2012 Best Attraction Tournament: Best Simulator Ride?

February 10, 2012, 10:01 AM · We're down to the final five categories in the first round of the 2012 Theme Park Insider Tournament. One week from today, I'll announce the brackets for the second round and beyond, when we move to head-to-head match-ups in four categories: Best Themed Ride, Best Live Show, Best Roller Coaster and Best Automated Show.

Today's category honors the five top-rated simulators that play in front of single screens. It does not include "motion-base" simulator vehicles that travel through a show building, such as Spider-Man and Indiana Jones. Those rides will have their own category next week. We've got two entries from international parks today, though one is the final installation of a now-closed attraction in the U.S.

Back to the Future - The Ride - at Universal Studios Japan

Back to the Future

The Simpsons Ride - at Universal Studios Florida and Universal Studios Hollywood

The Simpsons Ride

Soarin' Over California - at Disney California Adventure and Epcot

Soarin' Over California

Star Tours: The Adventures Continue - at Disneyland and Disney's Hollywood Studios

Star Tours: The Adventures Continue

StormRider - at Tokyo DisneySea


On Monday: We pick the best demonstration show.

Replies (34)

February 10, 2012 at 10:20 AM · Appearently I'm the only one to vote for Star Tours, so let me give my speech:

Star Tours is the king of simulators, not to mention the first simulator ever. The recent update helped alot. Just entering the queue and hearing the Star Tours chime makes you as giddy as can be. Up top, you see 2 Mon Calamari AAs, but when you turn, you see your glorious Starspeeder 1000 getting matinence with C-3PO and R2-D2, along with a giant screen showing Star Tours ads. Next is the security line with droid customs. WHen you enter, you see security droids and droid customs. AFter getting nifty 3D glasses called flight glasses, we watch the preshow, but something goes wrong, and leaves C-3PO as our captain. When you board, you never know where the force will take you! Star Tours is unlike any other ride and needs to win.

February 10, 2012 at 10:16 AM · I voted Star Tours. I would have considered Soarin but at WDW needs to convert to digital film because dust and scratches ruin the illusion anymore.
February 10, 2012 at 10:17 AM · I like Star Tours and think they did a good job with the reboot, but Soarin' is a classic. The Simpsons Ride and Back to the Future are solid, but they're both really rough.
February 10, 2012 at 10:19 AM · Soarin' = Highly overrated
February 10, 2012 at 10:32 AM · I just went to WDW over New Years and rode both Soarin and Star Tours. The new Star Tours is awesome. It is intense and fun (although I did freak out a little when they locked me in that small room with all those people). It was the best 3-D I have seen on any attraction. I voted Star Tours.

Soarin, which I had riden before, kind of let me down. I really liked it the first time I rode it and I think it is a great family ride. However, my main reason for being soooo dissapointed.... The screens were dirty!! I kept noticing it looked like the screen had stains or something on it and it was a serious distration from the experience.

February 10, 2012 at 10:39 AM · Star Tours is moving up quickly, just like how little Ani was able to go from 9 to 19 in 3 years.
February 10, 2012 at 10:41 AM · Soarin gets my vote because the whole feet dangling aspect of it is a better experience than being in a shaking theater or a tilting car.

that being said the WDW version really needs to replace Disneyland with Disney World at the end.

/Star tours 2.0 would win otherwise for the sheer variety of things to see.

February 10, 2012 at 10:46 AM · I actually went with Stormrider because the effects and theme sound really interesting and creative.
Soarin' is overrated-it's a good attraction but nothing special and not worth the Fastpass hastle or 2 hour wait.

I didn't find the BTTF storyline that engaging, and while I enjoyed the humor on the Simpsons Ride (which would be my 2nd choice), I think Universal could have done a bit more here-they basically just rethemed BTTF. For pure simulators though, these are two of the best ever because the screens surround you.

As for Star Tours.. I'm not really a Star Wars fan, and while I'm sure the new ride is an improvement, it still doesn't sound great to me. To be fair, there is only so much you can do with a stationary simulator like the ones in this category (not including things like Spiderman, Indy Jones at Dl, Test Track, etc.).

February 10, 2012 at 10:50 AM · Andrew, look up on You Tube and you will see why it's amazing.
February 10, 2012 at 11:02 AM · I voted for BTTF on this one, simply 'cause I still miss it so much at USF. The Simpsons is fun (and has a great gift shop), but I don't consider that building a "must ride" anymore.

I can't speak for Stormrider (though everything Robert reported about DisneySea made the whole place sound fabulous!) and while Soarin' is pretty, I agree that it's vastly over-rated for the length of the wait.

Now about Star Tours..... I'm a fan of the original triology going waaaay back. I had all the action figures, the playsets, the lunch box, the sheets, the homemade R2D2 Halloween costume... Well, you get the idea. And if this vote was for "Best Simulator Queue" (Hey, Robert, there's an idea for another set of categories :-)....), then I'd probably vote for it. The detail is great and the little inspecter robots are hilarious. But the ride itself is nothing special. Big theatre simulators (as opposed to small passenger types like BTTF or Spiderman) just don't pack that much of a punch for me. And I'm also not a big fan of 3D. It works in some places (Spiderman), but it added nothing to this ride for me; it was more of a distraction. And while I like the queue, I don't want to go through it half a dozen times to see all the different versions of the ride. So, as much as I might want to, I just couldn't vote for this one.

February 10, 2012 at 11:03 AM · Five "excellent" choices. This is perhaps the strongest category to date. Back to the Future was my favorite theme park ride when I rode it at Universal Orlando. The Simpsons was a great replacement. It's pre-show is perhaps the funniest show at any theme park. The ride is awesome. It feels more like a roller coaster than a real coaster. Soarin is a beautiful experience. Storm Rider, from Robert's discription, looks fantastic. Last May we were fortunate enough to be at Hollywood Studios the first hours of Star Tours' soft opening. We rode it three times. What an amazing ride, especially with the alternate scenes. Nearly every ride is different, which is a unique and thorougly enjoyable experience. And a fantastic entrance sets the mood. I really had difficulty choosing a winner from five "winners". I changed my mind a few times, but settled with, and this should make Dom happy, Star Tours. Can't wait till May vacation to ride it multiple times and experience many of the alternate scenes.
February 10, 2012 at 11:05 AM · Only rides I have been on can get my vote. Have not been on Star Tours 2 (and, to be honest, the original Star Tours did nothing for me), so I went with Soarin'.
February 10, 2012 at 11:08 AM · Soarin' has mass appeal. Anyone from 8 to 80 can ride it and have a great time. Very few "good" rides can make that claim.

However, I will give Dom his day and support STAR TOURS. I've always enjoyed the attraction and the recent renovations appear to be top notch (I will find out when I visit the attraction in Disneyland later this year).

February 10, 2012 at 11:11 AM · Love both Star Tours and Soarin' but have to go with Soarin'. Many rides or attractions entertain or provide a thrill. However, Soarin' is the only attraction to lift my spirit.
February 10, 2012 at 11:16 AM · That's a tough one. I loved BTTF when I was a kid, but the ride was showing its age. If they'd updated it, it would've made for an awesome ride.. should've done something similar to what Star Tours II did, and for that reason, Star Tours II got my vote.
February 10, 2012 at 11:24 AM · I found this a difficult vote and I probably didn't give Stormrider its due - but having rode the rest - I reluctantly went with Star Tours 2. Soarin' (Epcot version) used to be an amazing ride and it could be again. But I've got to wonder if anyone up the chain at Disney has ridden it lately. I think they'd be embarrassed to see how bad the picture is. Either the screen is damaged or the film or the lens - but whatever the source, it is a MAJOR distraction. (I went with a friend for his visit in December and raved about Soarin'. I just bit my tongue afterwards as I felt Disney had let me down in terms of upkeep.) That and the queue is arguable the worst in Disney history. As to BTTF and Simpsons, I love the concept of being in a small group but with a huge screen. I prefer the BTTF version over the Simpsons overlay and find the Simpsons to be too aggressive. (And I'm a coaster nut.) I kind of feel the individual theater concept (Star Tours 2) had been superseded by Imax type screens - and even with the addition of 3D, it doesn't have the same scope. I understand the six units running in DHS and the ability to only run as many as you need probably helps throughput, but I don't think they would have made that decision if they were starting from scratch today. But since they so nailed it with the queue and the new digital film and randomization (both of which helps immeasurably) these were enough to make it my top choice here. Just understand that even as top choice, it isn't a complete must-do for me at WDW.
February 10, 2012 at 12:07 PM · I picked the Simpsons. Even though I am a bigger Star Wars nerd, Simpsons (even without 3D) makes me feel more like I am actually there doing those things.

And the pre-show is hilarious.

February 10, 2012 at 12:53 PM · If TPIs have made Mr. Rao and TH happy in this tournament, they can make me happy! I have a feeling this is gonna be like MIB vs TSM and MILF vs PF.
February 10, 2012 at 12:55 PM · There's something wrong with the voting system. BTTF isn't winning.

(As someone who doesn't like Star Wars, Star Tours II is excellent, I went on it five times I thought it was so fun.)

February 10, 2012 at 12:57 PM · Okay, where's Elvira? I demand a recount. Those..I mean that..is the most fun simulator I've been on, although obviously, the technology has left it behind.

I'm gonna vote after I type this, but, for what, I'm not sure. I imagine the BTTF in Japan bears at least some similarity to the ride I enjoyed so much in Florida. I liked Star Tours a lot, but it's been a long time, and that's changed, of course. I'm a huge fan of the Simpsons but have never been on the ride.

I'll probably go with BTTF. Sorry, Dom. But I figure Star Tours will win anyway (I haven't looked at the results so far)

February 10, 2012 at 1:31 PM · I'm amazed that Soarin' is doing so well.

I was really looking forward to riding it last time I was in Orlando, having heard so many wonderful reports about it. But whilst enjoyable my over-riding impression afterwards was, 'what's the excitement about?'
For me the deal breaker is the cuts between scenes. It's supposed to be simulating flight and yet it keeps jumping from location to location with no warning and no logic to it. It breaks the 4th wall and anyone involved with theatre knows that to do so is the ultimate sin - breaking all sense of suspension of disbelief.
Don't get me wrong - I enjoy Soarin', but it's a deeply flawed attraction.
For its innovative multi-storyline re-boot Star Tours gets my vote.

February 10, 2012 at 1:55 PM · For those who haven't ridden Stormrider -

What makes this ride cool, and gave it my vote, is that it has ride vehicle effects beyond just the motion simulator. When you get hit by the storm, parts of the vehicle start breaking above your head, pipes break and shoot steam into the cab, etc. I wish they had done something similar for Star Tours, to take it beyond just "watching a movie".

February 10, 2012 at 2:57 PM · I gotta go with Storm Rider, though I'm perfectly fine with Star Tours winning. However, Soarin'? Really? Soarin' is an amazing ride with hardly a theme(at least in Florida). The line is the equivalent of an indoor Six Flags queue. I love the ride, but all of the others offer better rounded experiences. Storm Rider, with its phenomenal exterior(better than ALL of the other attractions in this vote) and great interior effects(so I've heard) put this a head above Star Tours and all the others.
February 10, 2012 at 3:36 PM · Back to the Future!!! It's nice to know somewhere in this world Doc Brown is still sending time travel volunteers to catch Biff. This ride is great and I really miss it. My favorite ride of all-time.
February 10, 2012 at 3:52 PM · StormRider is one that begins to blur the line between simulator and 4D movie, with its in-theater effects. I wish that WDI would find an excuse to bring it, or a ride very similar to it, to the US.
February 10, 2012 at 9:02 PM · COME ON STAR TOURS! I WANT YOU TO WIN! If it doesn't win, I'll be posting NOOOOOOOO in every single post (excluding TPA submissions, unless it's Star Wars).
February 11, 2012 at 3:49 AM · I figured this would be a toss-up between Star Tours and Soarin', and it looks like I was right. The others didn't really stand a chance. While I like the Simpsons and I liked Back to the Future, neither is iconic or compelling. Storm Rider was out of the picture doe to the small number of voters who have had the chance to ride it. Between the two, I went with Star Tours due to the new variety to the experience what with the 2.0 technology. If they came up with a similarly plussed Soarin', it would be the hands-down winner, and would probably score points for awesomest ride EVAR...
February 11, 2012 at 3:54 AM · Robert, if Disney were to finally scrap the Imagination theme, which seems an odd fit for Future World to begin with, they could easily retheme the building to one about climate and weather. While there may be some overlap in concept with the neighboring Land pavilion, Disney could easily market this as a plus. This would give them the opportunity to either swap out the existing ride for StormRider, or shoehorn it into the location now used for EO. The existing ride could then be a trip through various intense weather conditions, such as tornados and floods. It could actually be a pretty interesting ride.
February 11, 2012 at 6:37 AM · Well, Star Tours 2 isnt gonna win. Better start getting the NOOOOs out.
February 11, 2012 at 7:32 AM · I never did go on The Simpsons Ride because it has got the same ridesystem as Back to the Future who is to rough for me but had a full story that I liked and included the video in the line perfectly in the whole storie.
I only have done the old Star Tours ride and it was ok but old. I´m sure the new one will be great.
But I will be voting for Soarin. Yes there is a lot wrong with it. No story and what is that of the scene changes?! Can´t tey fly you trough a cloud to go into the next scene?
But in the end it really feels like flying and the whole family can get in there together without getting sick.
February 11, 2012 at 9:56 AM · Don't give up Dom, It's so close. I voted Star Tours!

I like Soarin, but I wonder if many people have rode it lately..... or atleast the side of it I rode last. The screen being stained or dirty or whatever seriously distracted me. It really made the attraction look old. Did someone throw a coke on the screen in the past on the left side or something.... or is it the film? I don't remember it being that way when I rode it the first time a year or two before..... but we did get ushered over to the opposite side's theater. Anyway, they need to address that issue..... whatever is causing that distraction caused me to pay a lot of attention to it and less attention to what else was happening.

February 11, 2012 at 2:19 PM · It's all your fault. Get ready, because I'm gonna have Nooo or some kind of video in every one of my posts, starting now.

February 11, 2012 at 1:22 PM · The Darth Vader Nooooo video sums it up nicely..... lol.
February 11, 2012 at 2:19 PM · Someone, please get Randall a consulting gig with Imagineering. Make the weather pavilion happen!

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