Kings Island opened for the 2014 season this weekend, bringing with it the much anticipated debut of Banshee. The longest inverted rollercoaster in the world, Banshee reaches speeds of 68 MPH while inverting seven times. To celebrate this momentous occasion we’ve compiled a list of the ten greatest rollercoasters in the world, which are vaguely guided by monthly periodical Amusement Today’s Golden Ticket awards, which it hands out to the best of the best in the amusement park industry. So sit back, strap in and prepare for your senses to be bamboozled.
10. Nemesis (Alton Towers, England)
More exhilarating than terrifying, Nemesis’ inverted ride is consistently rated in world polls and was the first of famous rollercoaster design company Bollinger & Mabillard’s rides to be installed outside the US. Early adverts suggested a rollercoaster where you were dangling into an abyss and hanging on for dear life, which isn’t quite true, but the excitement does build nicely when the standing platform is lowered to leave riders’ legs swinging precariously from the seat, before rising slowly and launching into an unrepentant series of twists and turns, including an underground tunnel. Four inversions include two corkscrews, a zero-g roll and a vertical loop, pushing riders to reach between 3 and 4G, but for a true scare, real men strap themselves in as nature intended – Nemesis also held an unenviable record for “most naked people on a rollercoaster” for six years.
- Length – 716m
- Height – 13 m
- Top speed – 50mph
- Max vertical angle – 75°
- Duration – 1 minute 20 seconds
- Highest rank in the Golden Ticket Awards – 7 (2003)
9. Helix (Liseberg, Sweden)
One of the most renowned amusement parks in Europe and voted as one of the top 10 in the world in 2005 by Forbes magazine, Liseberg in Sweden has just ploughed its largest investment ever into a single attraction. Helix is the second longest rollercoaster with inversions in the world at a whopping 1,381 meters, reaches 62mph and includes seven inversions. It’s the first rollercoaster outside of Europe to feature two LSM propulsion launches, and is the first rollercoaster to include a one-on-one replica virtual reality experience. What this means is that before you take on the ride, you sit in a room watching a full-on VR demo (sans turning stomach) to get you nicely worked up for the real thing.
- Length – 1,381m
- Height – 41m
- Top speed – 62mph
- Max vertical angle – 65°
- Duration – 2 minute 10 seconds
- Highest rank in the Golden Ticket Awards – N/A
8. Boulder Dash (Lake Compounce, US)
There’s something disconcerting about wooden rollercoasters. Aside from the fact that they look old and low-tech, they’re made out of stuff that, you know, breaks. And rots, and gets eaten. Perhaps it’s for these reasons that many thrill seekers claim wooden ‘coasters to be a different experience altogether – the lingering fear of death is all the stronger if you feel your life has been placed in the hands of an overambitious lumberjack.
But if you’re gonna do it, you might as well do it properly. Boulder Dash has been voted the world’s number one wooden rollercoaster on two occasions, and also received the Golden Ticket on two others. Aside from the inevitable thrills, this may be partly down to the scene-setting backdrop courtesy of Lake Compounce’s natural terrain, as riders are hoisted up one side of a mountain and thrust 35m down the other at speeds of up to 60mph.
- Length – 1,440m
- Height – 15m
- Top speed – 60mph
- Max vertical angle – 59°
- Duration – 2 minute 30 seconds
- Highest rank in the Golden Ticket Awards (wooden) – 1 (2013)
7. Shambhala (PortAventura, Spain)
Perhaps named because it sounds like the typical gait of those who step off the ride, Shambhala’s full name is Shambhala: Expedición al Himalaya, which roughly translated means “holy crap that was fast”. This is the tallest and fastest “hyper coaster” in Europe, and it boasts the longest drop of 78 meters just for good measure. Another of Bollinger & Mabillard’s dastardly creations to make it outside the US, reviewers have praised it for being “one of the smoothest rollercoasters I’ve encountered” and “five out of five for speed, surprise factor and fear factor”. It’s yet to be placed in the Golden Ticket Awards, but after watching a particularly good POV video of the experience we’re left wondering why.
- Length – 1,564m
- Height – 76m
- Top speed – 83mph
- Max vertical angle – 86°
- Duration – 3 minutes
- Highest rank in the Golden Ticket Awards – N/A
6. Expedition GeForce (Germany)
If you check out the video of GeForce for a better idea of what’s in store, note that sometimes looks can be deceiving. One of the largest rollercoasters in Europe boasts an astonishing 82° first drop, followed by a sharp 74° right-hand turn, something that’s not easy to appreciate when you watch it in action. If you think Expedition GeForce doesn’t look like anything particularly special, know that it has been battling the #1 and #2 entries on this list for years, recently achieving third place with Golden Ticket and being consistently rated in the top three by ‘coaster aficionado Mitch Hawker since 2001. Despite paling in comparison to many US-based alternatives in terms of specifications, GeForce is a lesson in “bigger isn’t always better”, as its short but sweet journey pulls you every which way with absolutely no mercy.
- Length – 1,220m
- Height – 53m
- Top speed – 75mph
- Max vertical angle – 82°
- Duration – 1 minute 15 seconds
- Highest rank in the Golden Ticket Awards – 3 (2013)
5. The Voyage (Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari , US)
We’re back at the rickety wood department with The Voyage, a coaster that looks like it’s been built in an old mining settlement with enough relentless thrills and spills to make Indiana Jones pack up his hat and whip for good. It holds the record for the most air-time on a wooden rollercoaster (don’t panic – you don’t actually come off the track, this means the most time you feel weightless) at 24.3 seconds and Golden Ticket named it #1 wood ‘coaster for five years in a row from 2007-2011. Five underground tunnels punctuate a series of hills (some of which are traversed in complete darkness), three banked turns and a portion of the ride named the “spaghetti bowl”, which we can only assume is down to the Italian food vendors at the entrance kiosk.
- Length – 1,964m
- Height – 50m
- Top speed – 67.4mph
- Max vertical angle – 66°
- Duration – 2 minutes 45 seconds
- Highest rank in the Golden Ticket Awards (wood) – 1 (2011)
4. Intimidator 305 (Kings Dominion, US)
Intimidator 305 is named after the numbers of times you’ll need to change your pants between the start and end of the ride, but we think this sounds conservative. Beginning with a rapid ascent up a gradient that’s steep enough to make the steeliest of nerves jangle wildly in anticipation, it realises your worst fears in style – man, that’s one hell of a drop. It’s a Giga Coaster at 93m high, and unsurprisingly reaches breakneck speeds of 90mph, because that’s what happens when you drop a 10-ton load from something as tall as the Statue of Liberty. When you reach the bottom you’ll get sucked into a series of inversions and a 270° turn, bouncing around like a bead of sweat in a busty woman’s cleavage and reaching forces of up to 6G in the process.
- Length – 1,600m
- Height – 93m
- Top speed – 90mph
- Max vertical angle – 85°
- Duration – 3 minutes
- Highest rank in the Golden Ticket Awards – 10 (2013)
3. El Toro
El Toro takes a familiar approach at the start of its ride, elevating you up a steep gradient to build tension and leave you hotly anticipating a similarly sized drop at the top, but no. This time you’re guided slowly around a couple of gentle turns before BAM – there it is. El Toro had the steepest drop of any wooden rollercoaster in the world when it opened in 2006 at 76° (which has only been broken since by one degree), and it’s still the fastest wooden rollercoaster with a top speed to 70mph – on planks of wood! It’s this particular brand of craziness that helped El Toro achieve the #1 spot with Golden Ticket in 2012, and ensured that it hasn’t dropped below #2 in the global rankings with Mitch Hawker since 2006. In short, if you’re looking to risk your life on something that looks like an elaborate level of Angry Birds, look no further.
- Length – 1,300m
- Height – 55m
- Top speed – 70mph
- Max vertical angle – 76°
- Duration – 1 minute 42 seconds
- Highest rank in the Golden Ticket Awards (wood) – 1 (2012)
As we reach the climax, or “apex” if you like, of our top ten ultimate ‘coasters, it’s worth providing some context for our top two choices. Bizarro (previously known as Superman: Ride of Steel) and our #1 have history. Yankees vs Dodgers history. Holmes vs Moriarty history. Or to use a more apt simile, Bizarro vs Superman history. Bizarro and our #1 have been swapping places in the top two of Golden Ticket’s top steel ‘coasters since 2001, and it’s not difficult to see why. Here you have a 63m tall chain lift followed by a 67m drop at 72°, before traversing disorienting cut-outs of buildings and steam-filled tunnels, all the while being screamed at by a panic-stricken soundtrack that plays through speakers mounted to the headrests. If you take more than one breath during the two and a half minute journey it’s probably because you’re hyperventilating, and should seek medical help.
- Length – 1,600m
- Height – 63m
- Top speed – 77mph
- Max vertical angle – 72°
- Duration – 2 minute 35 seconds
- Highest rank in the Golden Ticket Awards – 1 (2009)
1. Millennium Force (Cedar Point, US)
Awards are a tricky business when it comes to thrill rides. No sooner have you built the tallest, fastest, biggest or hairiest, someone else comes along and raises the stakes. Millennium Force is the Big Daddy in this department – it broke six world records when it opened in 2000 – the first Giga Coaster (over 91m in height), the tallest and fastest in the world, longest drop, steepest banked turn and it was the first to utilise an elevator lift system. All of these have now been bested, largely due to the fact that its innovation and continued success has made it one of the most influential constructions ever made, but that hasn’t stopped Millennium Force from ripping up the rankings. It has finished 1st in the Golden Ticket Awards for top steel ‘coasters 8 times in 14 years, and when it didn’t win, it finished 2nd. Time magazine also rated it the best rollercoaster in the US last year, and it still regularly brings in awards and features at the top of fan favourite lists around the world.
- Length – 2,010m
- Height – 94m
- Top speed – 93mph
- Max vertical angle – 80°
- Duration – 2 minute 20 seconds
- Highest rank in the Golden Ticket Awards – 1 (2013)