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:Top 10 Roller Coasters United States


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.

Good Variety

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.
  • Great variety of designers. Here’s the breakdown:
    • 4 Intamin (El Toro, Millennium Force, Superman: The Ride, & Maverick)
    • 2 Bolliger & Mabillard (Fury 325 & Apollo’s Chariot)
    • 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.”

Check out the Lists
You can view the list, see a photo gallery, and follow the links to full reviews here: CoasterCritics’ Picks: Top 10 Roller Coasters

Wondering about the rides, that just missed the Top 10? Check out the sub lists: Top Wooden Roller Coasters and Top Steel Roller Coasters

What’s Your Take?
What do you think of the lists? Does it match up at all with your personal list? Which rides would you rank higher or lower? Leave a comment below.

3 Responses

  1. David Chesterman

    This is a pretty good list with all the usual suspects. The real question is how one defines best. For some that would be airtime. For others it would be what I call intensity with rapid transitions. Your list is good in that El Toro has both. It has the airtime plus many rapid transitions similiar to Maverick or Intimidator 305. Not surprisingly they are all Intamin rides.

    Millenium Force and Fury 325 are great rides but Fury 325 is better than MF and Intimidator 305 is more intense than either. I have to agree Nitro is missing from this list. I think Nitro just edges Apollo’s Chariot. Intimidator at Carowinds was another top B&M which I could only ride once due to lines. While Magnum XL-200 is a great ride I don’t think it is better than B&M rides such as Nitro, Intimidator, Diamondback or Raging Bull.

    While Beast is great and a classic I don’t know if it should be so high on the combined list. Another RMC hybrid to consider would be Goliath at Six Flags Great America. I have heard great things about Superman the Ride but haven’t ridden it. Mystic Timbers is a great ride but I can’t comment on most of the wooden ones as I haven’t ridden them. Phoenix has incredible airtime for such a little ride.

    My top five in no particular order because they are all good would be El Toro, Maverick, Twisted Colossus, Nitro and Intimidator 305.

    My suspicions are this list will change with the new RMC hybrids coming this year at Cedar Point and King’s Dominion. Steel Vengeance will probably move to the top of the RMC hybrids if it is as good as it looks.

  2. John

    Great analysis Joel! It’s fun to see how the combos of opinions worked out. Cheers! Also, not sure how much longer I can hold out without having ridden El Toro..

  3. Eric

    Darnit! I joined the CoasterCritic team just a smidge too late to weigh in on this (newest member to the squad, hi all!) Looks like I’ll have to wait until the 2018 poll to get my two cents in. Which in addition to those mentioned above would also include….

    * Banshee (the best invert ever built, IMO)
    * Hades 360 (the best pre-lift “teaser” section as well as the greatest tunnel in coaster history)
    * The Incredible Hulk (with the new improvements, it’s better and Hulk-ier than ever)

    As a former ACEr and long-time coaster fanatic, I’m thrilled to start posting for the squad in the near future.

    Peace love and coasters,
    Eric M.B.


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