10 European Coasters that Define the Decade

Sven: The end of the decade is near and that’s the time to look back on what happened in the coaster kingdom. In this article, we take a closer look at 10 coasters that changed the game in Europe. Some of them are included because of “being the first”, others because they caused a trend, some because of their uniqueness and other reasons. So it’s not a list of the 10 best coasters of the decade, but of those who defined it. Let’s get to it!

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Raptor – Gardaland (2011) – Birth of the Wing Monsters

We start off with Bolliger and Mabillard who installed their first Wing Coaster in Gardaland thanks to an order by Merlin Entertainment. A new design where guests do not sit on top of the track but besides it. Obviously, the design itself wasn’t revolutionary as there were already other examples such as X2 or even in Europe itself with Furius Baco. Yet this time, it was built by B&M and it became an instant hit, we have 14 installments currently operating and 2 under construction. 4 of those ended up in Europe: Raptor, Swarm (Thorpe Park), Flug der Dämonen (Heide Park) and Fenix (Toverland).

Stats-wise, it’s not the most exciting of them all, but it remains one of the favorites due to its theming, integration in the park and the near-miss effects. It also acts as the heart of the park where all of a sudden you get confronted by a forest area. Inside sleeps the monster where you can ride along its wings. Even though it didn’t bring the masses at first to Gardaland (it’s not a big size park so it only gained a bit of capacity), it sure put the park on the map for coaster enthusiasts.

Krake – Heide Park (2011) – Return of the Dive

Merlin Entertainment sure had an interesting year in 2011 because besides Raptor, they opened another B&M coaster in Europe. The German Heide Park was the lucky one to receive a Dive Coaster. It had been 11 years since Europe had seen another installation after the first Dive ever at Alton Towers: Oblivion. This time, it looked quite different as the First Drop dives into a pirate ship that’s being attacked by a Kraken. Also this ride inspired many parks to consider Dive Coasters again and so we saw installations in the Netherlands (Baron 1898 at Efteling), Italy (Oblivion: Black Hole at Gardaland) and Sweden (Valkyria at Liseberg).

Originally, I was going to include Baron 1898 as that ride took the theming and story even a step further. But then again, Krake deserves the attention even with underwhelming statistics compared to the other Dive coasters out there. The little airtime hill before the end will surprise you and visually, the ride stands out. Interestingly, later in the decade, both Gardaland and Heide Park exchanged ride types as Gardaland installed a Dive Coaster and Heide Park installing a Wing Coaster.

The Smiler – Alton Towers (2013) – 14 inversions

So I promise that this is the last Merlin Entertainment coaster on the list, but you can’t deny that the group added some incredible coasters to their parks this decade. Originally, the record for most inversions was broken by Colossus at Thorpe Park, one of the other parks in the group. But when Colossus was built, Merlin Entertainment did not own the park yet. So they decided to do it themselves again with Secret Weapon 7. There was a huge media campaign that finally revealed the Gerstlauer installation at The Towers. Not the kind of ride constructor you’d expect, but they did a hell of a good job with this Infinity Coaster.

Everyone will remember this ride this decade for another reason unfortunately. In 2015, a train with passenger collided with an empty test train. No one got killed, but some riders ended up with severe injuries. After one year, it reopened as the incident didn’t occur due to a technical failure of the ride. Even when attendance took a blow because of the incident, the park got back on track and the ride remains one of the most popular attractions of the park. We didn’t even mention yet that it features 14 inversions! And no, the ride experience doesn’t feel overkill. You truly get a memorable treatment by “the Marmaliser”.

Helix – Liseberg (2014) – Fan Favorite

Launch coasters were nothing new at the time when Helix opened. Liseberg even featured an Intamin launch coaster already: Kanonen, but it was hard to compare the two. Helix got completely integrated on the hill of the park making it an immediate standout coaster for Europe. It was Mack’s first custom looping launch coaster since the opening of Blue Fire in 2009 at Europa-Park.

Fans instantly fell in love, which wasn’t surprising as some even helped designing it! By the way, another launch coaster deserved this spotlight which opened a few years later at Phantasialand. Yes, Taron is often rivaled with this one and we do understand why. Secretly, I like Taron better than Helix, but still the coaster at Gothenborg deserves the spotlight. When Helix opened, it could easily be called the best coaster in Europe.

Cú Chulainn  Tayto Park (2015) – Finally, Ireland!

So Ireland has 6 rollercoasters. 3 of them can be found in Tayto Park, a theme park that opened in 2010 around a chips brand. 5 years later, they surprised everyone with the first major coaster for the country: Cú Chulainn. This impressive Wooden Coaster by the Gravity Group became the second coaster they opened in Europe since the founding of the company in 2002.FullSizeRender_2 (Large)

Europe counts a lot less Wooden coasters than the states, but those built in the decade each had their own story to tell. This one definitely stands out and ranks pretty high among the other woodies due to its stats. It also has a Wooden support set and not steel one compared to some of the other Gravity Group ones.IMG_0904 (Large)

Schwur des Kärnan –  Hansa-Park (2015) – Not just any Hyper!

Hansa-Park definitely has its own style. The German park near Hamburg presents a special theme, that being the Hanseatic style. After building successful Gerstlauer rides such as Flug von Novgorod (a unique Eurofighter) and Schlange von Midgard (a well-themed Family coaster), they wanted to continue with the constructor’s special plans. A coaster that they had never done before ended up being the largest investment for Hansa-Park ever. Add the theme of an existing Swedish tower but make it more than twice as high and voila: Schwur des Kärnan was born.

The coaster is unlike any ride you’ve ever seen. The Infinity coaster features elements from other ride types such as a Hyper Coaster, a (spoiler alert!) Drop Tower and an upscale Eurofighter. When it opened in 2015, it didn’t quite look ready yet as the theming of the tower looked quite unfinished. It wasn’t the only park this decade that spread theming costs over several years. Also, they adapted the drop sequence too making the ride even more special. All in all, this ride might be my favorite of the decade.

Formula 1 – Energylandia (2016) – Welcome back, Vekoma!

Well, I think by now, every coaster fan heard of Energylandia in Poland, pretty much the new coaster capital of Europe. With almost 17 coasters, it’s on its way to beat Six Flags Magic Mountain for having the most coasters at a theme park. Important sidenote: it has a lot more Kiddie coasters. That said, the park started to put itself on the coaster map when Formula 1 opened, a new generation Vekoma Launch coaster and thus the very first Space Warp.

The red coaster appealed because of several reasons: a smooth, unique and compact design, surprisingly by Vekoma. It inspired the neighboring park Legendia to buy an improved non-launch version (a Bermuda Blitz) which now rates among the best in Europe: Lech Coaster! And also, quite some Chinese parks now ordered this new coaster type in different models (Hyper Space WarpFirestorm, Top Gun, Shockwave, Energy Storm...). So you can thank Formula 1 for that! And even Energylandia itself wants to top it with Abyssus opening next year in the future Aqualantis area of the park.

Pulsar – Walibi Belgium (2016) – The Power of Mack

Compagnie des Alpes realized that its theme parks have a lot of potential and because of that they heavily invested in their parks this decade. They’re not done yet as several of the parks in the group await big coasters! One of them, being Walibi Belgium, a key park for CDA. They received an investment plan with a world-class coaster opening in 2021. But the plan started out with a different type of coaster: Pulsar.

Okay, so it’s even up to discussion if you can consider it a coaster as it can also be considered a Water or Thrill Ride. In our opinion, it counts and this PowerSplash model by Mack scored very well. When you think of Mack, you don’t really think about a powerful launch. Here however, the word Power does fit the model as especially the final backwards launch really packs a punch. The park’s third Shuttle Coaster turned out to be a perfect addition for the park and it’s still unique in Europe!

Wildfire –  Kolmården (2016) – RMC heads for Europe

Of all the parks that were expected to build the first RMC in Europe, probably no one saw it coming that Kolmården would do so. The Swedish zoo became infamous among fans once the plans got announced for this unique ride. The Topper Track hybrid still remains to this day the number one for many due to its unique setting and layout.

The ride had some permit issues which caused closed it down for quite a few months. Luckily, the park got everything approved and since then, guests can enjoy the twists, turns and inversions. Eventually, it couldn’t remain the only RMC in Europe so this year, we welcomed both Untamed! at Walibi Holland and Zadra at Energylandia. Both however are IBox type Hybrids, so Wildfire remains one of the only four Topper’s in the world.

Red Force –  Ferrari Land (2017) – A new record

“Break your own record” could be a tagline for the 10’s. Not only the inversion record was broken, but also the European top speed and height. PortAventura World expanded big with the opening of a second gate. Obviously, it couldn’t miss out on building a big ass coaster and so, Red Force came to be. Former speed and height record by Furius Baco and Shambhala in the main gate park thus gave it’s records to the new Intamin.

The Ferrari brand leaned quite nicely and the ride now ranks as 4th tallest coaster in the world. For Europe, it basically became the upgrade of Stealth at Thorpe Park. Except that the view on the top hat looks quite different and the weather is generally nicer. Next to that, basically the whole park got built around this centerpiece attraction. The big downside: the ride time. Compared to other coasters, it’s quite short. So because of that, it’s hard to rank it in the top 5 of Europe. Also worthy to remember: the pigeon incident, which resulted in wearing glasses on the front row.

Thank you for checking out this TOP 10! We have a few more coming, and a few other listicles sure to interest you:

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