The 10 Most Intense Roller Coasters I’ve Ridden

Editorials and Rants

Although my coaster count is quite modest compared with Joel’s, I thought it would be fun to compile a list of the 10 most intense coasters I’ve ridden and explain why I found them unusually forceful.   I’ve ridden a number of incredible coasters so this was a challenge involving some tough choices.   The top 2 picks were givens and didn’t require any thought but the others had me pondering over my track record and second-guessing myself.  Anyway, this is what I came up with.


10. Thunderbolt – Luna Park


Vertical lift hills are invariably intense and although I’ve experienced them on several coasters (Fahrenheit at Hershey, Impulse at Knoebels, The Smiler at Alton Towers) I still find them unnerving.  Thunderbolt begins with a vertical lift followed by a 90-degree free fall, vertical loop, zero-g roll, over-banked curve, dive loop and corkscrew.  The intensity of the combined elements results largely from the pacing.   This is a very quick ride with no downtime and no time to catch one’s breath.


9. Storm Runner – Hersheypark

Storm Runner is a very short ride which nevertheless manages to pack a lot into 50 seconds.   With a hydraulic launch followed by a 180-foot drop, cobra loop, heartline roll and flying snake dive, it delivers excitement and high thrills.  The fact that the heartline roll and flying snake dive are consecutive makes for a decidedly intense ride.

Read our full review of Storm Runner.


8. Volcano: The Blast Coaster – Kings Dominion

Volcano at Kings Dominion - Most Intense Roller CoastersFeaturing two LIM launches, a roll out and three – count ‘em! – heartline rolls, Volcano truly is a blast.  The highlight of the ride for me was being blasted out of the volcano and finding myself flat on my back (the train is completely inverted at this point) looking up at the sky at an elevation of 155 feet.  This is pretty intense stuff.

For more, here’s a review of Volcano.


7. Iron Rattler – Six Flags Fiesta Texas

Iron Rattler - Most Intense Roller CoastersThis terrain coaster begins on a high note by stalling suspensefully before plunging 171 feet at an 81-degree angle.   From that point the ride is exquisitely intense because of the four over-banked turns and mind-blowing barrel roll.   As if that weren’t enough, it ends with a rapid descent into a pitch black tunnel.  This was my 4th RMC (Rocky Mountain Construction) coaster  – I got to ride a 5th one over the 4th of July weekend – and that company never fails to deliver a ride experience that’s both intense and unique.


6. Batman:The Ride – Six Flags Great America and Six Flags Great Adventure

Batman Roller Coaster - Six Flags Great AdventureWhile modest in size, this coaster is deceptively powerful.   And while the two vertical loops and zero-G roll are nothing exceptional,  the two corkscrews at the end of the ride are another story altogether.   They’re intense to the point of being dizzying and disorienting.  As often as I’ve ridden Batman, I never fail to feel somewhat lightheaded at the end of the ride.


5. Maverick – Cedar Point

Maverick at Cedar PointThis is one wild and crazy ride, with a 95-degree drop, two LSM launches, over-banked curves and a delectable double inversion.   The twisted horseshoe roll results in a ride experience of high intensity.   In fact throughout the entire ride I had the sensation of not knowing whether I was coming or going.

Read more in this review of Maverick.


4. Cannibal – Lagoon

Cannibal Roller Coaster at LagoonThe beyond vertical 116-degree drop is both awesome and absolutely insane.  If I thought that coasters with 90-degree free falls are intense, I now think that they’re a notch or two below this.   In addition to the formidable drop, Immelmann and dive loop, Cannibal features the rather unique “Lagoon Roll.”  I find heartline rolls to be the most intense inversions on coasters and the two consecutive heartline rolls in slow motion are so extreme as to be both a test of fortitude and a thrill.


3. Fury 325 – Carowinds

Fury 325 Dives Under Bridge - Carowinds Giga Roller Coaster - smThe breathtaking 320-foot drop, blistering speed and amazing airtime combine to make this one of the most intense coasters on the planet.   I’ve ridden Fury in the front, back and middle of the train and in the front found myself being blown to bits.  Airtime in more ways than one.

Read a full review of Fury 325.


2. Skyrush – Hersheypark

Skyrush at Hersheypark - Most Intense Roller CoastersWhat makes this coaster especially intense  – apart from the crushing restraints, which tighten on each drop – is the insane angles.   The layout of the track is remarkable for the abrupt changes of direction.  And the initial 212-foot drop at a right angle packs a whopping 5 G’s.  Not to mention the fact that the final hill is a killer.

Read more in this guest review of Skyrush.


1. Intimidator 305 – Kings Dominion

Intimidator 305 at Kings DominionKnown for causing greyouts and blackouts, I305 tops the list of the most intense coasters I’ve ridden.  The initial 300-foot drop at an 85-degree angle is intense in itself and from that point the ride is relentless.   The most intriguing elements are the numerous twists in the track, something which as far as I’m aware are unique to this coaster.   These give riders the sensation of being snapped from one point to another.   From start to finish the ride is almost indescribably wicked.

Here’s a full review of Intimidator 305.


Final Thoughts

The level of intensity of any given coaster is obviously quite subjective.  What’s intense for me may be entirely different from what’s intense for someone else.   And I should point out that my perception of the most intense coasters doesn’t necessarily correlate with my perception of the best coasters in terms of quality.  For instance, El Toro at Six Flags Great Adventure happens to be my favorite coaster but I wouldn’t describe it as the most intense. 

What’s Your Take?
What are the most intense coasters you’ve ridden? Leave a comment below. Intimidator 305 image courtesy of CoasterImage.

Hi! I took up roller coasters late in life, 8 years ago at the age of 59 and am trying to make up for lost time. Most of my favorite coasters were made by Intamin and lately, Rocky Mountain Construction. I love Hersheypark not only because it's the sweetest place on earth but because the three major coasters are Intamins. In real life I work in the legal profession.

14 Comments

  1. Great list Bobbie!

    And I completely agree with the top 2. Keen observers will note the Advil for sale in Intimidator 305’s gift shop and Skyrush’s intensity generated quite a buzz the summer it debuted. Those two coasters are no joke!

    Also, Cannibal looks great! Very cool that you’ve been out West to ride it. I haven’t been to Lagoon yet.

    Reply
  2. Thanks, Joel. Never went into I-305’s gift shop so didn’t notice the Advil, lol. While I admit to being a huge fan of Intamin, I compiled this list strictly on the basis of what I perceived as the level of intensity, with no regard for which company manufactured any given coaster, and the fact that I ended up with 5 Intamin coasters on the list is purely coincidental.

    Cannibal is truly unique. Who ever saw anything else that looks like this?

    I posted the link to this post on Facebook and got a response from a couple of FB friends; I wish that they would post something here!

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  3. I haven’t ridden most of the coasters on your list. But, when I read your question, I immediately thought of the Intimidator 305. It’s insane. The most intense experience I had with it was one evening while I was in line, Kings Dominion did their closing fireworks show. All the smoke from the fireworks settled in the Intimidator 305 area. We went up the lift out of the fog to see the world and then plunged at 92 mph back into the fog to not see anything again until we stopped. It was CRAZY!! It’s the only ride I’ve ever been on where they take your picture to sell to you at the very END because that’s the only time the ride is slow enough to do it. Right before you enter the station. And they still get horrified faces on the pics! It’s also the only ride that I know of that has sprinklers in the station to cool the trains’ wheels so that the heat caused by the friction between the wheels and the track don’t cause the wheels to melt.

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  4. Hi, Bobbie! This was a great idea for a topic. It was even more fun for me to read your list because I have met you at Coasting for Kids, so I know a bit about you. I am a happily retired teacher, so I have been able to bag 375 different coasters. With that many coasters from which to choose, I had to make separate lists for steel and wooden coasters.

    STEEL COASTERS
    1 – Intimidator -305: This coaster has a quick lift hill that snaps you over the crest sharply enough that I lost a flip-phone from a velcroed pocket. All they found were “gray plastic shards” on the ground under the lift hill. I am one of those people who has frequent grayouts during the bend after the first drop, so my entire body puts this coaster at #1 for intensity out of ANY coaster I have ridden.
    2 – SkyRush: I tend to ride coasters with my hands up. That was a huge mistake for my first ride on SkyRush. Because I didn’t know the layout of the ride, I was tossed around like a rag doll. I even sent photos of my bruised thighs to Joel!
    3 – Maverick: As I get older I have learned to keep my hands down on this one thanks to the 95-degree drop (restraint hurts my shoulders), quick pace and sharply overbanked turns. Ragdoll syndrome once again!
    4 – Top Thrill Dragster & 5 – Kingda Ka: These two were not scary to me after the first few rides, so their placement here is based on the feeling in the pit of my stomach just before those first launches, with Top Thrill Dragster winning out because of the viewing bleachers for spectators combined with the dragster sound effects. I am still waiting for a rollback on either one of these.
    6 – Millennium Force: For my first ride during it’s debut season, we waited 2 hours to get onto the loading platform, and then rain forced us to sit on the plaform for an additional hour. By the time I got buckled into a rear seat, I was pretty pumped up about my first giga coaster. The cable lift hill, my first, was a surprise. So was 93 mph, especially when it was so smooth. To this day, I love standing on the ramp to the loading platform, parallel to the track, as a loaded rain comes roaring past. This is currently my #1 steel coaster.
    7 – Leviathan: This giga coaster is well worth obtaining a passport! It has an intense first drop into a tunnel, so you are not quite sure when the train will hit bottom before climbing the next hill. Airtime hills are numerous, the turnaround bend near the park entrance is highly overbanked and the ride’s ability to maintain speed throughout it’s course is impressive.
    8 – Fury 325: Leviathan without the need for a passport! Oh, yeah, and change the tunnel at the base of the first drop to a head-chopper under the park entrance walkway, immediately following a high-speed banked flyover into an overbanked turnaround. This ride is intense even for spectators!
    9 – X-Flight / FireHawk: This ride was at its best when it was located at Geauga Lake. (It is currently at King’s Isand as FireHawk.) Back then, trains were continuously dispatched from the double-sided loading patform, so there was never a long line. It was my first flying coaster and exposed me to the most g-forces I had felt up until that time.
    10 – Steel Phantom / Phantom’s Revenge: This coaster is at my home park, Kennywood. I preferred the original layout, complete with the head-banger loops. Overall, it is not one of my favorite coasters, but oh my, that second long drop to the river makes it a superb terrain coaster!
    HONORABLE MENTIONS: The Matterhorn at Disneyland was my first steel coaster plus my first non-Kennywood coaster. I believe I was all of 11 years old, but I remember it like it was yesterday.
    The Volcano at King’s Dominion provided me with my first rollback, landing us in the dak bowels of the volcano. At first, absolute silence, then voices in the blackness. “What the heck was THAT?” “It’s called a rollback.” “Is that a good thing?” “You bet! Now I can cross it off of my bucket list!”

    WOODEN COASTERS
    1 – Lightning Rod: This is my current #1 coaster overall. It is like nothing I have ever ridden before! My last ride was in the dark, which definitely increased the intensity since the only lighting we had was provided by a crescent moon. From the launch up the lift hill to the high-speed overbankd turns to the quadruple down, the pace never slows down until the brake run at the end. Now if only they could get it to run consistently!
    2 – The Voyage: Fast pace through the woods, multiple tunnels, 90-degree banked turns and a triple-down IN A TUNNEL … unheard of! I remember that when the station came into view, I thought my exhausted state was coming to an end, only to find out that we would do a few laps around the building before finishing. I was limp with exhaustion when we exited the train. It took 3 more rides before I could keep my hands in the air for an entire circuit.
    3 – Outlaw Run: A serious restraint system, the appearance of “minimal wood” supporting the structure and my first inversions on a wooden coaster made for a memorable first ride, followed by 11 more rides, then a long climb up a steep hill to exit Silver Dollar City.
    4 – El Toro: This was my #1 coaster prior to riding Lightning Rod. It was also my first wooden coaster with a cable lift hill. The steepness of the first drop (76 degrees) was insane. The turnaround bend was so fast and overbanked that I thought my right ear would be ripped off. The final series of high-speed twists and turns causes “rag doll sydrome”. If you want intensity, I highly recommend the back seat, right side!
    5 – Ravine Flyer 2: This little brother to The Voyage give headaches to plenty of people, but my body loves it! My first ride on this baby was during a school trip with my high school autistic support class. To this day, when we rehash events from that trip, those young adults will throw their hands into the air and scream “90 degrees!”
    6 – The Thunderhead: The station “fly through” helps to get riders pumped up for this fast-paced coaster that has no brake runs until the very end. I like it enough that I rode it 72 times in one weekend! My mom gave it a try at age 84 and said it was the most intense thing she has ever done in her life.
    7 – The Beast after dark: The “after dark” part of this one is critical and it is especially good on a cloudy or moonless night! The tunnels are even darker and the sound made by the trains roaring through them makes it seem like one is going significantly faster. Now if only they would get rid of the trim brakes! The back seat on the LONG 36-person train is a pretty rough “wheel seat,” so I prefer the next-to-the-last seat. It gives a good back-of-the-train ride without jarring my neck. If you time things right, you can watch fireworks from The Beast’s platform prior to squeezing in one last night ride.
    8 – Son of Beast (no loop): Unfortunately, I never got to experience Son of Beast with the loop or it might be higher on this list. When I rode it for the first time, it was my steepest, fastest wooden coaster, leaving qite an impression on me. I have to smile whenever I an in the queue line for Bashee and see a tombstone for Son of Beast.
    9 – Hades (no inversion): This one makes my list for its extremely long, disorienting tunnel that passes under the parking lot not once, but two times. Upon exiting the tunnel each time, one is not sure what will happen next. It is currently on my bucket list so that I can try it with inversions.
    10 – Wooden Warrior: This coaster was quite a surprise! When they say that it is a “thrilling family roller coaster”, they mean it … at least the “thrilling” part. This is one INTENSE little roller coaster. It is not for the faint of heart, nor should it be considered a good first coaster, even though it looks like a junior coaster. I was surprised to find that the air time was in the back of the train, not the front. It gives a pretty good whipping sensation as it goes over each hill. The ride’s seats are unique. They are quite comfortable and well-padded and the lap bar gives a feeling of security.
    LEAST INTENSE- Leap the Dips!

    Reply
    • Hi Judy!

      Great lists and great descriptions. We are very much in agreement as to I-305, Skyrush, Maverick and Fury 325 deserving to be on a list of most intense coasters. I’ve not yet had the pleasure of riding Lightning Rod; I suspect that if I had, it might have ended up on the list. Kingda Ka and Dragster probably would have come in at no.’s 11 and 12. Looking forward to riding Firehawk if I ever get back to King’s Island, as I got a real kick out of the other two Flying Dutchman coasters. In any case I envy you your ability to travel as much as you do and ride so many coasters.

      Good to catch up with you. I recall riding Steel Force on the same train with you – near the back, of course! – at Coasting For Kids. In the past when I saw comments you posted on this site, I strongly suspected, based on your user name and location, that you were someone I knew.

      Reply
  5. Gstarr, what an experience! The ride is so intense when the view is clear that I can well imagine how insane it must have been in the fog. That’s an interesting observation about the sprinklers. I can’t say that I noticed them but I did notice a fair amount of water under the track.

    Reply
  6. This is a great list Bobbie! Maverick is the only one of these I’ve ridden and I can’t wait to try the others. Cheers!

    Reply
  7. Nice List! The only rides on this I’ve ridden would be Batman and Maverick. I definitely think Maverick deserves it’s place; I suggest that anyone riding it for the first time hold tightly onto the shoulder restraints so as to prevent any unintended collisions between one’s neck and said restrainst. My own personal list would have to include Alpengeist, Superman @ SFNE, Millenium Force, and the two stratacosters that I’m sure most of us thought of initially as we read the article title. My personal experience of Mill would rank it lower than the other 5, though it’s very possible that I simply rode the wrong train. 😉 My list would be topped, however, by the Superman: Ultimate Flight clones. Something about flying coasters never fails to scare the crap out of me. I’m sure that if I ever ride Tatsu it will immediately rocket itself to the tp of my list.

    Reply
    • Good observations. I haven’t ridden Maverick since they replaced the restraints but with the old ones it definitely was not a hands in the air ride for anyone other than extreme daredevils. Agreed that Alpengeist is intense. Rode Superman at SFNE a couple of weeks ago and while I consider it one of the best I don’t find it among the most intense. I originally thought about including Kindga Ka on the list but I’ve ridden it so many times that it doesn’t throw me for a loop – pun intended – the way Thunderbolt did. As to the Superman: Ultimate Flight clones, the one part of the ride that I find quite intense is the ascent up the lift hill; I always feel as if I’m about to be ejected from the train. This is in sharp contrast to B&M’s first flying coaster, Galactica f/k/a Air, which I was fortunate enough to ride two months ago and on that one I had no problem with the lift hill.

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  8. What’s a lagoon roll?

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  9. Great list! I agreed with most of the spots. However, since I haven’t ridden as many coasters as some people, I decided that it would be fun to make my own top 10. I though about splitting up steel and wooden coasters, but looking at my wooden half of my coaster count, or I guess you could say one tenth of my coaster count, I decided to group them all together as one list.

    WOODEN & STEEL
    1 – Lightning Rod: Incredibly fast paced, insane ride. This thing is absolutely relentless! If you’re able to snag a back row night ride on this thing it’s even more intense. The ejector airtime is nuts, especially on that quad down. When they reprofiled the launch it made me a tiny bit sad, but I was happily surprised that it only affected the first couple camel backs before the drop, which was nice.
    2 – Nighthawk / Firehawk: There’s quite a few of these Flying Dutchman roller coasters in North America, but I was pleasantly surprised when I recently rode one of them at Carowinds. Although it may not be the smoothest ride out there, I found the roughness to just add to the intensity in some ways. So it had that balance between a rough intense, as well as a forceful intense.
    3 – Fury 325: I find this to be one of the most intense roller coasters I’ve ridden by B&M, and I don’t understand why some people consider the newer B&M’s to be “forceless.” In my opinion, Fury was an incredibly intense coaster, being one of the main reasons why it is currently sitting at the number one spot of all the coasters I’ve ridden.
    4 – Thunderhead: My favorite roller coaster built by GCI. While it may be one of the older rides built by them, I still think it holds up. Thunderhead is filled with intense over banks and great pacing. Not to mention the awesome station fly by that provides great “near miss” effects for riders, and creates a cool reaction between them and the guests waiting below in the station.
    5 – Afterburn: I don’t know why all of the coasters on this list thus far have been from either Carowinds or Dollywood, but here we have another one! Afterburn is the most intense B&M inverted roller coaster I’ve ridden. Hence why it is also my favorite roller coaster of that type. Afterburn consists of intense inversions and non stop pacing, some of the best I’ve experienced.
    6 – Batman The Ride: I’m sure we all saw this one coming. Many coaster enthusiasts consider these compact inverted roller coasters built by B&M to be some of the most intense out there. In case you are wondering, the one that I have ridden is located at my home park, Six Flags Over Georgia. I always come off this ride feeling somewhat lightheaded, and I now know why.
    7 – Hurler (Carowinds): Surprise, surprise! Hurler made the list! While I did find this ride to be pretty rough, I also found it to be pretty intense. This thing hauls throughout the entire layout, although it was incredibly rough to the point where I thought we were going to derail. Many people recognize this Coaster as being rough and not enjoyable, and I can definitely agree. It still did make my list of the most intense coasters I’ve ridden.
    8 – Mindbender: An awesome, classic Schwarzkopf roller coaster located at my home park. I need my opinion, this is a very intense roller coaster. I was only expecting a few good moments of intensity when enetering the Vertical loops, and that would be just about it, but I was nicely surprised with the amount of airtime I got on this thing. Since the lap bar didn’t even touch my waist, as was out of my seat the whole time, which was awesome, and quite intense to say the least.
    9 – Tennessee Tornado: By far the best Arrow Looper I’ve ever ridden. I found this ride to be quite smooth, and the drop into the tunnel was very unique to say the least. This ride is jam packed with tight banks and large scale vertical loops, which were very intimidating from the outside. Going through the woods also provided a very enjoyable ride experience.
    10 – Dueling Dragons / Dragon Challenge: #R.I.P. Dragon Challenge. This was my first big roller coaster that I ever rode, and I was torn when I heard that Universal was going to take down such an awesome world class roller coaster. Back when I first rode this ride in 2014, all I remember was the relentless positive g’s forcing my head down for the whole ride. It was insane, and this ride holds a special place in my heart. You will forever be missed Dragon Challenge. 🙁
    HONORABLE MENTIONS: The Superman Ultimate Flight clones always get my blood flowing, and if you were to ask me what my list was when I got back from SFOG, this ride probably would have topped the list.
    The Incredible Hulk Coaster at Islands of Adventure and Rock N’ Roller Coaster at Disney World were both some of the most intense coasters I had ridden at the time. The forceful launches on both always caught be off guard, and they still do to this day.

    Reply
  10. Sorry for my bad grammar lol

    Reply
  11. Interesting list! I am in classes at school with Devin, and I too have ridden Lightning Rod, and I love it! I too can verify that it is an incredible ride experience. I would have to say that it is definitely the most Intense roller coaster that I’ve ridden. If you’re able to get a back row night ride on it, it is even more intense, and it’s really an unreal experience. Ejector airtime at its finest. Dollywood is so lucky to have such an awesome coaster in their lineup. The 3 coasters I find the most intense are probably…

    Lightning Rod, Maverick, and Manta. All ones I’ve ridden.

    Reply
  12. Lightning Rod, Skyrush, and Manta.

    Reply

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