What is the worst roller coaster in America?

September 19, 2013, 10:21 AM · Theme parks are kicking off Halloween events all around the country, so let's talk about the scariest, most frightening, and completely horrible theme park attraction experiences imaginable.

But we're not going to talk about haunted houses, mazes or scarezones. Nope. Today, we're talking about something far worse than those staged frights. We're talking about the most painful theme park attractions ever built. (Okay, the second most painful, after getting stuck on "It's a Small World" when ride attendants forget to turn off the soundtrack.)

We're talking about the worst roller coasters in America.

The worst roller coaster in America?

Yesterday, I asked Theme Park Insider's fans on Facebook and on Twitter to identify the worst coasters they ever ridden, and why they thought them so bad. And you responded with tales of pain, anger, and frustration. Many of you cited rides so unpopular that their parks have closed them, notably Son of Beast at Kings Island, Drachen Fire at Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Rolling Thunder at Six Flags Great Adventure and Flashback and Psyclone from Six Flags Magic Mountain.

I asked my children if they wanted to make a pick, too, and my son raised an interesting point. Some fans like rides that beat them up. They're looking for the most extreme thrills available in a park, and would love the chance to ride something with a reputation for brutality. The rougher, the better.

So you can look at these lists as rides to avoid, or rides to rush to. Your choice. But you can be assured that these roller coasters have left their mark, sometimes literally, on many other visitors before you. From our Theme Park Insider reader ratings of attractions at highly-attended theme parks around the country, here are the lowest-rated coasters in the country.

  1. Ninja at Six Flags Over Georgia
  2. Georgia Cyclone at Six Flags Over Georgia
  3. The Dark Knight Coaster at Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey and Six Flags Great America outside Chicago
  4. Mean Streak at Cedar Point
  5. Mind Eraser at Six Flags New England

In addition to the coasters listed above, our fans on Facebook and Twitter also panned The Roller Coaster (formerly Manhattan Express) at the New York, New York Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Gwazi at Busch Gardens Tampa, Viper at Six Flags Great Adventure and Six Flags Magic Mountain, and Apocalypse at Six Flags America, which is the former Iron Wolf from Six Flags Great America.

What's your pick for the worst roller coaster you've ever ridden? Let's open this up beyond America's borders, too, so go ahead and warn us in the comments about really nasty coasters elsewhere in the world, if you'd like.

Tomorrow, we'll look at the flip side and list readers' picks for the best coasters in America. And this weekend, we'll reveal our readers' pick as the top roller coaster park in the United States in 2013.

Replies (42)

September 19, 2013 at 10:31 AM · I think the New York New York ride in Vegas was fun, i had heard it was rough in the past but when I rode last year it was very smooth. Most of the wooden coasters are the rough ones.
September 19, 2013 at 10:35 AM · I find it interesting the the 5 worst coasters are all at six flags parks.
September 19, 2013 at 10:37 AM · Strongly disagree with the Dark Knight coasters being among the worst. Any of them in their present state of repair are better than any Vekoma headbanger SLC at any age.
September 19, 2013 at 10:37 AM · Psyclone, Mean Streak and "Roller Coaster" at the New York New York are all strong choices.

Good to see your son is already familiar with the concept of masochism, too.

September 19, 2013 at 10:38 AM · Gwazi in busch gardens florida is awful!
September 19, 2013 at 10:39 AM · Mean Streak at Cedar Point. I swore I would not ride it again, but for some sadomasochistic reason my kids wanted to ride it this past Sunday, and since the Eden Musee haunted house we had just gone through is actually built inside the Mean Streak and we were right there, I figured, "Why not? Just once." Once was too much. Anton had a splitting headache from riding it once. Kristina was bruised and I was just nauseous from the violent shaking. I used to think it was my favorite coaster- it has dropped to the bottom of the list.
September 19, 2013 at 10:47 AM · Green Lantern at Six Flags Magic Mountain is the only "coaster" that has left actual bruises on my clavicles. Wait around and watch people ride it and, instead of shrieks of fear or delight, most people are yelling "Ouch!"
September 19, 2013 at 10:51 AM · I love the Mean Streak but I hate The Mantis for always beating the crap out of me. The pain that ride causes is way more intense than a few bumps and bruises. It locks on to pressure points and has causes me to black out once or twice.
September 19, 2013 at 11:06 AM · How is Viper one of the worst coasters? That person has never been out of So Cal if that's considered one of the worst. That's one of the smoothest coasters in Magic Mountain. Sure it's not the newest or fastest or tallest, but it's still fun.
September 19, 2013 at 11:08 AM · The Wildcat at Hershey Park. It's like someone said, "What if we rebuilt the Comet, only now we're trying to kill passengers?"
September 19, 2013 at 11:41 AM · How appropriate to include a photograph of Mind Eraser! This is unquestionably the worst - and most brutal - coaster I have ever ridden. I've been on some headbangers but on this one my head, neck and shoulders were killing me. I really took a beating. The folks with whom I rode that park's Batman ride had likewise just come off Mind Eraser and the four of us were in agreement that it's a ride from hell.

My opinion of Mean Streak differs somewhat from James Koehl's in that I didn't find it inordinately rough, just very bumpy. I agree with the general consensus that this is one of the worst roller coasters in America but my reason for disliking it is that it's boring, boring, boring! How can a coaster with a 155-foot drop be so lacking in airtime?

I happen to like The Dark Knight at Six Flags Great Adventure and am surprised to see it show up on this list. True, it gives the riders a few jolts but I'm prepared for this and position myself accordingly. With the hairpin turns and drops in the dark, I find this ride vastly entertaining.

Two I could add are Flashback at Six Flags New England and Anaconda at Kings Dominion, as these are real headbangers.

What earns a roller coaster the dubious distinction of being among the worst? If it's roughness, the Coney Island Cyclone would be near the top of the list. I actually think that the Cyclone is one of the best wooden coasters ever built but suffers from less than optimal maintenance. It was OK when I rode it 40 years ago but not when I rerode it 2 years ago. If you can't get in the first or second row, forget it. In the 4th row I sustained an injury to my arm which prompted the ride ops to call a doctor. For two days after the incident I was unable to close a door with my left hand and it took an entire month to recover from my injury.

September 19, 2013 at 5:32 PM · I love that I have had the "pleasure" of riding 2 of the worst. Six Flags New England is my 'home' park, and let me tell you, Mind Eraser is some bad. A couple of my friends had to leave immediately after riding, they hit their heads so hard that they feared a concussion. My rides on this particular coaster have not been as eventful, but I can say I was genuinely scared riding it.

And, on my first trip to Cedar Point, I had the misfortune to ride the abomination known as Mean Streak. This is probably the best looking awful ride in the country. It looks beautiful, but it shakes you so violently I had a headache after. I ride every single coaster I can, I love them, but I will never, ever ride this again. This thing should be torn down and replaced with bumper cars, they are not as violent.

September 19, 2013 at 12:07 PM · "Mean Streak" is definitely a beast to ride. However, I have found that sitting in the front (or as near to the front as possible) smooths out the ride considerably. Definitely give it a try in the front and see if its not a better ride.

Honestly, (and I know this might be heretical) but I'm not a big fan of Space Mountain at WDW. I get very nauseous after getting off of it. The main reason is probably because its SO dark, I can't see the track at all. And so, I get pushed left, right, up and down with no warning at all, and all the lights get quite dizzying to look at when you feel like you're also being thrown every which way without any idea whats about to come next.

September 19, 2013 at 1:06 PM · Mitchell said "I find it interesting the the 5 worst coasters are all at six flags parks."

You might want to check that list again, Mitchell. Anyways, my vote goes to Apocalypse in Six Flags America. I've only had the "pleasure" of riding it as it's former name Iron Wolf at SF Great America, but I remember it being one of the most brutal coasters I've ever ridden. Both times I rode it resulted in a whiplash and headaches.

However, I will submit that the Dark Knight is also very painful, just psychologically.

September 19, 2013 at 1:10 PM · I didn't even have to look at the list to know the Dark Knight would be on it....
September 19, 2013 at 1:27 PM · I don't think the New York New York coaster is that bad, but the Canyon Blaster at Circus Circus causes quite a headache!
September 19, 2013 at 1:29 PM · I'm thinking about the original Phantom at Kennywood Park. They had people remove all jewelry before riding (earrings). The side to side head movement on that ride was horrendous.
September 19, 2013 at 1:41 PM · I'd say the worst is a relatively unknown coaster. Batman Escapes at Astroworld was one of the worst coasters I've ever been on. In fact, it's the only coaster out of hundreds that I remember finding painful.
September 19, 2013 at 1:51 PM · Forgot to add... I'm surprised none of the Vekoma inverted boomerangs made the cut. DeJa Vu at SFGA had the most downtime of any ride, anywhere....

Two other rough / headache inducing coasters are Batman (SFGA) and of course Iron Wolf.

September 19, 2013 at 5:37 PM · Steamin' Demon at Six Flags Great Escape in New York. Wow, it was fine until the corcscrews and after your ears were shredded from the restraint! I feel bad for the people with earings...
September 19, 2013 at 5:32 PM · Like Mr. Koehl, there was a time when I was a big fan of Mean Streak. I dislike it now because it's painful AND boring, a deadly combination. I despise Dark Knight, have since my first ride the year it opened. There are others I dislike, but I have a cold and I'm tired so I'll leave it at that.
September 19, 2013 at 5:33 PM · Riding Mean Streak in the front: I have, my first ride was a front row ride, and my second ride was in the second row. Both were so violent that I will never, ever ride that again.
September 19, 2013 at 5:49 PM · Yeah, NB, there's a good chance I would have included Deja Vu, if it hadn't have been closed on each of my visits.

Since we're going over the worst roller coasters today, do I have a good idea on what we're doing tomorrow?

September 19, 2013 at 6:14 PM · In leaving my first comment, I neglected to address the issue of Gwazi. I am truly surprised that this coaster has been given thumbs down. On my visit to Busch Gardens Tampa I was delighted to see that unlike Busch Gardens Williamsburg, BG Tampa actually has a wooden coaster. When I got there the tiger side had been permanently closed so I read the lion side and really enjoyed it. I thought that Gwazi was far superior to Rebel Yell, Grizzly and Hurler at Kings Dominion, Cyclone and Thunderbolt at Six Flags New England, Wildcat at both Hersheypark and Lake Compounce, Wolverine Wildcat at Michigan's Adventure, Thunderhawk at Dorney, Mean Streak and the soon to be extinct Rolling Thunder.
September 19, 2013 at 7:44 PM · The Express coaster at NY NY casino in Vegas. Ouch hurts just thinking about it. Any and all Vekoma Hang and bangs.
September 19, 2013 at 8:26 PM · Its funny that two of the coasters on this list are at ONE Six Flags Park (Georgia)! The Ninja is not all that bad in the very back of the train though. While riding in the back, you can SEE the riders in the front getting banged around as the train enters the loops. The imported trains from the former Great American Scream Machine at SFGadv has helped a little, but this coaster's days are likely numbered. The Georgia Cyclone is no picnic either although work has been done to smooth out the first drop rather nicely.

As rough as these rides are, this may end up being a good thing for SFoG. With the GA park's 50th birthday just around the corner, one of these rides will likely make way for something new. And with the park's president claiming in a press release, 2014 is the just the first year in a huge multi-year expansion plan with the new Hurricane Harbor being added next season, one can only dream about what may be coming over the horizon....

September 19, 2013 at 9:38 PM · Looking forward to it, James.
September 20, 2013 at 12:31 AM · Not in America Granted, but the most brutal ride I ever had was on Jetstream at Rhyl in North Wales. Mainly due to it CRASHING WITH ME ON IT!!! But as it was torn down shortly thereafter, I don't suppose it counts! ;)
September 20, 2013 at 5:40 AM · I know you have already mentioned it, its closed and completely removed now but the Son of Beast at Kings Island has been my worst coaster experience in 30+ years. I had the displeasure of riding it late in 2008, not too long before its final closure. The ride in general was so rough that it gave me a headache for hours. There was a terrible bump coming around the left hander just as you were starting down the hill where the loop used to be that was so severe it could literally knock the wind out of you. I am not sure whether to blame the Ohio weather or poor footings for the Son of Beast's demise but either way the coaster did not settle well. I rode the Son of Beast when it was fairly new and still had the loop without issue. It was rough then but not painful. Gravity provides some great thrills but to the Son of Beast it was a death sentence.
September 21, 2013 at 5:33 AM · Pretty much any Dinn Corp woodie that hasn't received a Texas Giant sized overhaul should be on this list. Specifically, Worlds of Fun's Timber Wolf is about as bad as it gets.
September 20, 2013 at 9:32 AM · The Ninja at Six Flags St. Louis is also very rough. I'm not sure if it's the same as the Georgia version. Looking overseas, the Indiana Jones coaster at Disneyland Paris is probably the lamest coaster that I've ever ridden, especially at a Disney park.
September 20, 2013 at 10:34 AM · Mean Streak. My 13-year-old daughter votes for Mean Streak as well. We rode it once a few years ago, and it literally beat us up... bruises on hips and elbows, nausea, headaches, an ache in my shoulder. Now, I don't mind a rough wood coaster. I once rode The Boss at SFSL 11 times in one afternoon, and that's not exactly a smooth ride, but Mean Streak is just brutal. When we were at CP this summer, I asked my daughter if she wanted to try Mean Streak again. Her response: "Are you kidding? NO way! It's the worst coaster ever!" However, when we rode it our first and only time, there was a teenage girl right in front of us who was talking about how much she loved Mean Streak and that it was her 7th ride in a row.
September 20, 2013 at 11:41 AM · Put me down for Mind Eraser too! I'd add Anaconda to that list as well.
September 20, 2013 at 2:22 PM · Sadly two of the worst coasters are in my "home" park SFOG but even worse is that I totally agree they are horrible. I now skip them everytime time I go because whiplash and minor concussions are just not that much fun. I've ridden coasters all over the country and cannot remember any that rattle you worse than those two.
September 20, 2013 at 2:26 PM · I have to disagree on Georgia Cyclone at Six Flags Over Georgia being a bad roller coaster. I live here in Ga and it is a old Woodie!

Of course it is rough but hey it is a Woodie and they don't make them like this one no more.

I enjoy it every time I ride it!

Just my input.


September 20, 2013 at 4:50 PM · T-2 was one and despite everyone that thinks Voyage is the greatest thing on earth, I think it is a horrible ride
September 21, 2013 at 12:08 PM · As a coaster, Dark Knight isn't bad, but as an overall attraction it is one of the worst out there. I agree that Mean Streak is among the worst wooden coasters, but I'd still rank it above SFMM's former Psyclone and CGA's Grizzly. Mind Eraser, however, is actually my favorite of the Vekoma SLCs I've been on and while I wouldn't wait very long for it I didn't find it to be a horrible ride (although it was my least favorite ride at the park). I don't like SLCs, but I don't hate them either and would rather ride an SLC than an old corkscrew coaster (my least favorite coasters: Super Manege and Steamin' Demon) or even an equally rough Boomerang.
September 21, 2013 at 2:56 PM · Flashback (SFMM) wins my vote as the worst - it was a prototype brought in from another park (where it was called Z-Force). There was a reason there was only the one. I never rode it without getting a headache.
September 21, 2013 at 9:30 PM · The Dark Knight Coaster is my favorite Wild Mouse coaster. It's a great ride with the worst theme choice. I think it gets most of the flack that it catches because of improper expectations and not poor ride quality.

The worst ride that I have ever been on, hands down, was Viper at SFGAdv. That was painful beyond words. The best way that I could put it was that you were spun all around way too forcefully, just to end the ride with Mike Tyson punching you in the jaw. Simply terrible.

The Roller Coaster at New York New York isn't nearly as bad as I expected it to be. I thought that it would be a pain machine since it's a Togo, and it had a bad reputation, but my friend and I were pleasantly surprised by it earlier this year.

September 23, 2013 at 6:11 AM · Coming from the UK i havent been subjected to any of the forementioned 'horror' coasters. However for me in the UK the worst coasters have to be Colossus at Thorpe Park and X also located at Thorpe park. Colossus boasts having '10 Vertical Loops', however what it doesnt describe is the 10,000 times your head is smashed into the head bars (restraints) whilst enduring the loops. 'X' is possibly the lamest excuse for a coaster ive ever experienced. It used to be a back wards coaster with no theme, now its a forward coaster with random flashing lights and loud music (as if that's a theme), possibly the joltiest coaster in the UK, if not the world. Give it a miss.
September 24, 2013 at 1:00 AM · Gotta say that the worst woodie I've been on is CA Great Adventure's Grizzly and I've been on Mean Streak. The worst steel was SFMM's Viper. Banged my head around so I didn't know whether I was coming or going. A real disadvantage trying to deboard at the end. Honorable mention goes to The Roller Coaster at New York, New York, although they may have cleaned up their act judging from some of the comments. It was still the Manhattan Express when I rode it. Windjammer at Knott's was thankfully torn down, otherwise you'd also see it in this comment. Oh, wait...
September 24, 2013 at 4:18 AM · Gwazi at Busch Gardens, Tampa....I literally thought my head was going to be shaken off!

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