16 best roller coasters around the world

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There is no shortage of theme-park thrills in this world, but we have a special fondness for the roller coaster.

Coasters were originally more like slides. Russian aristocracy would board wooden carts and go down a human-made hill. By the early 20th century, engineers were experimenting with roller coaster technology, looking for more ways to provide thrills. At this point, the coasters were capable of going faster, curving, and twisting around hills.

And the thrills have increased exponentially in the past 100 years. While the criteria for what makes the best coasters — the design, the number of inversions, the speed — may vary from thrill-seeker to thrill-seeker, today there are plenty of instruments of adrenaline to go around (and around and around). They break speed records, hurl passengers with G-force strength, and some are even designed to trick riders.

Whether they’re sending us upside down (14 times), zooming us over a course at 150 miles per hour, or making us scream by shuffling the track while we’re on it, today’s roller coasters are thrilling marvels of engineering.

Be it the fastest, the tallest, scariest, or the loopiest, these are the 16 best roller coasters in the world.

Formula Rossa — Ferrari World, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Courtesy of Ferrari World

When it comes to speed, no other coaster in the world can compare with Formula Rossa. Developed to resemble a Ferrari sportscar, this roller coaster is the fastest in the world. It launches riders from zero to 150 miles per hour in five seconds. The track sits on a Ferrari racing course and swerves around 1.5 miles of track. The ride only lasts a minute and a half, but it’s one of the most heart-pounding 90 seconds you can experience on a roller coaster anywhere on the planet.

Kingda Ka — Six Flags Great Adventure, New Jersey

Matt Kaiser

This is the fastest roller coaster in America and the tallest roller coaster in the world. In fact, given its height and speed, it could just be considered the scariest roller coaster in the world as well. The track reaches heights of 456 feet (over 45 stories) before sending riders hurtling down at 128 miles per hour — a speed reached in just 3.5 seconds. Kingda Ka is one of the most intense rides around, even though the whole experience only lasts about 50 seconds. (But you probably couldn’t take it much longer, to be honest.)

Jersey Devil Coaster — Six Flags Great Adventure, New Jersey

Courtesy of Six Flags Great Adventure

The second coaster at New Jersey’s Six Flags Great Adventure with a spot on our list is the Jersey Devil Coaster, which debuted in June 2021 as the world’s tallest, fastest, and longest single rail coaster. Sleek trains carry 12 passengers each, sitting low and inline style (one rider per row) with their legs straddling either side of the monorail track. This thrill ride, named for the folkloric creature that has allegedly haunted the local woods for centuries, hits 58 miles an hour with a 130-foot drop. Towering 13 stories high, the coaster takes riders over 3,000 feet of track.

Steel Dragon 2000 — Nagashima Spaland, Japan

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Honors for the world’s longest roller coaster go to the Steel Dragon 2000 in Japan. It cost more than $52 million to construct its 8,000 feet of track that reaches 318 feet at its peak. The Steel Dragon 2000 shoots passengers 95 miles per hour on a 306-foot descent.

Top Thrill Dragster — Cedar Point, Ohio

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Often considered the roller coaster capital of America, Cedar Point is home to many of the country’s most thrilling rides, but the king of them all is the Top Thrill Dragster. When it was built, it was meant to be the tallest and fastest roller coaster in the world. Since then, other coasters have edged in, but that doesn’t diminish the power of this heart-thumping ride. Passengers reach 120 miles per hour in only 3.8 seconds and embark on a journey through peaks up to 420 feet.

T Express — Everland, South Korea

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For riders who prefer an old-school (but still extreme!) experience, the T Express in South Korea is the world’s tallest wooden coaster at 183 feet. The course takes advantage of its location on a hillside, launching riders down a 150-foot drop. The ride reaches a top speed of 65 miles per hour and sends cars down a 77-degree drop. It’s routinely voted one of the best wooden coasters in the world.

Goliath — Six Flags Great America, Illinois

Courtesy of Six Flags Great America

It’s a subtle distinction. The Goliath may not be the tallest wooden coaster in the world, but it’s got the tallest drop. Although the coaster is only 165 feet tall, passengers aboard Goliath plunge 180 feet through an underground tunnel and come out on the other side. At its fastest, the coaster goes 72 miles per hour and has two inversions, making for a stomach-churning ride.

The Smiler — Alton Towers, United Kingdom

The Smiler will turn your world upside down. It’s got the most inversions of any coaster in the world — a dizzying 14. And passengers are sent up through the loops at 53 miles per hour. But don’t think that quantity cancels out variety. There are several different types of inversions throughout the track, including a heartline roll, dive loop, and corkscrew. We would recommend trying this one out on an empty stomach.

Full Throttle — Six Flags Magic Mountain, California

The terrifying Full Throttle boasts the tallest and fastest vertical loop in the world. Riders go 70 miles per hour up a loop that reaches 160 feet tall. While you’re riding, the coaster feels unpredictable. It lurches around, switching direction several times, including once while you’re in the middle of the loop.

Takabisha — Fuji-Q Highland, Japan

The world’s steepest roller coaster may be one of the most terrifying two-minute experiences in the world. Takabisha starts by plummeting riders into a dark tunnel and it only gets scarier from there. The crowning feature is a mind-bending 121-degree “beyond vertical” drop through several loops and inversions.

The Scenic Railway — Luna Park, Australia

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Sometimes you just want something classic. The Scenic Railway may not have the most heart-pounding track, but it’s the world’s oldest continually-operating coaster. It’s been taking passengers around its wooden track since December 1912, so there’s heritage in each car. It’s one of only three historic coasters in the world that requires a brakeman to stand in the middle of the train.

Steel Curtain — Kennywood, Pennsylvania

Courtesy of Kennywood

This Pittsburgh Steelers-themed roller coaster broke records when it opened this summer. Not only does it have nine inversions and a zero-gravity stall, but it’s got the world’s highest inversion at a record-breaking 197 feet. The Steel Curtain reaches a top speed of 76 miles per hour but has a track so smooth, it claims to be a “family-friendly” ride. The family that screams together…

Yukon Striker — Canada’s Wonderland, Canada

Courtesy of Canada’s Wonderland

Things may be bigger in Texas but apparently they’re longer, faster, and taller in Canada. The world’s longest, fastest, and tallest dive coaster opened earlier this year in Canada’s Wonderland. But those records aren’t the most spine-chilling part of the ride. The Yukon Striker leaves riders hanging over a 90-degree drop for a full three seconds, dangling 245 feet over an underwater tunnel. Whoever said that Canadians are among the friendliest people on the planet needs to consider the menacing factors of this coaster.

The Gravity Max — Lihpao Land Discovery World, Taiwan

This ride is another contender for scariest roller coaster in the world. The stomach-dropping coaster travels to the end of its horizontal track before tilting at a 90-degree angle and dropping down into a pitch-black tunnel, reaching 3.5 Gs. Nicknamed the “Cliffhanger,” it’s the world’s only tilting roller coaster and not for the faint of heart.

Tower of Terror — Gold Reef City, South Africa

Courtesy of Gold Reef City

This South African coaster set a niche record: the most G-forces of any coaster in the world. At 6.3 Gs, the Tower of Terror is so powerful it could make some people pass out. The gravitational force is twice as much as an astronaut would experience in a normal rocket launch. The most memorable moment of this ride is a 49-foot drop into a former functional mine shaft.

Do-Dodonpa — Fuji-Q Highland, Japan

This is not a ride for people who are susceptible to bouts of motion sickness. Once you’re on board, the train shoots off on the fastest acceleration in the world, going from zero to 112 miles per hour in 1.56 seconds. From there, it’s a nonstop 55 seconds of loops, swerves, curves, and a zero-gravity zone.

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