10. Raging Bull – Six Flags Great America
Bull squeaked its way into the Top 10 on a technicality: it’s been years since our last rides, but those who’ve ridden this season assure us that the horrible trim on the 2nd incline isn’t as bad as it once was (though trimming at that particular moment of the ride is, in any capacity, an atrocity). Still, as far as the ferociously successful B&M Mega Coaster goes, “you gotta dance with the one that brung ya.” Also, the first drop is still one of the best on file.
9. Incredible Hulk – Universal’s Islands of Adventure
Ahh, Hulk. You knew he’d be here even though the Bruce Banner we know today isn’t the one we knew in 1999. It’s hard not to rank shiny-new 2018 Hulk considering Universal ran the first incarnation to tatters (or so we understand based on numerous testimonies from the ride’s final years), but this is a 1999 Top 20, not a 2018 Top 20. Truth be told, what Hulk accomplished was well ahead of its time and still feels fresh (if its Universal Beijing clone is any indication), and while Hulk 1 fell amid growing discomfort complaints, Universal simply did what what any other multi-billion dollar company would do: built us a fresh one from scratch.
8. Tremors – Silverwood
Back for more following the immediate success of the 1996 Timber Terror, the 90s wood coaster pop stars at CCI were once again summoned – this time, for the ultimate terrain twister. Tremors bookends a curvy, negative-g buffet with pairs of underground tunnels (including one the shreds through the ride’s exit gift shop) that are as unique and unforgettable as Silverwood itself.
7. Twister – Knoebels
Ten years after the unprecedented transplant of the San Antonio Rocket to their charmingly rustic amusement campground, a second, similar project for Elitch Gardens’ Mr. Twister ended with an augmented, from-scratch wood coaster that remains one of the decade’s best. Though Knoebels’ valiant efforts to relocate the original Denver coaster didn’t materialize like they did for Phoenix, Twister is nonetheless a priceless delivery on the promise of saving an iconic ride layout from certain death.
6. Dueling Dragons – Universal’s Islands of Adventure
For a number of reasons, Dueling Dragons (later known as Dragon Challenge) was indeed a challenge to place on this list. Like Gwazi, the coasters were awarded joint placement, and like Incredible Hulk, they were a Universal enigma. Less fortunate than their green sibling, Fire and Ice (or Chinese Fireball and Hungarian Horntail) were forced into an early grave due to various circumstances, not the least of which being that the attraction’s hallmark duels were halted amid the growing pains of “loose article culture.”
For nearly a decade, Dueling Dragons dazzled enthusiasts and casual thrill seekers alike with their baffling choreography and incomparable style (though the general consensus was that Fire was the stronger coaster). With Harry Potter came an exchange of styles, and with lawsuits came the loss of that signature choreography. With ranking these coasters in their various states of existence, we took everything we possibly could into account. Ultimately, we felt that God-tier performance in their first incarnation could not compensate for their gradual downward trend toward demise, but we’d be lying if we said these noble beasts weren’t Top 10 material – even on their worst days.
5. Steel Eel – SeaWorld San Antonio
As the Hyper Coaster arms race reached a fever pitch at the dawn of the millennium, Morgan Manufacturing and SeaWorld were quick to remind the industry that height isn’t everything. Perhaps the most beloved design of the firm’s short lifespan, Steel Eel’s unrelenting airtime and stellar pacing has left a longer-lasting impression than much of Morgan’s 200ft+ class.
4. Afterburn – Carowinds
Before the 2010s saw Carowinds grow from regional fixture to international coaster destination, a quantum leap for the verging-on-irrelevant park came in 1999. Afterburn, though often described as a “mini Busch Gardens Montu,” is more than just an abridged clone – even the arguably-noteworthier Fury 325 lacks a moment as spectacular as Afterburn‘s mid-batwing tunnel under the midway.
3. Tennessee Tornado – Dollywood
During what would be the twilight years of Arrow Dynamics, a young Alan Schilke took pause from hammering out details on his 4th Dimension Coaster to design the last Arrow Looper. In the shadow of Dollywood’s reclaimed Thunder Express Arrow Mine Train arose the ferocious (if petite) Tennessee Tornado, a micro masterpiece that exchanged Arrow’s progress-stifling, cookie-cutter elements for purposeful, curvaceous engineering that make even the biggest Arrow critics blush.
2. Anaconda – Gold Reef City
Coming in at #2 on our list is our top-performer in the looping and below-the-track categories: The Pride of Johannesburg, Anaconda. One of only 3 coasters built during Giovanola’s short-lived solo stint, Anaconda boasts a B&M-like, narrow gauge track system with a remarkably landscaped, Batman: The Ride-on-steroids-style layout, and sleek, whip-y 10-car trains – the most on a looping invert.
1. Apollo’s Chariot – Busch Gardens Williamsburg
It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that B&M’s Mega Coaster product line debuted and peaked the same year: Apollo’s Chariot graduated the Class of 1999 with top honors (despite being near the bottom of the list of Hyper Coasters in order by height). Apollo‘s use of terrain is virtually unmatched by any other coaster – let alone other hypers – and Busch Gardens’ commitment to maintenance and landscaping makes for an unbeatable combo of constant, opening-day smoothness, and foliage that grows more beautiful with every passing year.
And so concludes our Twenty-Year Top 20! Do you agree with where 1999’s coasters landed on the countdown? Be sure to weigh in on Coaster Kings’ Facebook and Instagram!
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