couple of decades. Again this isn’t business advice, I’m sure it worked very well for them, it’s just my battle scars talking.
2017 appears to be defined by the triple launch coaster. After Intamin showed it off in a big way last year (although that one only achieved 10th in its list, it comfortably beats all of the ones here today), several other familiar manufacturers showed their hand with something a little more compact. Gold Rush is great for the footprint, the use of the dive loop element for the backwards section is great fun, the oddly shaped top hat is surprisingly potent and it’s interesting how Gerstlauer kept it simple with a closed circuit layout – no clever switch tracks.
Mack also had a dabble at this new triple launch trend and while a quality package, it’s not a patch on what they can really do with the hardware. It has some great moments, but all feels suboptimal even from the story-telling perspective.
In fact, I could say the exact same thing for this Mack triple launch too, they’re almost inseparable in terms of ride quality even though the elements are all rather different. It’s interesting how they both ended up representing major media franchises and just didn’t quite pull off a cohesive themed experience with their hardware. While slightly shorter, this one has a couple more powerful moments for me.
I’d always liked the look of this B&M wing coaster, if only for the dinosaur themed trains. I love it when rides have a face, it can’t help but add a sense of character. I was skeptical about the supposed ‘airtime hill’ on this layout, given the nature of the vest restraints, and rightly so. What I didn’t expect however was how ridiculously intense this ride would be, well up there with the finest Inverts and even a few Flyers. The clever use of terrain in the layout had me seeing stars, and I loved it. There’s now a clone of this at another Happy Valley park and it has some backwards seats! I’d almost forgotten how much I need that in my life.
A double podium finish for this park, pretty impressive stuff. I had a wild range of emotions throughout my experience with Jungle Dragon, initially not knowing anything about it, visually seeing that it looked very much like my #1 woodie, not really loving it that much, then forever growing to appreciate it more and more as time goes on. It’s not a patch on GCI’s best, for sure, yet it comfortably sits above pretty much everything else they’ve done. I find that odd, but endearing.
Without a second thought, this wins the year. Facing forwards it’s one of the best hyper coasters around, with a mix of powerful airtime and many other standout forces. The ride is of course legendary for that back row of backwards facing seats and I can’t even begin to describe how much that does for the experience, though I gave it a good go here. Absolute world class ride, put the entire southern hemisphere on the map for the coaster scene, best in 2017.
I feel like a few honourable mentions are due this year, I really could have picked many things for the bottom two thirds of this list as they all fall into that great, but not game-changing category.
Madagascar Mad Pursuit is a lot of fun, the indoor aspect and theming attempts did a lot for it, though it doesn’t quite give off that air of fine craftmanship like Pégase Express. From the same park, Dragon Gliders could well have podiumed here for how much I love it, but it doesn’t feel fair to rate it as a coaster when the dark ride aspect does all the heavy lifting. Red Force is the potential elephant in the room. While I appreciate it a lot more than I believed I would, those layouts just don’t really do it for me. GCI had a solid year in the medium sized range with both Heidi (but it’s a clone) and Invadr. The less honourable mention goes to Great Desert Rally, which broke the national streak, badly.
Outside of what I’ve ridden, here’s how things stand.
GaleForce looks insane, yet another contributor to the triple launch league. That compact goodness combined with a style of ride that S&S haven’t really touched before is extremely intriguing to me. I hope Mine Blower will be the redeemer for the Gravity Group this year, it looks like a real pocket rocket that should be right up my street. Mystic Timbers is one of the last great GCIs I need to knock off. It appears to be rather highly regarded, but can it compete with the Chinese tier? Talking of China, I don’t expect great things but I really want to try Snow Mountain Racer, a Jinma Rides (Golden Horse) mine train with a dark ride section and a couple of other tricks up its sleeve. For, you know, research. Wave Breaker: The Rescue Coaster could be solid based on it’s type, I do love a good Intamin family launch. Haven’t heard much about it really.
And that’s it for now. Like I said at the start – the list could change for sure, but how it stacks up against other years seems pretty set in stone at this point. Just goes to show how much of a marvel 2016 was.
If 2015 was the year of superlatives then I don’t even know what to say about this one. It’s the year to end all years as far as I’m concered, we’ve not seen a lineup this strong before, or since (spoilers), at least in terms of rides I’ve managed to experience. We begin the countdown immediately in my personal top 40, which means we’re looking at ten rides here inside what I consider to be the best ~3.5% of coasters in the world. Something was definitely in the air.
Including this dragon, soaring about through ridiculously large inversions and non-inversions. In a year that saw Intamin step their LSM-launch game up like never before, Soaring with Dragon was one of the first major coasters to show off clever switch tracks and triple launch techniques in the name of both space saving and visual spectacle. The result is a rather special blend of forces that should always keep you coming back for more.
Sunac (Wanda at the time) were a pretty major contributor to this big boom, opening both the Hefei park and this revamp of an existing park in Nanchang with some massive headline attractions within a very short time frame. Intamin were the go-to manufacturer again and created this beast, China’s tallest and fastest coaster to date. Aside from the Megalite model, we hadn’t really seen anything from their Mega Coaster product range for a good 15 years, and it was a welcome return. That first drop is ridiculous and some of the airtime moments on this ride are obscene.
Over in Europe we experienced a fairly momentous occasion, the first contribution from game changing coaster creators Rocky Mountain Construction, outside of America. No one would have expected this to go to a remote zoo in Sweden, a place that most ride or park enthusiasts had likely never heard of, but it certainly put Kolmården on the map. I personally followed the construction of this ride more closely than perhaps any other attraction to date and this eventually came back to sting us quite badly when it didn’t open on time. I’ve generally paid less attention to things until I’m actually on them, ever since that experience, so it will always be remembered for that, perhaps even moreso than for being my first RMC. Which, while not the best the manufacturer has to offer, is an incredible ride.
It was a busy year for RMC openings, their second most hectic to date in fact, yet another solid contributor to this stacked year. While Joker has none of the visual spectacle and wonder of Wildfire, I marginally preferred the ride experience for being truer to what these hybrid coasters do better than pretty much anyone else in the world – that non-stop beautiful blend of interesting inversions and amazing airtime. On my journey through rides from this manufacturer, this was a far more representative taste of things to come.
We must have known we were in for something special this year when, on New Year’s day no less, this opens. Mack Rides also performed a rare breaking of the 200ft barrier in China and it was a first for the manufacturer, putting that wonderful train design to yet more fantastic use. Claims to the world’s biggest loop were thrown around a lot in this era and while this one is pretty damn amazing, it’s the complete package of the ride layout that does it for me. Hyper coasters that mix it up with far more than just big hills are right up my street and Flash was a real masterclass of an early example for that.
While they quite often get an easy pass in these lists by the very nature of their existence, the legends that are Bolliger & Mabillard had to bring their A-game to even get noticed by me in the 2016 lineup. And they certainly did that, reaching what I currently consider to be the pinnacle design of their most exciting ride type. Competition is fierce in the styles of attraction we’ve seen so far today, but B&M stand entirely alone when it comes to Flying coasters. The dinosaur uses a brutal combination of elements that do all manner of terrible things to your body, and that’s why I love it. There’s very few places in the world, if any, where you can get that type of experience.
The vicious and mesmerising cries of the new Intamin LSM launch system were heard for the first time in more than one corner of the world this year. Taron uses it twice over, to great effect and as if I didn’t already have enough reason to love multi-launch coasters, I fell hard for this one too. It’s one of the most alluring designs in the world of amusements, not least helped along by the almost unprecedented levels of theming that surrounds such a significantly-sized attraction. True bucket list material.
The launches keep on coming, even where you don’t anticipate them, but don’t expect them to work all of the time. You can no longer ‘peel out on the world’s fastest wooden rollercoaster’ like you could in 2016 because, due to a recent track overhaul, those that care about such things have decided that Lightning Rod can’t be classified as wooden any more. It shouldn’t matter, I’m sure it’s still the ridiculous romp it always was, yet another RMC for the list with a gorgeous setting and some astounding features. This one doesn’t even need to invert, it simply blasts you with airtime again and again through that legendary quad-down sequence.
Really starting to appreciate how many manufacturers were putting out the best of what they have to offer in this highly competitive year. I like to think that it’s a conscious effort in the relationships between companies and parks, to push the boundaries and outdo each other in any given time frame. It probably never actually lines up like that, what with how vastly different the time scales are over which these rides are designed and created. I guess it is just business at the end of the day. Anyway, there’s nothing I love more from Intamin than their Wing coaster design, the way those outside seats try to eject you in all sorts of never-before-seen ways after the insanely fast lift hill mercilessly wrenches you up to your doom. They’ve only made two and they’re both top ten rides for me, the biggest success rate in my coasting career. More please.
I’m so desperate to go back and ride this thing, if only in attempt to get some better photos. With all the crazy elements on display above us, an unremarkable lift structure does nothing to sell how this is my favourite wooden coaster on the planet. Yet it’s probably not something any visual can do justice. What makes a ride like this so special is all the things you can’t see that deliver the moments you can’t expect. Hidden intricacies in the building material, the shaping of the transitions and the absolutely inspired use of terrain bring out not only the best of GCI, but the best of roller-coasting in general for me.
Surely that’s the end, right? Amazingly, no. I’ve still got my sights set on a couple of major coasters from 2016, though do have my doubts over whether all but one of them can make a dent in this lineup, based on previous experience.
Mako certainly looks the part, even if it may not be the style of ride I enjoy the most. I’m still waiting for a B&M hyper to blow me away and there’s every chance it could happen one day. Monster appears to be a beast of a Gerstlauer Infinity coaster with a fun selection of elements, perhaps more crucially it would bring me tantalisingly close to completing the worldwide set, again. Storm Chaser is the real, conventional threat to the list. At the risk of setting myself up for disappointment, I don’t see why it wouldn’t give RMC an eye-watering fourth entry here. Valravn on the other hand is the most token of B&M entries to this ‘what else could be good?’ section. I’m sure it’s highly competent, but will it even stand out amongst the coasters at the legendary Cedar Point, let alone the best year ever?
I also feel strangely compelled to give a few honourable mentions this year, mainly to excuse the absence of my favourite Gravity Group from the list. I love Timber to pieces, but the baby woodie just can’t compete here today. They also built twocloned designs in Fantawild parks in China this year, one of which was my best coaster of 2013 and the other a solid finisher in 2015. No mean feat. Lost Gravity was also an outstanding addition to the Mack Rides roster, as the debut of their Big Dipper model. I can’t wait to see more of them.