Rollercoaster Ranking – B&M Dive Coasters (2022)

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.

#12 Valravn – Cedar Point (USA)

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.

#11 Oblivion – Alton Towers (UK)

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.

#10 Western Regions Heaven – Happy Valley Chengdu (China)

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.

#9 Baron 1898 – Efteling (Netherlands)

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.

#8 Oblivion: The Black Hole – Gardaland (Italy)

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.

#7 Diving Coaster – Happy Valley Shanghai (China)

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.

#6 SheiKra – Busch Gardens Tampa (USA)

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.

#5 Griffon – Busch Gardens Williamsburg (USA)

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.

#4 Draken – Gyeongju World (South Korea)

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.

#3 Dive Coaster – Chimelong Paradise (China)

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.

#2 Krake – Heide Park (Germany)

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.

Rollercoaster Ranking – Busch Gardens Williamsburg (2022)

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.

#1 Pantheon

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.

50 years of coasters – 2020

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.

#10 Erdbeer RaupenbahnKarls Erlebnis-Dorf Koserow/Karls Erlebnis-Dorf Zirkow (Germany)

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.

#9 Hummel Brummel – Schwaben Park (Germany)

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.

#8 Roller Ball – Wiener Prater (Austria)

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.

#7 Max + Moritz – Efteling (Netherlands)

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.

#6 Volldampf – Erlebnispark Tripsdrill (Germany)

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.

#5 Wakala – Bellewaerde (Belgium)

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.

#4 Hals-über-Kopf – Erlebnispark Tripsdrill (Germany)

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.

#3 Vertika – La Récré des 3 Curés (France)

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.

#2 Gesengte Sau – Wiener Prater (Austria)

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.

#1 F.L.Y. – Phantasialand (Germany)

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.

50 years of coasters – 2019

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.

#10 Fury – Bobbejaanland (Belgium)

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.

#9 Celestial Gauntlet – Oriental Heritage Changsha (China)

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.

#8 Dynamite – Freizeitpark Plohn (Germany)

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.

#7 Mystic – Walibi Rhône-Alpes (France)

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.

#6 Dueling Dragons (Invert) – Guangzhou Sunac Land (China)

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?

#5 Copperhead Strike – Carowinds (USA)

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.

#4 Untamed – Walibi Holland (Netherlands)

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.

#3 Zadra – Energylandia (Poland)

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.

#2 Hakugei – Nagashima Spa Land (Japan)

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.

#1 Taiga – Linnanmäki (Finland)

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.

Click here to continue the timeline.

50 years of coasters – 2018

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.

#10 Wing Coaster – Colourful Yunnan Paradise (China)

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.

#9 Fēnix – Toverland (Netherlands)

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.

#8 HangTime – Knott’s Berry Farm (USA)

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.

#7 Valkyria – Liseberg (Sweden)

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.

#6 Wood Express – Parc Saint Paul (France)

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.

#5 Icon – Blackpool Pleasure Beach (UK)

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’.

#4 Railblazer – California’s Great America

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.

#3 Twisted Cyclone – Six Flags Over Georgia (USA)

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.

#2 Hyperion – Energylandia (Poland)

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’s finest and though it doesn’t quite produce the same extremes as those, it’s easily one of Europe’s best.

#1 Twisted Timbers – Kings Dominion (USA)

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.

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50 years of coasters – 2017

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.

#10 Arashi – Nagashima Spa Land (Japan)

As evidenced by starting with a prolific clone. Three more of these 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.

#9 Pégase Express – Parc Astérix (France)

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.

#8 Jungle Trailblazer – Oriental Heritage Xiamen (China)

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.

#7 Lech Coaster – Legendia (Poland)

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.

#6 Gold Rush – Slagharen (Netherlands)

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.

#5 Star Trek: Operation Enterprise – Movie Park Germany

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.

#4 Capitol Bullet Train – Motiongate (UAE)

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.

#3 Flying Wing Coaster – Happy Valley Chongqing (China)

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.

#2 Jungle Dragon – Happy Valley Chongqing (China)

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.

#1 DC Rivals Hypercoaster – Warner Bros. Movie World (Australia)

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.

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50 years of coasters – 2016

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.

#10 Soaring with Dragon – Hefei Sunac Land (China)

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.

#9 Coaster through the Clouds – Nanchang Sunac Land (China)

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.

#8 Wildfire – Kolmården (Sweden)

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.

#7 Joker – Six Flags Discovery Kingdom (USA)

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.

#6 Flash – Lewa Adventure (China)

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.

#5 Flying Dinosaur – Universal Studios Japan

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.

#4 Taron – Phantasialand (Germany)

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.

#3 Lightning Rod – Dollywood (USA)

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.

#2 Flying Aces – Ferrari World (UAE)

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.

#1 Python in Bamboo Forest – Nanchang Sunac Land (China)

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 two cloned 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.

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50 years of coasters – 2015

Whilst my personal selection from 2014 was a little lacking (compared to the overall quality of this decade at least) 2015 is looking to be absolutely stacked. Everything in this list today is, at the very least, incredible. What a year for the coaster industry this one turned out to be!

#10 Acrobat – Nagashima Spa Land (Japan)

Much as I’ve enjoyed the B&M wing coasters that have been popping up over the last few years, for me the company’s Flying Coaster type is a cut above the rest. They generally have far more to offer in terms of extremities and often have elements that would put any seasoned rider out of their comfort zone. Acrobat is admittedly a bit of a lazy clone of Florida’s Manta, complete with matching trains that don’t tie in with the loose theme, but I can’t fault the insanely intense ride experience.

#9 Harpy – Xishuangbanna Sunac Land (China)

So why not have two in a row? I still can’t quite believe how good this ride is. A combination of a fear of clones and a fear of spoilers almost got the better of me and had me originally dismissing Harpy as not worth the effort. In the end it more than paid off the extra lengths you generally have to go to get to this remote Chinese park, by virtue of it’s top tier flyer layout packed with a wicked range of sensations.

#8 Junker – PowerPark (Finland)

Another manufacturer honing their skills and bringing their best coaster model closer to perfection this year was Gerstlauer. Junker is a quintessential Infinity Coaster with a punchy launch, tight manouevres in those tiny trains, powerful airtime and creative inversions. There’s not a dull moment to be found on board.

#7 Jungle Trailblazer – Oriental Heritage Jinan (China)

2015 was the birth of the Jungle Trailblazers, a collection of Gravity Group woodies that opened as the headline attractions of various Fantawild parks throughout China. The fact that so many of them share the same name does them a disservice, as they make use of several different layouts that are all world class in their own right, yet tend to be rather overlooked from an outsiders perspective due to a lack of individual identity. This particular version is notable for having a rare wooden coaster inversion and, to me, for having an insane run of airtime pops all in a row.

#6 Fury 325 – Carowinds (USA)

A busy year for B&M, who also put out their largest creation to date. The beast that is Fury 325 remains the tallest coaster with a traditional lift hill and marked a drastic shift in style for their model of hyper coaster. Rather than largely focusing on those signature camelback hills, Fury performs a very inspired set of manouevres at high speed as it winds its way out across the entrance plaza, into the car park and beyond. It’s a visual spectacle that’s wonderfully presented, as well as a very standout and special ride experience.

#5 Schwur des Kärnan – Hansa Park (Germany)

Gerstlauer also had their sights on something big for 2015. Previous local customer Hansa Park had some lofty ambitions to put a vertical lift hill that reaches over 200ft tall inside a building styled like a medieval tower in Helsingborg, Sweden. Things go on in this tower that had not been seen on a coaster ever before and then once you burst out into the open air at over 80Mph, it’s a ridiculous and intense hyper coaster experience, again like no other. How are we only at number 5?

#4 Jungle Trailblazer – Oriental Heritage Wuhu (China)

Well partly because there’s still more Jungle Trailblazers to come. This Wuhu version is the only layout that currently cannot be found anywhere else and also features one of those unnatural inversions. It also plays on some similar beats to China’s very first wooden coaster, with an epic combination of larger and smaller airtime hills that the Gravity Group pull off so well.

#3 Wicked Cyclone – Six Flags New England (USA)

RMC were solidifying themselves amongst the best of the best by now, putting up smash hit after smash hit. The fact that this conversion from an out-of-date wooden coaster into a vicious, storm chasing, world beating experience filled with the perfect blend of extreme airtime and glorious inversions has become bread and butter to the manufacturer by now is simply scary.

#2 Twisted Colossus – Six Flags Magic Mountain (USA)

So give them the opportunity to reimagine an iconic and massive racing woodie at another park on the other side of the country and then be astounded by the result. I’ve written at length about how this is my favourite RMC to date on here and it’s a personal top 5 in the world. Yet we’re still not done here for this year.

#1 Jungle Trailblazer – Fantawild Dreamland Zhengzhou (China)

My favourite Gravity Group creation trumps my favourite RMC for now, by the tiniest of margins up at the top of course. Something about the raw-er experience of an actual wooden coaster at the absolute best it can be, along with the unpredictability that can bring just appeals to me slightly more and this third Jungle Trailblazer was such an incredible shock to the system upon a first ride for countless reasons. I had no idea they could be this good.

Well with a list so packed full of superlatives can there really be anything else left in the world to threaten this bunch? Amazingly, yes.
Cannibal appears to be the US equivalent of Kärnan with it’s intimidating tower structure and unorthodox design, the fact that it’s even more ‘homegrown’ in execution fascinates me.
Impulse is a rare example of a Zierer Tower coaster, another string I need to add to my bow at some point to at least see how they compare with other, similar designs.
On top of all their other achievements this year, B&M also went wild with a launched version of their Wing coaster by the name of Thunderbird. Something else I’ve definitely got to check out at some point.

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50 years of coasters – 2014

I’ve spent most of January trying to get all the trip planning for this year back on track, so writing this series took a sideline amongst all that nervous excitement. With that in mind and how long I’ve already dragged this out, it’s going to be 52 years of coasters if I don’t finish up before the end of March (fingers crossed). Let’s give that a go at least.
Something about this year strikes a chord with me, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. Was there a particularly notable ride built? I think so.

#10 Altair – Cinecittà World (Italy)

Various clones on the extreme end of the spectrum could have filled this spot at the moment, with my personal 2014 roster not quite being as fleshed out as I would like it to be. Altair is one of several lap bar editions of the original record breaking 10-looper Colossus at Thorpe Park that exist in varying conditions around the world. I wasn’t as bowled over by the experience as I had hoped. It was fun for sure, but I thought the new found freedom in the riding position would lend itself to some cool moments. Instead it mainly served to highlight how underwhelming the layout of endless inversions is.

#9 Arthur – Europa Park (Germany)

Not much of a coaster really, the Mack powered inverted hardware lends itself rather well to dark ride sections and scenery instead. Arthur pulls this off reasonably well and has a couple of magical moments to offer outside of it’s faffy queue and operational system. Padding the list a bit though I feel, things need to pick up a bit.

#8 Mine Coaster – Quancheng Euro Park (China)

This Beijing Jiuhua built mine train was a surprise hit for me, they’ve come up with a (hugely welcome) custom layout that keeps on building in intensity very nicely and it blends into that rockwork a treat, enhancing the experience even more. One of my favourite Chinese coaster designs to date.

#7 Inferno – Cinecittà World (Italy)

Back to Cinecittà again, the other Intamin coaster in the park is far more exciting, even though you can’t see it. A thrilling indoor experience complete with a powerful drop track section and some rather dark theming makes for a standout ride in this all-new-for-2014 park.

#6 FireChaser Express – Dollywood (USA)

This might be the most gorgeous family coaster ever. Gerstlauer have a real knack for this type of experience, the combination of profiling and rolling stock on these models is always spot on when trying to find that happy medium between thrilling and fun. Beyond that, who needs a drop track when you can have fire, explosions and a backwards launch?

#5 Flug der Dämonen – Heide Park (Germany)

At last we’re in the big leagues. B&M are back, with their first entry being yet another wing coaster, continuing to prove how popular they were in this decade. This flight of the demons is an experience greatly enhanced by both the visuals and the haunting soundtrack that accompanies it. A twisted mess of that signature track always looks great when embedded into a landscape and it just so happens to be a really solid, interesting layout too.

#4 Parrot Coaster – Chimelong Ocean Kingdom (China)

But it can’t compete with how good this bird looks, nor with how good the layout is. As a complete opposite in design, it really has a ton of room to breathe, soaring between massive elements before dipping in and out of the glorious landscape. Everything about my experience with the parrot seemed to be well thought out, it’s a masterclass in creating a signature coaster for a park.

#3 Alpina Blitz – Nigloland (France)

Here’s that other Mack Mega Coaster I promised in 2013. Though the layout of this one is highly unoriginal, being just too damn similar to Intamin’s Megalite, it’s still a top 3 today (for now). It’s testament to how incredible the ride that gave the inspiration is, that a well executed equivalent by another manufacturer is also ridiculously good. Though it doesn’t quite pack the same punch overall, their trains for this are second to none and I’d take it over any clone but Piraten, any day.

#2 OCT Thrust SSC1000

The pinnacle of the S&S air launch design for me. A breathtaking, world-beating acceleration into a massive, airtime-filled top hat, followed up an incredible sequence of elements. So many other launch coasters that came before just couldn’t deliver these things in anywhere near the same magnitude and that makes this ride really special to me. (Let’s not mention today that it’s also a clone).

#1 Helix – Liseberg (Sweden)

Oh yeah, now I remember. My favourite rollercoaster of them all was built in 2014. Still searching for that perfection.

I’m rather excited to see just how many there are still to come out of this year. It was only back in 2010 that I became worried by lists appearing to already be set in stone, though there’s loads more to look forward to today:
One of the last great B&M inverts I’ve got my eye on is Banshee, I’m doubly intrigued by the seemingly mould-breaker styling and how the vest restraints will perform on that particular model.
RMCs are going to be a reasonably obvious addition to these lists from now on, ridden or otherwise, with Goliath and Medusa Steel Coaster being no exception.
I gave Iron Shark a shout out in 2012, so why not give it’s Colmbian clone Kráter a look in too. Certainly a rare one for the collection.
I’ve heard great things about Lightning Run and am always happy to get brand new ride types under my belt, of which the one and only Chance Hyper GT-X certainly is.
Nefeskesen is one of two red Intamin launch coasters in Turkey and, most enticing to me, is the custom layout of the two.
You potentially can’t beat a good family-sized Gravity Group woodie like Roar-O-Saurus when it comes to consistency.
Or can you? The memories of seeing super-sized Gravity Group woodie Time Travel closed, from the window of a taxi, still haunt me to this very day. This one is about as high as it gets on my to-do list, so I don’t think we can top that here, now.

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50 years of coasters – 2013

Here we go again. I might be detecting the slightest hint of a drop in quality here compared to how amazing some of the progress in the last few years had been. However there are by far the biggest number of coasters yet recorded in the RCDB for the year 2013 (with a massive jump of 50), so a different kind of positive sign for the industry at the very least. With an ever expanding lineup, that’s plenty more opportunities for the future.

#10 Crazy Bird – Happy Valley Tianjin, China

S&S first put lap bars on their El Loco model a couple of years prior to this, but this was the first time I came across the combination and of course it’s a vastly superior experience for it. The freedom of movement in your upper body just adds an extra spice to all those interesting and fun elements like the stupidly steep drop and the downwards inversion.

#9 Karacho – Erlebnispark Tripsdill, Germany

Lap bars again, this time as part of Gerstlauer’s introductory year to their biggest and best ride type to date – the Infinity Coaster. Building on their brief dabble with standalone launch coasters and then launched versions of their Eurofighter model, Karacho showed a real turning point in what this lot were truly capable of with that, let’s say it again, freedom of movement. You can finally really feel all that funky stuff they’ve got going on.

#8 Gold Striker – California’s Great America

With Wood Coaster already existing I think we hit a certain point where I see rides like this as ‘just some GCI’. And just some GCI is undoubtedly a solid coaster, a loud and fast paced wooden romp that’s bags of fun at the very worst, but I just don’t get that excited about some of them, like this one, after experiencing a lot more of the diverse sections of their catalogue. Should I play the winter card? It was cold (striker).

#7 Rattenmühle – Family Park, Austria

A late entry for this series, as I had it all planned out well before I ended up in Austria last September, but a welcome one. I loved Rattenmühle, it was pretty much everything I wanted it to be as a fabulously fun Gerstlauer Bobsled and then the surprise level of the theming and detail in the station and surrounding area took it up a few gears again.

#6 Juvelen – Djurs Sommerland, Denmark

Definitely leaning towards a bit of a family-thrill approach again this year, this time with Intamin giving their Family Launch coaster a much needed boost, literally. Jet Rescue set the precedent for how good this ride type could be back in 2008 and this time with some more room to breathe, larger and faster elements they once again proved it could pack a punch and compete with the biggest of coasters.

#5 Smiler – Alton Towers, UK

Wait, this was the one and only Gerstlauer Infinity to not feature lap bars, how come it was better than Karacho? Am I a fraud? Probably, but there’s just so much more good layout going on here and Smiler has been a real grower on me over the years. It would be absolutely insane feeling those 14 different inversions with lap bars and I wish it was a thing, but I’ll just have to settle for what it is – an intense, disorientating semi-masterpiece.

#4 Full Throttle – Six Flags Magic Mountain, USA

The multi-launch features again and will continue to do well for me for all time, always. There’s something magical the way it injects an extra energy into a ride and it is particularly well needed in Full Throttle with such a short length of track to play with. That tends to be a criticism of this bold attempt from Premier Rides but I’ve ended up as one of it’s biggest fans. The ridiculousness of the size of that loop, the silly airtime coming back over the top of the same piece of structure and the fun in between – love it.

#3 Big Grizzly Mountain – Hong Kong Disneyland

I can’t get enough of the Disney mine train aesthetic, it’s such a quintessential theme park experience. Big Grizzly brought something new to the table and it was very welcome. The light-heartedness of the theme, and the stunning surroundings that were created just for this ride combined with all the surprises and tricks that the hardware has to offer just can’t fail to bring a smile to anyone’s face.

#2 Storm – Etnaland, Italy

Oh, how I wish there were more of these. With a few years to think about it, Mack must surely have seen Intamin’s Megalite design and thought ‘we can do something like that.’ Their Mega Coaster was born. Storm was all we got, other than a near-clone of the Intamin that we’ll be seeing very soon (spoilers) and it’s a blast. Not only does it carry some powerful airtime, they chucked in a gorgeous inversion for good measure and the late night openings of this off-the-beaten-track park give the opportunity for some real special moments.

#1 Fjord Flying Dragon – Happy Valley Tianjin, China

Back where we started in Tianjin, Fjord Flying Dragon was the star attraction that came with Happy Valley’s latest park and sadly the most recent time the company dealt the Gravity Group after such a strong trinity of a start. It’s the strongest of their three combined efforts for me and that’s saying something, with how much I love the 2009 winner of this series. It caught attention nonetheless and they went on to do even greater things with a certain rival park chain in China, but that’s a tale already told on here.

What else are we looking at?

I really want to try Abyss, even though it’s basically Australian Saw: The Ride, both for the alternative theme and setting and the fact that it’s just so damn obscure a location for coasters in general, all the way out there in the West.
A notable absence from B&M this year after being a staple of the lists for so long. This is entirely my fault, having not yet ridden either of their 2013 creations. Gatekeeper looks rather stunning, I love the way Cedar Fair have turned a signature coaster into an eye catching entrance plaza. Nitro as it was named back at opening could well be a surprise hit, but almost undoubtedly an entry just by merit of it’s existence here.
Also at Imagicaa in India, from the same year, is Deep Space, another potential hit for Premier. I love an indoor ride and in particular a space theme.
Some real contenders are running loose this year in the form of a couple of RMCs I haven’t managed to pick up. Perhaps that’s why I’m seeing a bit of a downturn in 2013, it shows that I’m slipping. From everything they’ve given me so far, Iron Rattler and Outlaw Run could just go all the way to the top here.
Just for fun, we’ll have a chuckle at Ring Racer. The layout isn’t going to be winning any awards and it only operated for a handful of days before it all went wrong so it’s highly unlikely it’ll happen anyway, but still, what a silly thing.

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