Twenty-Year Top 20: The Best Coasters of 2002

10. Galactica – Alton Towers (Staffordshire, England)

When Galactica first opened as Air in 2002, the ride was a victim of comparison: it lacked the intensity of its counterpart Nemesis and the soon-to-be-iconic Pretzel Loop of Superman, but Air made up for it in both style and substance. The ride’s intriguing mix of flying and lying sequences and proximety over (and under) the midway have withstood time, and its subdued forces are the yang to Nemesis’ yin.

9. New Mexico Rattler – Cliff’s Amusement Park (Albuquerque, New Mexico)

The coaster preserverance built; when the bankruptcy of Custom Coasters International left Cliff’s with a less-than-half-finished coaster, the park finished it themselves. As the last chapter in the thrilling decade of CCI designs, NMRattler has everything that made the company famous, from multiple tunnels to clever ride integration – and of course steel supports.

8. Lost Coaster of Superstition Mountain – Indiana Beach (Monticello, Indiana)

The penultimate work of CCI is weirdest by far: Indiana Beach’s Lost Coaster of Superstition Mountain is a wood coaster with a dark ride soul. Eight passenger mine car trains (with forward and backward seating) take passengers up a vertical lift and down through a series of coaster segments and dark ride scenes. It’s wild, sketchy, and totally one-of-a-kind.

7. Winjas – Phantasialand (Bruhl, Germany)

Few parks can claim to churn out genius as consistently as Phantasialand, and one of their first of now many slam-dunk coaster attractions was Winjas, a pair of dueling indoor Maurer spinning coasters. Lovingly intertwined with the “Wuze Town” area of Phantasialand, Winjas Fear and Force offer two distinct ride experiences with some memorable tricks that raise as many questions as they do eyebrows.

6. Gravity Max – Discovery World (Taichung, Taiwan)

This one’s a one-trick pony, but it’s a very good trick: Gravity Max is the original Vekoma Tilt Coaster. This ride is, of course, all about the drop – which is accomplished using a seesaw-like piece of track at the crest of the lift hill, which pivots to position riders at a 90⁰ angle before dropping then into an underground tunnel. The stunt is very satisfying, and the underground U-turn is a forceful follow-up, but the resulting vertical loop and double helix feel a bit like an afterthought. We’re excited to see the new generation of Vekoma Tilt Coasters expound on the concept with more substantial layouts.

5. Superman – la Atracción de Acero –Parque Warner Madrid (Madrid, Spain)

There are a lot of great Floorless coasters out there, and as big fans of the product line, imagine our surprise when the last major Floorless for us to hit ended up being our favorite. Parque Warner Madrid’s Superman – la Attración de Acero is basically flawless: it has a perfect first drop, excellent positive forces, an *Immelman*, a particularly snappy zero-g roll, and an airtime hill instead of a mid-course brake run. The closing elements of the ride are positively ferocious thanks to a lack of braking throughout the ride, but overall Superman stands out for its unlikely mix of inverting and non-inverting highlights, particularly its several moments of airtime.

4. Xcelerator – Knott’s Berry Farm (Buena Park, California)

Though operational setbacks continue to plague Xcelerator (so far this year it’s only operated for a few months in winter/early spring), it’s still one of the best coasters turning 20 this year. Like its bigger sibling at Cedar Point, the future of this hydraulically-launched menace is uncertain: it may not be possible to preserve that breathtaking blast out of the station, but it would be nice for the ride to operate consistently someday. Whatever happens, we’ll never forget Xcelerator‘s best-in-the-country launch or its serendipitous ejector air over the tophat.

3. Stunt Fall – Parque Warner Madrid (Madrid, Spain)

As far as infamous production models go, few can claim to be as enigmatic as the Vekoma Giant Inverted Boomerang. Riddled with problems at their 2001 launch in three US Six Flags Parks, Stunt Fall was spared some grief thanks to its 2002 scheduled opening. Though additional setbacks delayed the ride’s debut, it still managed to open in the same calendar year as the rest of the brand-new Warner Bros Movie World Madrid (now simply Parque Warner). The last of the first-wave Vekoma GIBs still in its intended location, Stunt Fall is a proud fixture for the park, standing mighty and tall adjacent to Parque Warner’s entrance plaza. To Vekoma’s credit, the Giant Inverted Boomerang is still as terrifying and awe-inspiring as they were 20 years ago – a timelessly visionary nightmare laden with hypercoaster-sized vertical drops and bellicose inversions.

2. Goliath – Walibi Holland (Biddinghuizen, Netherlands)

The hyper coaster was still a relatively new medium for developers as the initial round of dedicated 200ft coasters wound down in the early 2000s. Early pioneers of the breed (Togo, Arrow Dynamics, Morgan Manufacturing) would dissolve into history while the key Swiss firms (Intamin, B&M) would usher in their market dominance of the hyper coaster with their respective 1999 installations. Intamin would achieve perfection in 2002 with – not a 200ft hyper – but the 150ft “junior hyper” Goliath at Six Flags Holland. On the heels of the immense success of their Superman: Ride of Steel, Millennium Force, and Expedition GeForce projects, Intamin gave us their most nuanced creation yet: a sweeping, elegant coaster coursing with speed and airtime, and with transitions and helices that flow like water.

1. X2 – Six Flags Magic Mountain (Valencia, California)

If not X2, then who? We’ve long argued that X2, the Western World’s first and only true 4D coaster, remains the most valuable roller coaster asset in the United States. With each passing year the odds of another programmed 4D coaster coming to America (or anywhere) grows slimmer, driving X2’s value ever higher. Resident industry mad scientist Alan Schilke has settled into a more symbiotic relationship with the marketplace, developing rides that lean comfortably into the bends of clients; their need for palatable thrill coasters outweighing a curiosity for uncharted territory. X2, in its twentieth season, will remain a monument the industry’s most exciting era, when imagination would push the limits of human endurance.

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