This 'Extreme' Roller Coaster Has Been Named One Of The Best In The US

You might not expect a roller coaster to have its own Wikipedia page, but when it comes to the Kingda Ka, anything's possible. This epic roller coaster, located at the Six Flags Great Adventure amusement park in Jackson, New Jersey — one that should be on everyone's ultimate amusement park bucket list — is the world's tallest. Having opened May 2005, the ride trumped its record-holding predecessor, the Top Thrill Dragster from Cedar Point in Ohio. Since then, Kingda Ka has reigned supreme as the most epic roller coaster ride available. The ride extends 456 feet at a 90 degree angle and drops by way of a 270 degree spiral. It's quick to the jump, too. In 3.5 seconds, the rollercoaster goes from 0-128 miles an hour. It's no carousel ride, that's for sure, and has easily earned its place as one of America's 20 scariest roller coasters

In the world of roller coaster rivalry — because it does exist — the Kingda Ka can expect to face some serious competition in 2024. Cedar Point is unveiling the Top Thrill 2 (a rather unimaginative title, to be frank). This roller coaster is pitched as the "world's tallest and fastest triple-launch roller coaster" with two towers. While the Top Thrill 2 isn't quite as tall as Kingda Ka (it stops short at 420 feet), it's getting a lot of hype. However, Kingda Ka is an oldie and a goodie. The sensational roller coaster is worth the wait and delivers on adrenaline. 

What makes the Kingda Ka so epic?

The Kingda Ka is a hydraulic-launched roller coaster, which gives the ride its forceful launch. The roller coaster was designed by Werner Stengel, a German roller coaster engineer, and cost $25 million to build. Surprisingly, though, the ride is only 50 seconds long. When it first debuted in 2005, not only was the Kingda Ka the tallest roller coaster in the world, but it was also the fastest. However, the Formula Rossa at Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi, which boasts speeds of up to 240 kilometers an hour, is now the fastest in the world. While the Kingda Ka might be beat globally, it's still the fastest roller coaster in the United States.

What's cool about the Kingda Ka is that the structure is shared by another epic ride in the Six Flags Great Adventure park: the Zumanjaro: Drop of Doom tower. This adjacent ride hauls riders 415 feet up into the air before dropping them directly down at a rate of 90 miles an hour. The two rides operating simultaneously gives riders of other attractions a sense of perspective in which to compare. In fact, the proximity of the two rides is a huge draw for park guests. "I loved [K]ingda [K]a. You feel the extra speed compared to dragster and if you're in the front you may get a decent pop of airtime. I also got a duel when I rode [Z]umanjaro. That was an insane experience," one reviewer shared via YouTube. 

How safe is the Kingda Ka?

While there have been no deadly incidents involving the Kingda Ka, one rider experienced severe long-term neck and spine injuries in 2017 after riding the roller coaster. The rider was 6'2" and none of the ride's attendants warned the man that his height could impact ride safety. When someone is too tall, their head and neck are not secure in the seat, increasing the possibility for whiplash and neck pain. In June 2023, a cable snapped on the ride. Fortunately, no one was injured, but the ride did close down until it passed security inspections.

Besides these incidents, the roller coaster remains in tip-top form and is a favorite of park enthusiasts. "I think the regulators do a really good job of making sure that the rides that are being installed in their states are safe," Franceen Gonzales, chair of the American Society for Testing and Materials International committee, told NPR of the world's scariest roller coasters. "They stay safe by looking at them every single year, issuing those operating permits, making sure they can see the documentation of how those rides are being maintained and how they're being inspected." So, while roller coasters tap into our greatest thrills and fears, fortunately, they are generally well-tested and follow rigorous safety protocols.