It’s that time of year again! Welcome to our 4th Annual “Twenty-Year Top 20”, where we rank the top coasters that turn 20 years old this year! 2002 was an extremely strong year, with the “Coaster Wars” at their peak – our favorite coasters in several countries, respectively, made their debut twenty years ago. Let’s get started!
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20. Thor’s Hammer – Djurs Sommerland (Nimfofte, Denmark)
Kicking off our Top 20 is one for all ages: the delightful Thor’s Hammer. Though a clone of the superior G’sengte Sau at Tripsdrill, this peppy Gerstlauer Bob fits Djurs Sommerland like a glove – the overwater finale is a highlight.
19. Silver Star – Europa Park (Rust, Germany)
Lower on this list than we’d like, Silver Star simply isn’t as enjoyable as it should be. The dispatch threshold has gotten narrower over the years: where there used to be room for airtime is now a snug fit. For larger riders, stapling may be necessary. The ride fortunately hasn’t developed the dreaded B&M rattle, but the layout isn’t particularly remarkable. Still, it’s a pleasant, inoffensive hyper, fit for a park full of pleasant, inoffensive coasters.
18. Colossus – Thorpe Park (Chertsey, England)
For as famous Colossus is for its record-breaking 10 inversions, it’s perhaps just as famous for its unimaginative means to claiming the record (five consecutive barrel rolls? Really?). It’s an enjoyable ride with some nice terraforming in the first half, but not a ride that begs re-riding.
17. Avalancha – Xetulul San Martin Zapotitlán, Guatemala)
Avalancha is pretty much the same ride as Colossus, but we’re ranking it higher to prove a point: Avalancha has only 8 inversions, with the last 2 barrel rolls being omitted. Sometimes, less is more. Also the ride has a cute iceberg theme, complete with a “frozen” station and underground tunnels.
16. Superman: Ultimate Flight – (Six Flags Over Georgia)
While rides like Batman: The Ride and Apollo’s Chariot ushered in their respective product lines with seismic results, Superman: Ultimate Flight had a slightly less enthusiastic reception. Though it spends more time in “flying” position than its Vekoma counterparts, the Flying Dutchman coasters offered a more thrilling experience than the meandering Superman. The Six Flags Over Georgia installation employs some nice terraforming thanks to its hillside location, and the signature Pretzel Loop has had a lasting impact, but the layout doesn’t lend itseld to the parking lot clones that came to Six Flags Great America and Six Flags Great Adventure. It wouldn’t be until 2006 that B&M hit a home run with their flying coaster, but at least Georgia’s Superman: Ultimate Flight was a decent start.
15. Avengers Assemble: Flight Force – Walt Disney Studios (Chessey, France)
This one may be a bit of a guilty pleasure, but we’re suckers for this traditional Vekoma LSM looper. We were already fans of the ride in its Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster era, and while the ride’s new identity has received mixed reviews, we think Flight Force has one of the best queues in the industry, not to mention great looking rolling stock and awesome curb appeal. The showbuilding scenes are a far cry from the standard set by Hyperspace Mountain next door, but a solid showing compared to your average indoor coaster.
14. Snow Mountain Flying Dragon – Happy Valley (Shenzhen, People’s Republic of China)
Another Vekoma we love: Snow Mountain Flying Dragon was the first Vekoma SLC to stray from the standard layout, instead offering a “B&M-esque” vertical loop, boomerang, and zero-G roll. The ride can also be credited with China’s enduring trend of SLC and SLC-inspired coasters, of which there are around 70 known to be operating in the country.
13. Batman: The Dark Knight – Six Flags New England (Agawam, Massachusetts)
This variation on Janfusun Fancyworld’s Insane Speed feels like a Floorless counterpart to the inverted Batman coasters, with its 5 inversions and relatively short height and length. While the blossoming Six Flags New England arguably deserved something more on scale of 2002’s other B&M Floorless (more on that later), Batman is still a reliably satisfying member of the park’s lineup.
12. Odyssey – Fantasy Island (Skegness, England)
The Vekoma Odyssey is admirably ambitious but doesn’t quite stick the landing – it scores more points here than the “safe” Snow Mountain Flying Dragon, but can only hope to hang with the likes of the Giant Inverted Boomerang (psst – this is foreshadowing). Like many Vekomas of this era, Odyssey was plagued with problems – even requiring a reprofile of several elements to address the threat of valleying in high winds. These changes contribute to a rougher experience now than when it first opened, but Odyssey remains a dazzling thriller despite its flaws and fixes.
11. Batman: Arkham Asylum & Vampire – Parque Warner Madrid (Madrid, Spain) & La Ronde (Montréal, Quebec)
Ten years later, the B&M Batman clones were still some of the best coasters around, with two of 2002’s best coasters being the 10th and 11th installations of the beloved production model. The Spanish Batman is especially dolled up with a sprawling, haunt-like queue through Arkham Asylum.