Ranking the Best Coasters
I’ve been lucky enough in 2022 to have traveled more than I ever have in my life. I was able to visit 10 new parks and return to some of my favorites. With 10 new parks came around 100 new-to-me coasters that have completely reshaped my enthusiasm as a theme park fan.
Even though some of these coasters are nearly as old as dirt (one of which was built a full century ago), I got my first chance to ride them only this year.
I would’ve loved to include some dark rides on this list too, but regional parks don’t really have many of those—but I did manage to get my first ride on Kennywood’s classic Old Mill, and sheesh, was that something. Anyway, these parks had world-class coaster lineups, no question about it.
Well, out of those 100 coasters, which were my favorite? Oh, that’s impossible to choose, but I’ll make my best effort below. Ah, I wish I could write a full blog for each of these—only so many hours in a day, though. Sorry if this gets long-winded.
About My Rankings
Don’t take the order of these rides too seriously. Outside of the top five, most of these coasters are pretty interchangeable. That said, my top five is solid.
Some of the coasters on this list aren’t the absolute best in the world, but they earned a spot because of the pure excitement I felt throughout the entire ride. That’s what being a coaster enthusiast is all about, right? Feeling a burst of pure joy you can’t find anywhere else—give me that over an “objectively good” coaster any day. All that matters is how a coaster makes you feel. I could go on about this, but we’ll move on to the coasters!
Am I going to cheat and expand my top 10 by adding honorable mentions? Yes. Yes I am. Am I going to cheat and put these ones in no particular order? If you call that cheating, then yes. Yes I am.
Busch Gardens Williamsburg
Some of these entries are based on only one ride experience. Unfortunately, during my one day at Busch Gardens Williamsburg this year, I had time for only one ride on Pantheon.
Pantheon gets a lot of flack for its lack of theming. I was ready to give it the benefit of the doubt and call everyone a hater, but boy, that criticism was spot-on. Aside from a blazing hot queue area during the peak of summer, my experience on Pantheon was fantastic, but maybe not as godly as some have made it out to be.
It’s not fair to compare Pantheon to VelociCoaster since they’re two different beasts, but once you’ve run with the raptors, a ride like Pantheon won’t take your breath away—at least for me. But, it’s still incredibly enjoyable and intense in its own right. I’m glad to have experienced it! I would love another opportunity to see what this ride is all about.
Jersey Devil Coaster
Six Flags Great Adventure
This might be the coaster on this list I’ve ridden most. A slow day and a station wait meant unlimited re-rides, and I certainly took advantage of that. As I learned first-hand, Jersey Devil Coaster is a highly re-ridable attraction that’s among the very best Six Flags has to offer. This coaster’s one-rider-across seating arrangement gives you the ultimate freedom, soaring across the New Jersey sky along a scorching single-rail track. It’s a smooth, whippy, and overall intense ride that’s simply fun.
Out of 100 coasters, this was one of my biggest surprises. I’ve been on my fair share of classic Arrow mine trains and can’t get enough of these janky little rides. I get a kick out of how calmly violent they are, and everyone on the train knows it. Call me sick.
Anyway, other than a few awkward bends in the track, this coaster is actually pretty smooth against the rails. It’s a proper mine train that takes you out into the wilderness and through Jungle-Cruise-esque sets I had no knowledge of beforehand. My jaw absolutely dropped while being introduced into this little adventurous world plunked in the middle of Ohio. I couldn’t wait to see what treasures were around the next corner.
All in all, Adventure Express is still an Arrow mine train. It’s great for young ones and families—and me, I suppose. Any other fans out there?
When all you do is ride coasters, you kind of get a feel of what to expect on a new ride. Storm Chaser took everything I thought I knew about coasters and flung it out the window. Likewise, the coaster tried to fling me out of my seat time and time again.
From its barrel roll drop to a (seemingly) never-ending sequence of airtime moments, Storm Chaser is just as relentless as the very thing it’s named after. This coaster is a whirlwind of near-death emotions that left me—a proud hand-raiser on coasters—gripping onto my harness for dear life, even after multiple re-rides.
How dare I leave Maverick out of my top 10! I get it. I’ve heard nothing but glowing reviews about Maverick for the past decade. This zippy journey definitely delivered, but it didn’t live up to the tremendous hype. Maybe I’d feel differently if I hadn’t ridden Steel Vengeance on the same day or even VelociCoaster plenty of times before (which is like a mega Maverick).
But impossibly lofty expectations aside, Maverick whips in all the best ways. Launching in speedy bursts, gliding over glassy smooth water, whizzing through rockwork—Maverick has a stampede of elements that come at you before you realize what’s happening.
I just mentioned how I love bumpy Arrow mine trains. Well, my love for wooden coasters is no different. The more out of control they feel, the more I love it.
This may be a hot take, but Mystic Timbers is everything The Beast wishes it could be. Don’t get me wrong; I can appreciate a classic like The Beast (and its legendary night rides), but that monster is bested by its neighbor with a 21st-century design.
Gemini is by no means an intense or highly regarded coaster, but it was pure old-school fun. The retro vibes of this coaster are perfect, from the station, to the logo, to the ride experience itself. Gemini was so nostalgic even though I was experiencing it for the first time in its 44th year of operation.
There’s something so timeless and classic about racing around a casually bumpy coaster track with another train racing past you. What is it about dueling coasters and everyone having the urge to flick off the opposing train? I love it. It’s so chaotic, unpredictable, and oddly comforting. I may be a sucker for these old coasters, but Gemini—being one of my most anticipated coasters of the year—didn’t disappoint.
The Top 10
10. Jack Rabbit
Of course, my top 10 starts off with more old-school fun. I promise, there are more mainstream choices ahead (as well as plenty of Kennywood coasters too).
Jack Rabbit is one of my most unsuspecting coasters out there. All you can see from the main midway is a brief turnaround as its wooden structure lures in guests. Built in 1920, this coaster can be every bit as thrilling as a modern-day creation. I’m pretty confident putting my hands up on any coaster—no matter how tall or fast—but Jack Rabbit had me tightening my seat belt mid-ride and clenching the lone handlebar (notice I didn’t say lap bar). That’s right; Jack Rabbit, despite its relentless airtime moments, has nothing but a seat belt and an oversized handlebar acting as a harness. That plus its incredible use of the terrain instantly made Jack Rabbit one of my favorites.
How much is a flight to Pittsburgh?
B&M hypers have a way of blending together, but that doesn’t mean they’re bland or boring. Candymonium is just as sweet as it sounds. In my opinion, this hyper has an edge that others don’t. It pulls you over each hill with force in a way I wasn’t expecting whatsoever. The surrounding landscaping plus a trip around the tasteful Hershey’s Kisses fountain make Candymonium as beautiful as it is thrilling.
Candymonium has all the ingredients of a wonderful coaster.
8. Steel Curtain
A hyper coaster with nine inversions, one of which being the tallest in the world—what more could you ask for? Whether or not you’re an American football fan, Steel Curtain is a coaster worth passionately cheering for. Element after element, Steel Curtain is a smooth yet savage coaster with graceful twists and aggressive moments that match the excitement of a game-clenching touchdown.
I’m glad Kennywood, being a historic and classic-leaning amusement park, has tackled this modern marvel.
7. Steel Force
Magnum XL-200 gets a lot of praise, and rightfully so for being the world’s first hyper coaster and having a bonkers finale. But, its forgotten cousin at Dorney Park, Steel Force, is an even better experience for me. This is the point where I should remind you that this is based on my personal experiences and opinions. Anyway, Steel Force is a smooth, old-school airtime machine. It takes you to great heights and launches you out of your seat with no remorse, like getting the perfect double bounce from your friend on a trampoline.
Steel Force’s vengeful layout left me wanting more and more.
6. Twisted Timbers
You’d be hard-pressed to find a bad RMC out there. Twisted Timbers is just about the best one I’ve done, which is saying a lot given the stacked competition. Starting with a barrel roll as a first drop, this coaster blends the unique and unrelenting elements RMC has been known for with more traditional airtime hills that take that sensation to a new level. Plus, this coaster has a pretty decent theme and backstory that sets it apart from many others you’ll find at a regional park.
Twisted Timbers is bountiful with unforgettable elements.
I’m not embarrassed to say Fury 325 is my No. 1 coaster out there. While Kings Island’s Orion doesn’t quite match what Fury accomplishes, it’s still an impressive experience that’s right up my alley. Mixing the intergalactic sci-fi theme with being hoisted into the stratosphere and speeding through satisfying airtime made Orion one of the brightest stars at Kings Island for me.
To the person behind me yelling “Orion!” throughout the entire ride, I get it. Orion was that good.
4. Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind
Smooth. Stunning. Spacey. This blog is going on a bit longer than I expected, so I’ll just plug my full review of Cosmic Rewind if you’re interested!
3. Phantom’s Revenge
Yes, this is the third Kennywood coaster in my top 10. I really liked Kennywood, okay? Phantom’s Revenge opened more than 30 years ago as Steel Phantom, which was a mega-looping coaster. Today, it has zero inversions and zero remorse after being converted into an airtime machine around the turn of the millennium. The coaster’s second drop is also longer than its first, which you won’t find on many other rides.
Phantom’s Revenge is relentless with plunges that carelessly fling you out of your seat throughout the entire course. Every retrofitted curve and drop offered something unique, from massive plunges through a neighboring wooden coaster to sudden but deathly drops that attempt to violently send you soaring as high as the phantom.
The stats and a POV video alone may seem ordinary, but Phantom’s Revenge is anything but.
2. Steel Vengeance
Well well well, another coaster with the word “steel” in its name. This is it: the crème de la crème of coasters. Steel Vengeance has it all—height, speed, airtime (so much airtime), inversions, a hefty duration, and much more. It’s hard to single out any one moment during the ride to gush about; every element is nearly as good as the next. Of course, the ride has its highlights, which are some of the best I’ve experienced, all wrapped up into one coaster. What Steel Vengeance accomplishes in one lap is beyond wild.
Steel Vengeance has everything I could ever want in a coaster.
1. The Voyage
This just might be my favorite roller coaster out there; it’s without a doubt my favorite wooden coaster. The Voyage was exactly what its name implies—it was a journey like no other. Its massive lift hill gives incredible views of the simple yet beautiful Santa Claus, Indiana, followed by a fierce drop. The Voyage takes riders deep—and I mean deep—into the forest, cresting over huge airtime hills and zooming as low to the ground as a coaster can go. This ride is full of surprises, like turning you completely on your side and barreling underground just when you think the trek is over. This is a long coaster that doesn’t seem to lose steam, and every second of that drawn-out runtime is worth it.
The Voyage is a coaster I’m truly thankful for throughout all four seasons.
I hope I have another theme park year like 2022 in the near future! What were your favorite rides of the year?