What is the Fastest Roller Coaster in the World?

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

In the world of roller coaster fanatics, only the biggest, wildest and most thrilling will truly fit the bill. From the early days of the ride, speed has been a critical factor in the entertainment value of a ride and a hallmark of the advancing coaster technology. Today, determining the fastest roller coaster in the world is often broken into two categories: wooden and steel. As of 2008, the fastest wooden coaster in the world is Son of Beast at King’s Island in Ohio, while the fastest steel coaster, and speediest overall, is Kingda Ka at Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey.

A roller coaster.
A roller coaster.

Son of Beast, built by roller coaster design legend Werner Stengel, holds a host of records for wooden coasters. In addition to reaching a top speed of 78 miles per hour (126.2 kilometers per hour), it also boasts records for height and tallest drop. Until an accident injured 27 people in 2006, Son of Beast also was the only wooden coaster to feature a loop element. The speed of the ride is remarkable for a wooden coaster, beating its closest competition by more than 4 mph (6 kph). Despite its position as the fastest roller coaster to be made of wood, Son of Beast is often criticized for being extremely bumpy and jerky, though little deters visitors from waiting in long lines to brave its slopes.

A closeup of a roller coaster.
A closeup of a roller coaster.

In the world of steel rides, the record for fastest roller coaster goes to the remarkable Kingda Ka. Opened in 2005 to considerable acclaim, Kingda Ka reaches a top speed of 128 mph (206 kph) in 3.5 seconds, propelled by a hydraulic launch. The ride is a marvel of technical innovation, also claiming the roller coaster crowns for tallest ride and biggest drop. Despite initial setbacks and delays surrounding its 2005 opening, Kingda Ka has become a tremendously popular ride, servicing up to 1400 riders per hour at peak capacity.

Despite Kingda Ka’s three-year record as the fastest roller coaster in the world, it will likely be eclipsed by 2009. Set to open at Nurburgring, a German race course is the behemoth coaster Ring Racer. Though work is yet to be completed on this monster ride, Ring Racer is expected to overtake Kingda Ka with a planned top speed of 134.8 mph (216.9 km/h). In the world of coasters, speedy rides will always be respected, but like Kingda Ka, are subject to losing their position as the fastest roller coaster as technology continues to advance.

The title of fastest roller coaster is usually split into wooden and steel roller coasters.
The title of fastest roller coaster is usually split into wooden and steel roller coasters.
Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica is passionate about drama and film. She has many other interests, and enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics in her role as a wiseGEEK writer.

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Discussion Comments


The world's fastest roller coaster, according to this article is the Ring Racer in Germany, that is supposed to go up to 134.9 MPH. I wonder how long new roller coasters will continue to be designed to go faster and faster.

I'm a little concerned about safety. I know they test them well, but could there be a point where unexpected malfunctions could occur that would lead to injury and death?


I thought I was being really daring as a child to go on the wooden roller coaster at the state fair.I thought the downs and ups were so steep and that it went so fast.

I can't imagine going on the Kingda Ka at 128 MPH. That is really fast. If I was a lot younger, I would probably try it. I can just imagine the screams and yelps coming from the ride. It must be a real thrill considering how many people go on it.


@Azuza - Roller coasters are much safer than they used to be. I think I read somewhere that a bunch of people broke their backs on the first Coney Island roller coaster back when they first came out. You don't hear about stuff like that happening on a regular basis anymore.

Still, I think I'd definitely be too scared to ride Son of Beast. 27 people getting injured is kind of a lot. I'm sure it's perfectly safe, but I'm just not that brave.


I can't believe there are roller coasters this fast! Even the slower roller coasters scare me. I can't imagine riding on a roller coaster that goes over 100 miles per hour. I don't see myself ever doing that! It just doesn't seem safe. I know they have safety regulations and all, but I'm not buying it.

I much prefer a nice water slide.


There was an old amusement park that I went to as a child. They had a wooden roller coaster and a fast, steel one. On the steel one, the front part of the roller coaster was long and at one of the loops it looked like you were going right into the lake. We always tried to get the front seat on this roller coaster.

I had quite an experience on the wooden roller coaster. My younger cousin was with me, and she didn't want to ride it so I went by myself.

On the first big hill going up, the roller coaster just stopped. We ended up getting out of the cars and walking down the tracks to get off. That was probably much safer than continuing on the ride if something was wrong.

By this time, my cousin was really glad she had not gone. This didn't deter my love of roller coasters though. I still like to ride them every chance I get.


Fast roller coasters are my favorite rides at any amusement park I have ever been to. My son and I can ride them over and over again. We have been to parks in the evening when there is nobody waiting in line and they will let you ride again without even getting off.

I have never been on any of the world's fastest roller coasters mentioned, but would love to try every one of them. I think the best ones are those that have at least one upside down loop!


@letshearit - My favorite roller coaster will always be the Timber Wolf at Worlds of Fun in Kansas City, MO. It is a wooden roller coaster that was built probably 20 years ago.

By today's standards it is not the tallest or the fastest but it is still a real thrill. As you climb up to the first big drop you can see the entire Kansas City skyline.

Riding this coaster was a big part of my childhood and I think when I get on it I still fell like I'm 10 years old. Even if it is not as intense as it used to be it still feels that way because I can remember what it was like to be little and looking at those huge drops and sharp turns. It has a lot of nostalgic value for me but I would still recommend it to any fan of a good coaster.


I have ridden on Son of beast and it is truly a thrill ride. This article says that it gets up to speeds of 78 MPH but honestly it feels more like you are going 150 MPH. The speed blows your hair back and you feel like the skin on your face is being stretched.

The other part about it that is so intense is the fact that it is a wooden coaster. Wooden coasters tend to be louder, rougher and generally more physical rides than their steel counterparts. As you go on Son of Beast the roar is almost deafening and some of the turns leave you feeling like the whole coaster is about to collapse. but that is all part of the fun. If you get the chance, ride this ride!


@letshearit - My favorite roller coaster is the Superman: Krypton Coaster at Six Flags Fiesta in Texas. It is actually has the tallest vertical loops that you can get in a coaster.

I personally love the feeling of flipping upside down and screaming on the way down, it is really intense. It really makes me want to try the worlds fastest roller coaster just so I can say I have been on the faster roller coaster on earth.

I am curious if anyone has found a coaster that is really unique as far as its theme goes? I would love to try some coasters that have an interesting story to them.


There is nothing like going on the scariest roller coaster to really get your heart pumping. I love visiting different theme parks and checking out the rides, but the roller coasters are by far the most exhilarating, and I always make sure to ride them last.

I have never been on the world's fastest roller coaster, but I have had the chance to ride the tallest steel roller coaster on earth, Kingda Ka. If you go to Six Flags Great Adventure Park in Jackson, NJ, USA you can try it out.

Does anyone have any recommendations for amazing roller coasters? Why was that roller coaster your favorite? I am always up for traveling to check out the best coasters.

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