Theme Park Insider

Weekly Top 10: The World's Best Motion Base Rides and Shows

March 2, 2015, 11:53 AM · For generations, theme park fans faced a choice between narrative and thrills. You could go on a dark ride to enjoy characters and story, or go on something like a roller coaster to twist, turn and scream. But in the 1980s, Disney brought narrative and thrills together like never before by introducing "Star Tours," a Star Wars-themed movie show where the theater was actually a flight simulator. Fans now could experience thrills and narrative together, as their theater became a spaceship where passengers felt themselves flying through the battles they saw on screen.

After Disney's success with "Star Tours," motion simulator rides became a fad in the themed amusement industry, eventually ending up in just about every mall and arcade you'd visit. But as motion simulators spread across the world, top theme parks kept developing the technology, eventually creating motion base rides where vehicles using motion simulator technology moved through a dark ride space. Disney's "Indiana Jones Adventure" showed the way, and in the last decade Universal took the next steps, using robot arms as a new kind of motion system for ride vehicles, and embedding motion bases in roller coaster track.

Today, we honor the theme park industry's top 10 motion base shows and rides, as rated by Theme Park Insider readers.

10. Dinosaur
Disney's Animal Kingdom

Dinosaur

Using the same ride vehicles and track layout as Disneyland's Indiana Jones Adventure, Animal Kingdom's Dinosaur (originally "Countdown to Extinction") takes its theme from the 2000 animated Disney movie, Dinosaur.

9. The Simpsons Ride
Universal Studios Florida, Universal Studios Hollywood

The Simpsons Ride

Universal in 2008 refurbished its "Back to the Future" shows with a new "Simpsons" theme, creating a wild ride through the "Krustyland," where everything that can go wrong, does.

8. Star Tours: The Adventures Continue
Disneyland, Disney's Hollywood Studios

Star Tours: The Adventures Continue

In 2011, Disney replaced its original "Star Tours" film with a new attraction that randomly spliced together new scenes in 55 different possible combinations.

7. Despicable Me Minion Mayhem
Universal Studios Florida, Universal Studios Hollywood

Despicable Me Minion Mayhem

Universal's first motion base ride took riders through a Hanna Barbera cartoon. Later, Universal replaced the film with Nickelodeon's Jimmy Neutron, and in 20132, Despicable Me's Gru moved in with his Minions, inviting riders into an adventure where they, too, can become Minions.

6. Back to the Future: The Ride
Universal Studios Japan

Back to the Future: The Ride

Universal left "Back to the Future" alone in Japan, where it continues to entertain fans. Sure, it's 2015 outside the theater as well as in the ride now, but this franchise remains beloved, and "Back to the Future" remains the top Universal ride that fans would like to bring back from the past.

5. Indiana Jones Adventure
Disneyland, Tokyo DisneySea

Indiana Jones Adventure

Disney's original motion base ride remains a fan favorite, as visitors follow Indy through many of his classic trials from the Indiana Jones movies. (In Tokyo, the ride is called "Indiana Jones - Temple of the Crystal Skull.")

4. Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts
Universal Studios Florida

Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts

Escape from Gringotts is as much roller coaster as motion base ride, as a traditional coaster takes riders in between scenes. But at several points along the track, the coaster trains transition onto motion bases that coordinate with on-screen action to create a wild new experience.

3. Transformers: The Ride
Universal Studios Singapore, Universal Studios Hollywood, Universal Studios Florida

Transformers: The Ride

Michael Bay's Transformers movies become the thrill ride they were always meant to be in this adventure that debuted in 2011 in Universal's Singapore park.

2. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
Universal's Islands of Adventure, Universal Studios Japan

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey

Using a Kuka robot arm rather than the more traditional motion base platform that drives rides such as Transformers, Forbidden Journey delivers a wider range of motion than other motion base rides. The experience can be too much for some riders, but other Harry Potter fans adore this chance to fly with Harry and Ron around Hogwarts Castle.

1. The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man
Universal's Islands of Adventure, Universal Studios Japan

The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man

Spider-Man was the hit of Universal's Islands of Adventure theme park when it debuted in 1999, winning our top award for theme park rides for many years in a row. Universal refurbished the ride with a new film in 2012, today, Spider-Man looks, and feels, even better than ever.

What is your favorite motion base ride or show? Tell us in the comments!

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Replies (34)

March 2, 2015 at 12:18 PM · God, I'd forgotten how great that Baxter interview was. Good throwback.
March 2, 2015 at 1:00 PM · They need to convert Animal Kingdom's Dinosaur to Indiana Jones and dump Dinoland.

Universal Hollywood's tram ride didn't make it. The whole tour is a motion base ride.

March 2, 2015 at 1:07 PM · Hard to pick Spiderman over Transformers or vice versa. They are the same ride with different IP. The last time I rode them both on the same day, it was spooky because other then a slightly different elevator feature they felt identical.
March 2, 2015 at 1:10 PM · Good selections. No disagreement here
March 2, 2015 at 1:19 PM · All great selections. The only one I haven't rode is Indiana Jones, and from what I've seen it seems excellent. I basically agree with the list rankings, though I would move a couple around. I'd reverse Forbidden Journey & Spiderman, and Gringotts with Transformers. All in all, a solid list.
March 2, 2015 at 1:32 PM · I feel like the top five rides are so amazingly awesome that they can't be ranked. Makes me wonder where King Kong will fit in when it opens. Could it bring one of the top 5 down from the list. This list also shows how great Universal Creative has become. Ever since IOA opened, they have been on a great roll (with just a couple of exceptions here and there like Twister). I'm can see Soarin breakin the top ten whenever Disney finally decides to give it a nice update and have multiple locations with better picture quality. I also wonder if the new E ticket Avatar ride will break the top ten when it opens. Lots to be excited about in the coming years. It's awesome to think that three of top five list have just recently opened in the last five years. Goes to show you that motion based simulators are leading the way currently.
March 2, 2015 at 1:41 PM · Despicable Me opened in 2012. I know cause that's the only ride I've been on opening day.

I'm shocked Star Tours is so low. The random choices should put it in the top 5.

March 2, 2015 at 1:41 PM · They're all great fun, but I'd definitely have Indiana Jones solidly at number 2, if for no other reason than the top four as listed are all pretty similar (and simulator-y) experiences, whereas Indy is a far more practical, physical experience, so I'd give it the edge over Transformers and Gringotts, certainly. Spidey is still the best ride in the world, in my opinion, so no argument there!
March 2, 2015 at 1:47 PM · I don't consider Escape from Gringott's a true "motion base" ride because it's essentially a roller coaster with track that moves. The coaster trains are not on gimbles like a traditional motion base vehicle (they only spin), while the track sections in each scene move.

I'm surprised Mystic Manor didn't make the cut. I'd also put Mission: Space on this list, particularly in it's non-tamed down form.

March 2, 2015 at 2:01 PM · I've only been on 3 of these rides so I don't have much backing my opinion but Indiana Jones should be top 3. I have ridden dinosaur but I did not think it was as good as Indiana Jones. The theme and ride experience is much superior. I have also ridden Star Tours, I enjoy it but I think 8th place suits it as it isn't excellent. I may have ridden back to the future when it was in Hollywood but not sure I remember. It was 20 years ago.
March 2, 2015 at 3:34 PM · I am glad the old web head is still holding strong as the best theme park attraction in the world. I love that ride.
March 2, 2015 at 3:56 PM · I'd switch #1 & #2 (minor quibble). I'd also move Gringott's farther down the list. I rode it twice last month, and upon leaving for the second time, I found myself a little bit disappointed in the ride. I think I was more impressed by the line waiting, than I was the ride itself.
The roller coaster experience for Mummy was more fun, and the simulator experiences were WAY better in Spiderman and Transformers.
Not to say it's not a GREAT ride (all of them on the list are). I just didn't love it as much as others.
March 2, 2015 at 4:30 PM · A great list that just confirms I need to get to Florida. While I'm not a huge fan of simulators, they can be fun if the wait is reasonable. The motion based track rides, however, are excellent, and Indiana Jones Adventure is perhaps my favorite non-coaster ride in the world.

Just for fun, here's my top ten for this category:

1. Indiana Jones Adventure
2. Despicable Me Minion Mayhem
3. Transformers: The Ride 3-D
4. Soarin' Over California (even though the motion is limited, I count it)
5. Curse of DarKastle
6. Star Tours: The Adventures Continue
7. Star Tours (original)
8. The Simpsons Ride
9. Back to the Future: The Ride
10. Wild Arctic

March 2, 2015 at 5:06 PM · Dump Dinoland, yea whatever! Dinoland is a fun area. I wish Disney would build an Indiana Jones ride in Walt Disney World, though. Since it takes place in Asia, it could be in the Asia section of Animal Kingdom.
March 2, 2015 at 5:31 PM · We didn't think Despicable Me was that great. Not really re-rideable, especially with Simpsons right there, too. It seemed too much like the same thing.
March 2, 2015 at 7:24 PM · I would put Spiderman over Transformers, but Transformers is a definite, solid ride. I don't feel that it is the same as Spiderman even though it uses the same cars and technology.

The Curse of DarKastle did feel the same to me as Spiderman- as in the cars seem to move in the same motions through the various rooms, albeit with a different story. It was a weird experience to ride it having the familiarity of riding Spiderman dozens of times over the years.

I would like to see the technology used by Oceaneering for a different ride in a different park other than Universal or Busch Gardens. It definitely revolutionized how a dark ride could be made.

March 2, 2015 at 10:15 PM · I've ridden all of these except for Indiana Jones Adventure (BTTF when at USF) and agree that Spider-man is the best. The order of the rest is not that important. I've also ridden DarKastle (good, slow motion Spider-man) and Wild Arctic (yikes! was that the old Star Tours version?) However, I think the traveling vehicles ones should be separate from the stay-in-one-place vehicle ones. Different set of technological issues.
March 2, 2015 at 11:56 PM · Agree with #1, spiderman is my favorite attraction in the world. Gotta love those minions. Dinosaur will always have a special place in my heart because it was my first motion simulator, it blew my mind!
March 3, 2015 at 7:16 AM · How in the world can Simpsons be on this list? It is terrible and should be tore down. Not only does it is probably the worst ride for people motion sickness around, but it even smells like vomit when you get off.
March 3, 2015 at 8:21 AM · I agree with Anon Mouse that Disney needs to bring Indiana Jones Adventure to Orlando, but I disagree about dumping Dinosaur to do it. Put Indiana Jones Adventure in Hollywood Studios where it belongs.

March 3, 2015 at 9:45 AM · These lists are decided by reviews... they are spot on.
March 3, 2015 at 10:16 AM · Darkastle at Busch Gardens isn't necessarily as good as the ones above - but it deserves a mention. It's a decent ride (with great air conditioning in the summer!).
March 3, 2015 at 10:53 AM · The Simpsons is a great ride! It should be tied with Indiana Jones Adventure for # 1 on this list. Theme parks should add humor wherever possible, and The Simpsons ride is hilarious!
March 3, 2015 at 3:31 PM · Love the list. I think the only one that was overlooked was Kong 360 at Universal Studios Hollywood. While it's not a traditional simulator, the combination of a real tram on a moving platform, surround by 3D video is a brilliant combination. One of the more truly immersive experiences out there.
March 3, 2015 at 5:09 PM · I must have been the only person who was not impressed with Forbidden Journey.
March 3, 2015 at 5:18 PM · Anthony, I wasn't overly impressed with Forbidden Journey either.
March 3, 2015 at 7:31 PM · I have been on all these rides except dinosaur and BTTF. It will be funny next year when you go to 2015 in the ride but it is actually 2016:)
March 3, 2015 at 7:43 PM · I've been on all of these attractions at least once in my life (except I don't remember BTTF all that well since I was very young the one time I rode it). These are all really awesome rides, the majority of them being some of my most favorite rides in the entire world (if you must know, my absolute most favorite is Splash Mountain). I think Spiderman truly is the best superhero ride ever, especially considering the fact that, unlike some people, they actually theme it instead of just slapping the name of a popular comic book character on it; **cough, cough**Six Flags**cough, cough**. I wish there were more rides like Indiana Jones or Dinosaur. Those rides really add an extra level of adventure and feel more risky than screen-based rides. Overall, great list, Robert!
March 3, 2015 at 10:30 PM · Anthony and Jack, it all comes down to where you think the attraction starts: the moment you walk into the castle, or the moment you are buckled into the moving seat? The ride in the seat is quite impressive even if the story told during the ride is kind of a mish-mash. Also, the ride has changed since the beginning. Too many motion sickness weak stomach pukers have forced them to dumb down the visuals at the beginning. The ride seat profile has changed from 'way high to way low' to 'slightly tilted to not-quite way high'. I like the more recent seat profile better but really hate the dumbing down visuals to please the motion sickness weak stomachs.
March 4, 2015 at 12:12 AM · These are my favorite type of rides and it was a nice surprise to see Back to the Future in there. I got to visit Osaka soon for this! These ten rides are seriously awesome.
March 4, 2015 at 1:05 AM · IMO a tie between Forbidden Journey and Indiana jones. Other rides don't have enough real effects.
March 4, 2015 at 8:19 AM · I love this list, but I would have liked to see if split into two lists. I think there is a big difference between rides like Simpsons and Star Tours and rides like transformers and Spider-man. One type is a stationary simultor ride and the other is a mobile simulator ride. Although, now that I think of it, there probably isnt enough rides to have 10 of each. Heck, prob not enough for 5 of each. A top 5 could be done if you include extinct rides. Just for kicks, here are my lists.

Top 5 Stationary simulator rides:

1. Star Tours: The Adventure Continues
2. Back to the Future: The Ride
3. Body Tours
4. The Futuratsic World of Hannah Barbera
5. Questor

Top 5 mobile simulator rides:

1. The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man (My favorite ride of all time)
2. Harry Potter and the escape from Gringotts
3. Dinosaur
4. Harry Potter and The Forbidden Journey
5. Transformers The Ride

March 4, 2015 at 4:15 PM · Re: Tony Wait...if those people have motion sickness...then what the heck are they doing on a thrill ride?! They always say in the que lines that people with motion sickness should stay off those rides. I mean, I'm a pretty big Potterhead myself, but I don't know that I would risk my own health and safety over the franchise!
March 6, 2015 at 6:36 AM · What a great list. I've had fun on all these rides & it is interesting thinking which I liked the best. I keep going back to Gringotts and Forbidden Journey, they are such a unique experience compared to some of the other rides out there. I would put Forbidden Journey one & gringotts 2. I will just have to go back and ride them all again just to make sure that's the order I would put them in lol.

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