Given the growing team and community here at CoasterCritic, I thought it’d be fun to launch a critic-driven Top 10 that would become the site’s official list of the top roller coasters. In order to incorporate new rides, the list will be refreshed annually.
Our first annual Top 10 Roller Coasters List combines the lists from the writers for CoasterCritic (Joel, John, Bobbie, and Jon), a well-traveled long-time reader of the site (Judy P.), and a friend of the site and professional critic (Arthur Levine). Think of the combined list as a poll of a small panel of roller coaster fans.
It’s Our Top U.S. Roller Coasters
While some of the critics included a few roller coasters from other countries, I decided to keep the list to roller coasters in the United States. Most of us only had U.S. coasters and that’s where the majority of the site’s readers live. We may have to re-visit this in the future.
It’s Not the Definitive Roller Coaster List
This isn’t meant to challenge or replace any other list out there; including your own. And the list is by no means, the definitive list of the best roller coasters or a better way to crown the best coasters. Our list is just another list, like your personal list or my personal list.
2017 CoasterCritics’ Picks: Top 10 Roller Coasters
So what happened when I did a mashup of our lists? After scoring and combining our six lists, these are our top 10 roller coasters:
I’ll make a broad analysis of the list. There’s no need for a personal comparison to my own list. Again, keep in mind, this isn’t my (Joel’s) list. So I don’t agree with some of the rankings myself, but that’s point of a community list. Some I feel might be ranked too high or too low and others I haven’t ridden. Enough set up, here’s the breakdown.
Overall, the list has a good variety in a number of ways:
Older and newer coasters. The oldest is The Beast which opened in 1979 and the newest is Lightning Rod which opened in 2016. There are a few others from the last 5 years and a few that have stood the test of time like the 18-year-old Apollo’s Chariot.
Variety by type with four wood and six steel. I’ve rarely seen lists with five of each, so four and six isn’t bad.
2 Rocky Mountain Construction (Lightning Rod & Iron Rattler)
1 Gravity Group (The Voyage)
1 Dinn Corporation (The Beast)
Size & Airtime Are Key
It’s not easy to come up with a key theme or something these top rides all have in common, but aside from the two that incorporate loops (Maverick and Iron Rattler) and the two that incorporate launches (Maverick and Lightning Rod), there’s a general theme of: Big, Tall, Fast, and often with Airtime Moments.
So for any theme parks out there looking for a formula for a top 10 roller coaster, there you go. You’re welcome!
Not the Most Intense
This isn’t a ground-breaking observation, but it seems clear that the best doesn’t mean the most intense. While a few are intense and boast staggering stats, you won’t find speed and height record-setters (like Kingda Ka and Top Thrill Dragster). And you won’t find rides with a reputation for pummeling riders with g-forces.
Not About Newer Elements
What is also missing are any of the newer or more recent additions to the coaster experience. Elements like 90-degree and beyond 90-degree drops on dive coasters (like Griffon), newer seating positions like those torture device-like 4D coasters and fun wing coasters (like GateKeeper) didn’t really move the collective needle. At least not with this panel of critics.
The Test of a Good Roller Coaster List
At the end of the day, I feel the measure of the list comes down to this general question. When asked, as I often am, about the best roller coasters by a non-coaster fan friend or by the media, could I point to this list with confidence?
For the 2017 edition, I’d say yes. While we all have personal lists that differ, when taking a step back and looking at these ten, I’d have no problem telling a reporter, “Here’s a list of the best roller coasters in the country.” Or telling a friend, “If you’re looking for a roller coaster bucket list, here are our recommendations.”