Are You Afraid of Heights? Move Along

Roller coasters are often known for their speed. But in order to reach mind-numbing speeds, they have to first scale vertigo-inducing heights (at least that’s true for traditional non-launched coasters). The world’s ten biggest roller coasters listed here make the grade for having the ten tallest drops.

Since some of the coasters have underground tunnels or are built into ravines, they aren’t necessarily ranked as measured from their highest points to ground level. Heights are included for each coaster. No standing beyond this point as we click-clack-click up and race down the world’s tallest coasters.

 SkyScraper- 570-Foot Drop

SkyScraper would reportedly climb a 570-foot observation tower. It would supposedly reach speeds of 65 mph and include inversions. The ride would be located at the SkyPlex on International Drive in Orlando.

Although the ride has been announced, its scheduled opening date has been pushed forward a number of times. Its owners now claim it will open by 2019, but it is unclear whether the coaster and the SkyPlex center will actually be built.

 Kingda Ka- 418-Foot Drop

When it opened in 2005, Kingda Ka was the world’s fastest (at 128 mph) and tallest roller coaster. It doesn’t come close to the record for the world’s longest coaster ride. In fact, at 50.6 seconds it may be one of the shortest.

It’s since been topped in the speed category, and Kingda Ka could also lose its current status as the tallest roller coaster in the world (see SkyScraper above).  It’s still incredibly tall and fast, however. Does that make it a great ride? Not necessarily.

Top Thrill Dragster- 400-Foot Drop

edar Point has a history of introducing record-breaking coasters, including Magnum XL-200, the first hypercoaster to break the 200-foot threshold and the ride credited with starting the “coaster wars.” Top Thrill Dragster held the record for being the world’s tallest (and fastest) coaster for a few years. It has since been eclipsed by the similar Kingda Ka, but it is still one heckuva tall, fast, and great ride.

It sits smack in the middle of Cedar Point’s midway, and is almost as much fun to watch as it is to ride. Before it takes off like a bullet, huge racing lights on its tower build anticipation by changing from red to yellow to green. At 30 seconds in duration, the coaster is even shorter than Kingda Ka.

Red Force- Approximately 347-Foot Drop

Like Top Thrill Dragster and Kingda Ka, Red Force has a top-hat tower that goes straight up and straight down. Unlike those rides, the Spanish coaster uses magnetic motors instead of hydraulic propulsion to launch it out of the loading station. Red Force features a Ferrari theme and, appropriately enough, hits 112 mph in 5 breathtaking seconds.

PortAventura, one of Europe’s biggest and best theme parks, is also home to another record-breaking ride, Shambhala, which is on the list below. Located on the coast near Barcelona, the resort’s two theme parks offer a total of nine coasters.

Superman: Escape from Krypton- 328-Foot Drop

Tied with Australia’s Tower of Terror (which follows), Superman has a taller (415 feet) tower. It holds the distinction of being the first coaster to drop more than 300 feet and to feature a tower over 400 feet. When it debuted in 1997 (as Superman: The Escape), it was also the world’s fastest coaster. Problem was, it often fell shy of its theoretical top speed of 100 mph and far shy of the top of its 415-foot tower. Even worse, the groundbreaking ride often ground to a halt and experienced a lot of downtime.

In 2011, Six Flags gave Superman a makeover with new cars and a new lease on life that has it running with greater height (and, likely, speed) as well as with more regularity. It also reversed the shuttle trains so that they blast out of the station backwards and send passengers free-falling down the 415-foot tower facing forwards.

Tower of Terror- 328-Foot Drop

Using linear synchronous motors, Tower of Terror (which bears no resemblance to the same-named Disney World drop tower ride) shoots straight and up an L-shaped track, slows as it reaches the top (and delivers a huge pop of free-floating airtime), and then retraces its route backwards to the loading station.

Tower of Terror opened the same year as Six Flags’ Superman: Escape from Krypton ride. Although the two rides hit the same speed and drop the same distance, the Australian coaster accomplishes both feats with a shorter tower.