To hard-core roller coaster enthusiasts, the pursuit of the thrill means hair-raising turns, multiple inversions, super-steep drops and negative Gs.
The extreme roller coasters found here fall into the following classifications: hyper coasters, which have a height or drop of 200 feet or more; giga coasters, with a height or drop of 300 feet or more; and strata coasters, which have a height or drop of 400 feet or more. Further, these three types must complete a full circuit. Most of them are or have been world-record holders.
These roller coasters deliver breath-stealing rides for even the most hardened thrill seeker. Beware, they're not for the faint of heart.
Goliath, Six Flags Great America, Illinois
Just because it's wooden doesn't mean it's not wicked. The extreme Goliath holds three world records: the world's fastest wooden coaster (72 mph); the world's tallest drop for a wooden coaster (180 feet); and the steepest drop for a wooden coaster (a near vertical 85 degrees). Race to the top of a 165-foot hill, whip over the peak and plummet to the bottom before you even have time to scream. With multiple zero-G spirals and twists, you'll barely have time to catch your breath before the next inversion.
Eejanaika, Fuji-Q Highland, Japan
Feel like you're hurtling through space and there's nothing you can do to slow yourself down—that's the sensation of riding Japan's intimidating Eejanaika. The hyper coaster is full of 360-degree, head-over-heels spins on winglike cars; in what's called a "Full-Full," the train does a complete rotation while the cars on the train also do a full rotation. Dizzy yet?
Cannibal, Lagoon Park, Utah
We imagine this coaster is so named because it devours its competition. On Cannibal, riders come to a standstill on the edge of a 208-foot-tall hill and are plunged underground at 116 degrees in free fall. They also speed through an inverted loop and a diving loop; top speed is 70 mph. Then, it's time to breathe again.
Superman: Ride of Steel, Six Flags America, Maryland
Gather up your fortitude, because Superman: Ride of Steel will indeed have you flying at speeds worthy of a superhero—73 mph, to be exact. With its 205-foot-tall hill and 200-foot drop, it wears its hyper coaster designation as a badge of honor. During your flight over 5,400 feet of track there are points where the low-banked turns put you barely above ground. Yes, nerves of steel are required for this one.
Formula Rossa, Ferrari World Abu Dhabi
The world's fastest roller coaster, Formula Rossi at Ferrari World launches riders 170 feet into the air at 150 mph; speeds are faster than you can reach in a Formula One car (which the coaster's cars are modeled after). It's an adrenaline rush of almost 5Gs on a mile and a half of track.
Wicked Twister, Cedar Point, Ohio
A short but exhilarating ride, those who undertake Wicked Twister are launched out the gate and catapulted more than 200 feet in the air at 72 mph (although it feels like much more) in a total of 40 seconds. This high-flyer, with 450-degree vertical twists, is the tallest and fastest inverted roller coaster in the world.
Intimidator 305, King's Dominion, Virginia
So named for its tallest point, Intimidator 305 is the tallest (and fastest) roller coaster on the East Coast. It's first drop is a stunner, plunging riders 300 feet at an 85-degree angle. It hits a maximum speed of 90 mph as it shoots through almost a mile of track.
Kingda Ka, Six Flags Great Adventure & Safari, New Jersey
At a dizzying 45 stories (or 456 feet), Kingda Ka is the world's tallest roller coaster. It's also jet fast: riders speed from the station doing zero to 128 mph in 3.5 seconds. There's plenty more to thrill you in this 3,118-foot long ride, namely barreling along the track at a 90-degree angle, falling into a 270-degree spiral and a polishing off a 129-foot-tall camel hump.
Flight of Demons, Heide Park, Germany
Tear through the German countryside at speeds of 62 mph on Flight of the Demons, Germany's only winged roller coaster. You'll experience the force of 4Gs on this three-minute ride, which features a 180-degree dive drop, a 270-degree downward helix and a shocking 315-degree turn heading into the final stretch.
Takabisha, Fuji-Q Highland, Japan
Intimidating and intriguing, Takabisha features the steepest drop in the world. Its linear launch system makes for a smooth vertical ascent at 62 mph. Riders teeter on the edge for a moment before hurtling towards the ground below, experiencing freefall in a 121-degree tilted drop.
X2, Six Flags Magic Mountain, California
The innovative X2 puts you in full sensory overload. Perhaps it's the half loops that become sheer drops, the 360-degree rotating seats, the use of light and sound effects; whether one or all, this is a thrill-seeker's dream. Experience new sensations as your seat extends on wings far off the track and flings you downward face-first at speeds of up to 76 mph.
Fury 325, Carowinds, North Carolina
North America's longest steel roller coaster, Fury 325 is 1.25 miles long and crosses both the North and South Carolina state lines. It is also the world's tallest and fastest giga coaster, topping out at 95 mph. The twists and turns—each more impressive and stomach-wrenching than the last—don't let up: among them are a 81-degree drop from 325 feet high, a 91-degree overbanked horseshoe turn, a 190-foot-tall barrel turn and high-speed S curve.
Top Thrill Dragster, Cedar Point, Ohio
One of only two strata coasters in the world (the other is the aforementioned Kingda Ka), Top Thrill Dragster tops out at 420 feet and reaches 120 mph in 3.8 seconds. After reaching maximum velocity, riders experience a 90-degree incline and a 90-degree twist before climbing over the coaster's peak.
Fahrenheit, Hershey Park, Pennsylvania
An aggressive, vertical lift looping roller coaster, Fahrenheit impresses with its 121-foot vertical lift and six inversions. Its 90-degree drop—in which riders roll into facing the ground—was the first among roller coasters in the United States. A Norwegian loop, cobra roll and two consecutive corkscrews give it a touch of the exotic.
Banshee, King's Island, Ohio
Screaming through 4,200 feet of track at 68 mph, Banshee is the world's longest inverted roller coaster. Its series of seven inversions include a curved drop, dive loop, zero-G roll, batwing, in-line roll, outside loop and spiral. At almost three minutes, it's a generous ride, if heart-pounding, ride.