Roller coasters are the central attraction of most amusement parks and it’s easy to see why. They’re a marvel of architectural engineering, offering speeds and thrills that just aren’t possible on other types of attractions. They’re designed to simulate danger and are generally very safe, but that still doesn’t make some of them any less terrifying. Engineers around the world have dreamed up all sorts of wild, seemingly-impossible coaster designs over the years. Rider beware — these 15 scary roller coasters will test even the most hardened thrill-seeker’s mettle.
Most coasters only go in one direction, but the Invertigo of King’s Island in Cincinnati, Ohio (Ohio really seems to love roller coasters) lives up to its name by taking riders on a series of topsy-turvy loops and inversions — in both directions. Invertigo doesn’t have the height or speed of many of its coaster brethren, but it makes up for this deficiency with sheer vomit-inducing vertigo.
14. Gravity Max
At first glance, the Gravity Max coaster from Lihpao Land, Taiwan looks pretty tame for a coaster and to be fair, most of it is. It only achieves a maximum speed of 56 mph with a max height of 114 ft. Things change when it comes to the ride’s signature piece – a full 90 degree vertical tilt that will make your stomach tilt in unison.
13. El Toro
Wooden roller coasters have nothing on their steel brethren when it comes to height, speed, or looping capabilities, but their unpleasantly rough riding experience makes them a source of trepadation for many amusement park patrons. The El Toro (spanish for “The Bull”) at Six Flags Great Adventure, New Jersey may not hold the record for the fastest wooden coaster anymore, but its max speed of 70 mph feels blistering on a wooden frame (which, coincidentally, is touted by its manufacturers as being as smooth as steel).
Opened in May 2013 at Cedar Point, GateKeeper is a wing coaster where riders sit on either side of the track to simulate flying. Thanks to a truly fear-inducing 164 ft inversion, which stands as the highest in the world, you’ll definitely feel like you’re flying on this one. In addition, the coaster also has a number of loops and twist, as well as a mid-ride hill featuring a full 2 seconds of weightlessness.
11. Full Throttle
The Full Throttle opened to the public in June 2013 at Six Flags Magic Mountain and has the distinction of having the world’s tallest vertical loop, a height of 160 ft. Anyone afraid of loops better steer clear of this one; although it only achieves a top speed of 70 mph, the sheer length and height of the Full Throttle’s signature loop are sure to cause a head-rush.
We like the name of this one! Goliath is a newer wooden coaster that debuted at Six Flags Great America, Illinois in 2014. Goliath dethroned El Toro as the fastest wooden roller coaster in the world, achieving a top speed of 72 mph. In addition, Goliath is also the steepest and longest wooden coaster, with a sickening 85 degree drop. It’s also the only wooden coaster to go upside down. Even if it was made of steel, Goliath’s stats would be impressive.
9. Millenium Force
Cedar Point’s Millenium Force strikes an imposing figure with its 310-foot tall ascension hill and lives up to its stature with a truly frightening ride that maxes out at an impressive 93 mph. It’s not the tallest or fastest coaster in the world, but that’s small comfort for those who have survived its terrifying speed and power. It also has a heck of a view of nearby Lake Erie.
8. Steel Dragon 2000
This aptly-named coaster (it debuted in 2000 — “The Year of the Dragon”) is a prominent feature of the Nagashima Spa Land park in Mie Prefecture, Japan and holds the record for the longest track length in the world at 8, 133 ft, which results in a practically unheard of ride length of 4 minutes. The Steel Dragon 2000 is no leisure ride however, achieving top speeds of 95 mph with multiple death-defying drops. The coaster had an incident in 2003 when one of the trains wheels came off. No was killed thankfully and the ride was eventually fully operable again in 2006 with no further incidents.
7. Top Thrill Dragster
On paper, the Top Thrill Dragster at Cedar Point may seem like a bit of a ripoff, clocking in at a ride-time of only 17 seconds. However, those 17 seconds may end up being the most thrilling and terrifying of your life, considering the Dragster goes from 0 to 120 mph in only 4 seconds…while you shoot 420 ft into the air. Truly, this is a coaster that has all the description it needs right in its title.
6. Superman Krypton Coaster
They say everything’s bigger in Texas; judging by the Superman, Krypton Coaster at Six Flags Fiesta Texas in San Antonio, there is merit to this saying. The DC hero-themed ride has one of the world’s tallest vertical loops at 145 ft, as well as a 96 foot tall dive loop. As far as Superman simulations go, it’s hard to think of a coaster that does it better.
Possessing the longest inverted track in the world, Banshee — another roller coaster at Cincinnati’s King’s Island park — is the perfect coaster for anyone who loves riding upside-down. It’s not all about loops and inversions though, as Banshee also happens to be the fastest inverted coaster, with a top speed of 68 mph. That’s enough to make anyone scream like a banshee.
One of the most terrifying components of any serious coaster is the initial steep climb — and even steeper drop — that begins the ride. The steeper the drop the angle, the scarier the descent becomes. The Takabisha at the Fuji-Q Highland theme park in Yamanashi, Japan holds the world record for having the steepest drop angle — a ridiculous 121 degrees. Japan has a lot of crowd-drawing landmarks, but this coaster is truly a sight to behold.
Possibly the most aptly-named ride in the world, Oblivion literally plunges riders down a 90 degree drop into darkness. This coaster at Alton Towers in Staffordshire, England was the first vertical drop roller coaster of its kind and the whole experience looks delightfully sinister. Patrons are treated to a pre-ride video where Oblivion is introduced by — and this is no joke — “The Lord of Darkness.” That’s the kind of wild dedication to user experience that truly separates the best roller coasters from the rest.
2. Formula Rossa
All of these roller coasters are terrifying in their own way, but which one is the fastest? It’s probably not much of a surprise to learn that a country known for building extravagant structures built the world’s fastest roller coaster by a significant margin. The Formula Rossa at Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates reaches a practically unfathomable speed of 150 mph in 5 seconds flat. The ride is so fast that all riders must wear protective glasses. It’s no coincidence that the Formula Rossa was initially called the F1 Coaster, as it’s as close to the Formula One experience as you’ll find in terms of roller coasters.
1. Kingda Ka
The most important contributors to a roller coaster’s ability to instill fear in its patrons are its speed and height. The minds behind the Kingda Ka at Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, New Jersey clearly understood this, as they combined speed and height to create the scariest roller coaster in the world. The Kingda Ka is the world’s tallest roller coaster, reaching a staggering height of 456 feet. As if that wasn’t enough, it only trails the Formula Rossa as the world’s fastest, reaching a top speed of 128 mph in 3.5 seconds. Its layout is similar to the Top Thrill Dragster, but it puts that coaster to shame. It may not be the best coaster, but it’s hard to think of one that’s scarier.