2020 was a rough year for the theme park industry. However, 2021 is nearly here and with a COVID-19 vaccine now rolling out, the future is starting to look bright once again. As we head into a new year with a hopeful mindset, it’s a great time to look ahead at what I think will be the best new extreme thrill rides set to open over the coming year.
20 best extreme thrill rides for 2021
20. Krampus Expedition, Nigloland (France)
A new Mack Rides water coaster attraction is on the way at Nigloland, themed after the legendary Krampus creature.
The concept artwork shows some fun theming around the ride itself near the station and splash-down finale, as well as a themed station building. Unlike other Mack water coasters I’ve seen before, this ride appears to be more coaster than water ride. It will limit the wet section of the ride to the splashdown and return to the station.
19. Unnamed GCI Wooden Coaster, Bollywood Dubai
We don’t yet know much about this new Great Coasters International wooden coaster project. While sister park Motiongate Dubai has announced two new coasters to open in 2021, Bollywood Dubai has not even announced a name for this new coaster coming to the park next door.
Eagle-eyed visitors to the part spotted the structure for the coaster rising back in the Summer of 2020. So we are eager to get some official details about this mystery GCI project soon.
18. Harley Quinn Spinsanity, Six Flags America (USA)
Next on the list of the best extreme thrill rides for 2021 is another gigantic spinning pendulum ride for the Six Flags chain. This one is themed after the wild and crazy DC comics character, Harley Quinn.
Able to hold and twirl 40-riders at a time, 15 stories in the air and at speeds up to 70mph, hitting a 120º angle at the peak of the swing, this ride is sure to be a crowd-pleaser. Day or night, the ride will also be a visual treat to watch from across the park as the riders are hurled back and forth across the skyline, screaming all the way.
17. NebulaZ, Circus Circus Adventuredome (USA)
One of the newest creations from the minds at Zamperla is the new NebulaZ creation. Featuring four rotating arms mounted to a central rotating tower, riders at the ends of the arms rise and fall while being twirled around in a circle.
The timing of the mad spinning arms gives the impression that a collision is imminent while creating a mesmerising sight to see for the guests standing nearby watching the ride in action.
The visual show of the ride in action has been described as hypnotic by Zamperla, while the riders twirl, spin, and rise into airtime pops before plunging drops. I don’t think it will be long before we see more NebulaZ spread across the market.
16. Unnamed S&S 4D Free Spin, Kings Dominion (USA) / Dragon Slayer, Adventureland (USA) / John Wick: Open Contract, Motiongate Dubai
So far I’ve counted three of the popular S&S Sansei 4D Free Spin coasters coming to parks in 2021. Pieces for an unannounced one have already arrived on site at Kings Dominion, in addition to the announced Dragon Slayer and John Wick: Open Contract projects already announced.
Special attention may be paid to the John Wick themed version going to Motiongate Dubai. This promises to have a themed queue experience to tie the attraction into the action film series, and it may also have an enclosed station experience. This would put the action part of the ride outside a themed building facade, resembling The Continental hotel from the films.
15. Ice Breaker, SeaWorld Orlando (USA)
At 15 on the list of the best extreme thrill rides for 2021 is a unique custom coaster creation from Premier Rides for SeaWorld Orlando. Ice Breaker was originally intended to open in 2020 and is currently finishing up installation at the park.
Marketed as the park’s latest thrill machine, the layout of the compact creation seems to offer an experience that may be more of an in-between experience, good for the whole family while still providing some unique high-end thrills.
Given the park is already home to three of the best B&M coasters in the region (Kraken, Manta and Mako) a creation like Ice Breaker will literally live up to its name. This will create the perfect step-up experience for those unsure if they are ready for the bigger rides.
14. Stunt Pilot, Silverwood (USA)
Located in the quiet countryside state of Idaho, Silverwood is set to make some serious noise next year when it premieres Stunt Pilot, the latest RMC Raptor style single-rail coaster experience.
Standing at just 113 feet tall, the ride experience will feature a 90º vertical first drop, three inversions and lots of wild twists and turns along the way. The new single-rail coaster system will place 10 riders in the single-file trains, lightly themed like a stunt pilot aircraft.
The theming is a nice throwback nod to the origin of the park itself, which has its own runway. This was used to put on daily aerial stunt plane shows back in the early years of the park.
13. Intamin 10 Inversion Coaster, Flamingo Land (UK)
According to what I’ve heard, the coaster itself was built and intended to be installed at the Hopi Hari park in Brazil years ago. However, after that park fell on hard times following a tragic accident the brand new ride that was never assembled was eventually put up for sale.
Shipped across the Atlantic to the UK, the new 10-inversion coaster is said to be taking the place of Flamingo Land’s former Corkscrew coaster and is still awaiting an official name from the park.
12. Mack Launched Spinning Coaster, Plopsaland De Panne (Belgium)
Next on the list of the best extreme thrill rides for 2021 is the second-ever Mack Rides Xtreme Spinning Coaster project. This is now well under construction in Belgium at Plopsaland De Panne.
The park has yet to give an official name to the project but had previously referred to it as Time Traveler. This was in reference to the first version of the launched spinning coaster concept from Mack that opened at Silver Dollar City in 2018.
Both rides are similar in scope in terms of height and track length. However, they each have unique layouts, with this new version offering five inversions and a layout that appears to mostly run over water.
11. Steel Taipan, Dreamworld (Australia)
A new launched coaster experience from Mack Rides is coming to Australia’s Dreamworld park in 2021. This boasts a couple of very interesting new features.
The layout itself of the coaster is very similar to Mack Ride’s popular Blue Fire launched coaster design. However, it has a couple of major twists. Just like Blue Fire, the train will use a magnetic launch system to propel it towards a giant hill.
But unlike Blue Fire, the train will not make it over that hill. Instead, riders will stall out in mid-climb and experience a roll-back, sending the train backwards through the launch track and through a track switch that will send the train up a twisted spiral-shaped vertical spike for another zero-g stall.
Falling forward, the ride will pass through the launch track once again and get boosted up to maximum speed where it will make it up and over the first hill and into the rest of the layout, which appears to be identical to the typical Blue Fire layout.
But Mack has one more twist for you. This is because the last car of the train will feature a unique set of spinning seats that should disorient even the most experienced coaster riders. This is the premier of Mack Rides new Hybridtrain system.
10. Leviathan, Sea World Australia
A new wooden roller coaster called Leviathan is coming to Sea World Australia in 2021. The new wooden coaster design is from The Gravity Group and is being built by Martin & Vleminckx. It will feature a themed Gravitykraft train and some unique custom theming and landscape along the way, if the concept art holds true.
Leviathan is also said to feature trains that will offer a reverse seat experience on the last car on the train, so riders will run backwards.
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9. Abyssus, Energylandia (Poland)
Vekoma enters the list at the number 9 position on the list of the best extreme thrill rides for 2021 with its new Abyssus steel coaster going to Poland. Vekoma lists this as a “Shockwave” model coaster. It will feature two launch moments and four inversions along the 4,317-foot layout.
Standing 126 feet tall, the coaster will speed riders along at just over 62mph through a very twisted layout that will cross over and under itself several times along the way. It will also zoom past themed buildings, over water and even some narrow trenches in a ride that seems like a surefire hit for the park.
8. Emperor, SeaWorld San Diego (USA)
Originally intended to open in 2020, Emperor will actually become the first B&M Dive Machine in California when it opens in 2021.
Unlike the two other B&M Dive Machines built by the chain at its Busch Gardens parks (Sheikra & Griffon), Emperor will be a more junior-sized Dive Machine, standing just 153 feet tall and offering a 143-foot vertical dive before zipping through three inversions.
Emperor may be smaller than its 200 and 205ft foot siblings. However, it will still be the tallest coaster in SeaWorld San Diego.
7. Kondaa at Walibi Belgium
Intamin makes the list of the best extreme thrill rides for 2021 once again with its large new Megacoaster. This will be opening at Walibi Belgium. The good news is that the coaster is now fully built and has also made successful test runs. This means it should be ready to roll for guests as soon as the park opens next season.
Kondaa also features a themed station and some really creative looking coaster trains themed to temple serpents. But it’s the layout that will win you over. Standing 164 feet tall, Kondaa will dive to the ground at a near-vertical 80º angle and hit speeds of just over 70mph, whipping riders across the skies over nearly 4,000 feet of track.
Alongside Toutatis in France, this may be one of the most talked-about new coasters in Europe next year.
6. Monster at Grona Lund (Sweden)
Monster, the long-awaited Inverted coaster project from B&M for Sweden’s Grona Lund will finally open in 2021.
To help save space in the very full park, Monster will feature an underground loading station. It will also have a unique set of thick central supports to support the layout, instead of a more traditional support system.
The coaster will hit speeds near 56 mph and run through three inversions along a modest 2,296 track run. The track sections are also expected to be filled with sand to cut down on noise and vibrations. This will allow the coaster to run almost silently, other than the screams from the riders.
5. Jersey Devil, Six Flags Great Adventure (USA)
Next on the list of the best extreme thrill rides for 2021 is another custom coaster that was planned to open in 2020, before the pandemic impacted the world. This is the highly-anticipated Jersey Devil at Six Flags Great Adventure.
From Rocky Mountain Construction, Jersey Devil was intended to be a larger scale follow-up to Six Flags’ Wonder Woman: Golden Lasso coaster, using RMC’s single rail Raptor coaster system.
Jersey Devil is taller, longer and faster than Wonder Woman. It will stand at 130 feet tall and will drop riders down a near-vertical 87º first drop, hitting 58mph and running through 3 inversions along 3,000 feet of track.
Capacity always a concern for the single-file Raptor train system. But Jersey Devil is also supposed to feature the longest Raptor trains to date, at 12 cars long. These will travel through the long and narrow out-and-back style layout.
4. Pantheon, Busch Gardens Williamsburg (USA)
Another unique multi-launch creation from Intamin opening in 2021 will be Pantheon. The layout starts off with a traditional magnetic launch track. Then, mid-way through the ride, the train will pass through an LSM boost track towards a large hill.
Without enough speed to climb over the top, the train will stall and fall backwards through the booster track. Then, with the aid of a high-speed switch-track, it will run backwards up a tall vertical spike for yet another stall.
Falling back to earth riders will be boosted up to 73mph full speed for the trip up and over a large hill and through the rest of the 3,228-foot layout, diving down a cliffside and back up again before returning to the station.
3. Jurassic World VelociCoaster, Islands of Adventure (USA)
Universal Orlando is following up the amazing multi-launch Intamin coaster it added in 2019 with another even more aggressive double launched coaster from Intamin. This will bring new life to the Jurassic section of Islands of Adventure.
Themed after the frightening Raptor dinosaurs seen in the Jurassic Park and Jurassic World film series, the new Jurassic World VelociCoaster will feature a highly themed queue and pre-ride experience, launching the coaster into a highly detailed landscape inspired by the films.
The new coaster has really changed the landscape and skyline of the entire park. It features a 155-foot tall top hat element in mid-ride and themed trains that will be launched at speeds up to 70mph. This is already shaping up to be one of the most talked-about coasters in the US next year.
2. Decepticoaster, Universal Studios Beijing (China)
There will be many amazing new rides to open in 2021 at the brand new Universal Studios Beijing theme park. But the one people have been anticipating for the longest time will be the Decepticoaster from B&M.
Anyone familiar with Universal’s Islands of Adventure theme park will recognize the Decepticoaster. This is because it looks very similar to the Orlando park’s Incredible Hulk coaster. Like the popular Incredible Hulk coaster, this starts off the action with an amazing uphill launch into a zero-g roll high in the sky as the first of seven inversions.
Disney has now bought Marvel. So, instead of a Hulk theme, the Decepticoaster has been placed in the middle of the Transformers Metrobase themed land.
Elements of the new coaster are the same as the Hulk. Casual photo comparisons, however, show that B&M appears to have refined the design of the coaster somewhat. I’m hoping this will give the Decepticoaster its own unique feel when it opens next year.
The best new extreme thrill ride for 2021 – and some honorary mentions
Before we get to the top spot in this countdown of the best extreme thrill rides for 2021, I have to give honorary mentions to a couple of coasters. These rides have been around for a while but will reopen in 2021.
Firstly, I’m happy to see the legendary Schwarzkopf creation, the Dreier Looping Coaster, being revived in the USA for the first time. It will open at Indiana Beach for the 2021 season. This coaster started off on the German fair circuit and has since travelled the world. But it has never made it to American soil until now.
My second mention is Lightning Rod at Dollywood, which is undergoing an extensive refurbishment. This will see just under 60% of the wooden coaster’s track replaced by RMC IBox steel track. Therefore, moving Lightning Rod from the wooden coaster category into being an official Hybrid coaster.
Lightning Rod was already a spectacular coaster. Now, this latest modification will likely take it to a whole new level.
I’m also going to give a somewhat sceptical nod to the Mission Ferrari SFX coaster project. This has been in the works at Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi since 2014. Each year we hope it will finally open. Perhaps 2021 will be the year for this unique project to finally open.
Now without further ado, we move to the top spot on the list:
1. Iron Gwazi, Busch Gardens Tampa (USA)
Gwazi first opened back in 1999 as a racing/duelling wooden coaster creation from Great Coasters International. It ran for 16 years before Busch Gardens decided to retire the coaster for good in 2015.
At the time, the coaster was headed to the scrap heap. But other budget priorities kept Gwazi standing silently in the park for the next several years. Over the years, an idea began to brew and gain momentum to save the former Gwazi wooden coaster and have Rocky Mountain Construction come in and transform and redesign the old coaster into a new custom Hybrid coaster creation.
Announced as an attraction set to open in 2020, the new Iron Gwazi coaster got to the point that it was testing just ahead of a possible opening date in Spring 2020. However, this was before COVID-19 restrictions came into play and shut down all of Florida’s theme parks.
With 2021 nearly upon us, Iron Gwazi is ready and waiting to thrill the guests of Busch Gardens Tampa. This amazing new coaster experience could likely be the best new coaster of 2021.
The lift hill height has been raised to an amazing 206 feet. The coaster will dive down a beyond vertical 91º first drop, hit a blistering 76mph and rage across 4,075 feet of track and through two new inversions before the beast is done with you.