Thrill seekers, adrenaline junkies, or just plain crazy – whatever you want to call us, there are millions of us around the world, looking for our next fix of terrifying twists, turns and tangled steel tracks. Whether you relish in the horror of plummeting to the ground at unnatural speeds, or – as “designated photographer” – you prefer to laugh in the faces of those mad enough to ride, rollercoasters are a phenomenally popular attraction. As technology advances, so does our need for speed – here are ten of the world’s craziest, most hair-raising and harrowing rollercoasters.
The Smiler, Alton Towers, UK
This newest, and at a mere £20 million the most expensive, addition to Alton Towers is the world’s first 14 looping rollercoaster, boasting five “Mind Manipulations” guaranteed to make you smile – including laughing gas and The Innoculator, which promises a jab of happiness as the first stage of the “marmalisation process”. All of these disorienting experiences take place at a top speed of 52mph (85km/h), hurtling you down some 30metre-high drops.
Kingda Ka, Six Flags Great Adventure, New Jersey
This record-breaker, and potential nerve-breaker, is the world’s tallest and fastest rollercoaster. Racing from 0 to 128 mph (205km/h) in 3.5 seconds, it shoots you upwards and then throws you down a terrifying 138-metre-high drop to the end. The whole experience only lasts 50 seconds – but that’s 50 seconds of pure adrenaline pulsing through your veins from start to finish.
Superman: Escape from Krypton, Six Flags Magic Mountain, LA
You might think there’s nothing more terrifying than not knowing where you’re going on a rollercoaster, but there is: try knowing exactly where you’re going (which is 126m towards the sky), but going there backwards at 100mph (160km/h). This unnatural direction of travel is then counterbalanced by your freefalling back down to earth, the way you came, giving 6.5 seconds of complete weightlessness. That’s pretty terrifying.
Tatsu, Six Flags Magic Mountain, LA
Tatsu is the world’s longest and fastest flying rollercoaster. Passengers are suspended horizontally, propelled along a kilometre long track at 62mph (100km/h), plunged a total of 80m towards the ground, and get to experience a zero-gravity roll – all in just two minutes.
Silver Star, Europa Park, Germany
This isn’t just a rollercoaster – this is what they call a “hypercoaster”. Silver Star’s dizzying height has earned this ride its title, as it climbs a 72-metre-high ascent then drops its passengers at a speed of almost 80mph (127km/h).
Formula Rossa, Ferrari World, Abu Dhabi
You know it’s not going to be a smooth journey when you have to wear protective clothing. This ride in the capital of the United Arab Emirates is the world’s fastest rollercoaster – reaching 150mph in just under five seconds, it almost hits the maximum G-force an average human can cope with. And to ensure you can watch it all speed by, riders are given safety goggles to protect their eyes from bugs and debris as they hurtle along the track
Falcon’s Fury, Busch Gardens Tampa, Florida
If you’ve ever envied birds of prey soaring and diving through the air and longed for such freedom, you’re in luck. Next year sees the rising of Falcon’s Fury at Busch Gardens in Tampa. After climbing this 90-metre-high tower, your seat, in a unique configuration, will pivot 90 degrees, mid air, and send you diving face-first down to earth at 60mph (96km/h).
El Toro, Six Flags Great Adventure, New Jersey
With a top speed of 70mph (112km/h) this ride doesn’t quite seem to match up to some of the other hair-raisers on this list. However, the terrifying thing about this rollercoaster is that it’s made out of wood. The thought of strapping yourself into what often looks like a steel death-trap is enough to send some running, but even the most hardened coaster riders might cower at the prospect of relying on wood for a smooth ride. This ride has the steepest drop of any wooden rollercoaster in the USA, at 76 degrees, and has nine separate “airtime” opportunities.
Saw, Thorpe Park, UK
You want to play a game? So does this ride at one of the UK’s most popular theme parks. Based on the gruesome horror movies Saw, this ride combines visual horror with physical shock in its unexpected twists and turns. Not only does it fire you through a gauntlet of twisted metal, much of which is in the dark, it then drags you up 30 metres before dropping you through sharp rotating blades!
Hurricane, Six Flags México
This one is sure to churn your stomach. On the surface, as you’re coolly stepping onto this pretty standard looking attraction, you might think it’s just another top spin ride. But, as the harnesses come down to secure you in place (there’s no turning back now), the giant mechanical arms begin to move in opposite directions to one another – swinging you every which way as you try your best to hold down lunch.