It’s that time a year again! Welcome to Coaster Kings’ 3rd annual Twenty Year Top 20, where we count down our picks for the twenty best coasters turning 20 in 2021!
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20. Tornado – Särkänniemi (Tampere, Finland)
This is a ride that LOOKS amazing but doesn’t quite deliver on its promise of being a lift-hill-version of Kings Dominion’s Volcano. The 2nd half stands out (and is absolutely echoes of Volcano), but the first half suffers from pacing issues, especially with the dragging, premature banking of the first drop that leaves guests hanging awkwardly in their restraints.
19. Tower of Terror – Gold Reef City (Johannesburg, South Africa)
As the only ride on this list not personally ridden by anyone on the team, our impressions of the ride come second-hand from trusted sources who’ve made stops at Johannesburg’s hometown park while on treks to South Africa. Fashioned out of what was once a functioning oil derrick, Tower of Terror has seen many changes, from restraints to rolling stock to replacing the traditional lift with an elevator. Described as a “janky Alton Towers Oblivion” that “feels like you get pulled to bottom” by one of our colleagues, the ride’s business end of plunging riders into the Earth remains intact despite another colleague’s analysis that the ride went from “batshit crazy” to “nothing special” amid its many alterations.
18. Insane Speed – Janfusun Fancyworld (Koo-Kung Hsiang, Taiwan)
Speaking of Oblivion: immediately following the bombast that was unassuming regional park Janfusun Fancyworld’s opening of Oblivion clone G5 Diving Machine in 2000, the modest Insane Speed feels a bit like an afterthought. Sure, it’s a substantial little ride with some solid backseat airtime (and, for better or for worse, serves as the foundation for followup small-statured Floorless coasters such as Batman: The Dark Knight and HotWheels Nitro), but it doesn’t have the presence or notoriety of G5. In essence, the park’s cloned coaster feels unique while the park’s custom coaster, ironically, feels more like a production model.
17. Quicksilver Express – Gilroy Gardens (Gilroy, CA)
Gilroy Gardens’ signature machine is a beautiful exercise in doing more than necessary. A spiritual successor to the Arrow Mine Train, this one-off Morgan Manufacturing marvel merrily meanders meticulously manicured manmade mounds – because of course it does. After all, Gilroy Gardens is handily North America’s most lovingly landscaped park.
16. Colossos – Kampf der Giganten – Heide Park Resort (Soltau, Germany)
We’re going to give Colossos the benefit of the doubt and say that the new version, “Colossos – Kampf der Giganten” is probably an improvement over its original incarnation. While not a bad ride by most accounts, improvements of this concept (El Toro) stand to highlight what Colossos lacks – specifically airtime, to our surprise. The ride is too big to be as unremarkable as it was, but Heide Park appears to have been conscientious of that. We look forward to riding Kampf der Giganten in 2022.
15. Do-Dodonpa – Fuji-Q Highland (Fujiyoshida, Japan)
Does the phrase “anticipointment” mean anything to anyone here? Fuji-Q Highland’s Do-Dodonpa boasts the highest rate of acceleration on any operating amusement park ride, but in true turn-of-the-21st-century fashion, this coaster was far more focused on breaking records than on offering a varied, well-rounded ride. The 2018 remodel of the ride featuring vest trains and an enormous clothoid loop is a weird flex considering the ride’s 2nd most memorable trait (after the launch) is now the rocky transition from old track to new, and back again, festooning the ride’s inversion.
14. Incredicoaster – Disney California Adventure (Anaheim, CA)
If you’re like us, your feelings on California Adventure’s signature roller coaster are mixed: as fans of California Screamin’, we admittedly felt that the ride was full of unrealized potential. Pixar Pier saw the existing Paradise Pier attractions reimagined in ways that varied from thoughtful to flimsy, with budget cuts sending Incredicoaster spiraling to the latter. While the bones are intact, great qualities of Screamin’ (like the iconic onboard soundtrack and impressive views from the top) have been replaced with Incredi-fied versions that feel phoned in, and the overall theme couldn’t feel more forced. Still, it’s an excellent and unique Intamin looper with satisfying forces and impressive length.
13. Screaming Condor / Vertical Velocity – Leofoo Village (Guanxi, Taiwan) / Six Flags Great America (Gurnee, IL)
These coasters share spot on this list because they’re technically identical, but we would like to point out that Screaming Condor is the better of the two: the ride is partially underground and the back spike erupts out of the midway. Other than that, these rides offer the same thrilling experience and the same shrill LSM launches, the sound of which Leofoo Village decided to name their ride after – as the magnets really do scream. As for the Six Flags Great America ride, we’re actually going to use it to segue into our next topic:
12. The Flash: Vertical Velocity – Six Flags Discovery Kingdom (Vallejo, CA)
Before there were internet memes, the enthusiasts of Northern California would just talk about Six Flags Marine World’s Vertical Velocity fiasco over and over again because it truly never stops being funny. The story starts with Medusa’s debut in 2000– at 150ft tall (the city of Vallejo’s height ceiling), the ride is quickly notated as the region’s tallest coaster. Press releases for both V2 coasters were roughly the same, save for a suspicious 150ft stat for the Marine World ride and 186ft for the Six Flags Great America ride. In the infinite wisdom of Premier Parks era Six Flags, Marine World’s V2 was indeed a 186ft tall ride installed in clear violation of the city’s heigh ceiling – accentuated by the noticeably less-tall Medusa. Following a summer of normal operation, Six Flags was forced to alter the ride’s forward twist into a slanted barrel roll that flanks the park’s entrance, while the rear spike was simply lopped off by 36ft. Is this wonky one-off Twisted Impulse better than the standard model? Hard to say, but it’s certainly unique and funny as hell.
11. Thundercoaster – TusenFryd (Oppegård, Norway)
Still another 2001 coaster that has seen a major revamp since opening, Thundercoaster is one of the more obscure coasters on the list. A unique Vekoma woodie with a Steel Phantom-esque 2nd drop into a valley following a smaller, curving 1st drop, Thundercoaster traded its three-bench Vekoma trains for Gravitykraft Timberliners in 2015 to improve performance and lower maintenance costs – how it effected the overall ride experience is presumably up for debate.