Top 10 Best Non-Disney/Universal Dark Rides

Apologies for the awful, clunky title but I literally couldn't think of a better way to describe what this post is about today without being misleading. After roller coasters, dark rides are my next 'go to' ride type when it comes to park visits. Big or small, expensive or cheap knock-off, old or new, the fact of the matter is that I bloody love me a good dark ride. It's a given that Disney and Universal have the market cornered in this area of the theme park world - their dark rides are second to none and if you're interested in what my favourite Disney dark rides are I've got a separate blog all about that over here. Historically it's always been assumed that one needs a bigger budget to pull off a really excellent dark ride but in recent years we've seen the smaller, regional parks really step up their dark ride game. I'm not going to sit here and tell you that these can compete with the likes of the aforementioned industry behemoths but that's not to say these rides aren't super enjoyable in their own unique ways but because the Disneys and Universals of the world cast such a huge, foreboding shadow of greatness it's not very often we hear too much about the smaller parks putting out great attractions too. So in today's post I wanted to shine the light on some personal non-Disney/Universal dark ride favourites of mine!

Disclaimer, as always the list is my personal opinion and there's likely going to be things here you don't agree with or that I might have chosen not to include. There are parks like Efteling that obviously have a ton of great dark rides but I didn't want to have too many from any one park so I've chosen to keep it to one ride per park. 

Kicking off the list with a classic in Droomvlucht, or 'Dreamflight', at the stunning Netherlands fairytale park that is Efteling. Droomvlucht had me speechless on my first time riding and it's been a must-ride for me on every visit I've had to Efteling since. I know I've written here a few times before to my love of fantasy and fairytales having grown up with my nose stuck in Brian Froud and Cicely Mary Barker Flower Fairies books and thematically Droomvlucht is a ride that really speaks to the side of my brain that lives for that stuff. The room with the floating planets particularly speaks to some dusty dormant corridor of my memory and I leave feeling overwhelmed with nostalgia every time I experience it - funny how a ride you didn't get to experience until you were an adult is able to unlock core childhood memories like that! Plus obviously the thing is gorgeous, from the grand entrance to the show building to the elaborate flower-covered scenes with water effects and smells and gorgeous music, it's just a wonderful, wonderful attraction. 

This is probably the most underrated dark ride in Europe and such a hidden gem. Despite picking up a Thea award for outstanding achievement, this ETF Ride Systems attraction isn't one we often hear much about which is something I'd put down to not many people having ridden it as opposed to anything else. This trackless shooter style attraction cleverly combines screens, 3D and 2D set pieces to create a cost-effective immersive world that sends riders monster-hunting after the legendary Bazyliszek. The pacing of the attraction is excellent, feeling really high-stakes with shooting and non-shooting moments balanced flawlessly with just a touch of peril to give it a little edge of danger without being too scary for smaller kids to ride. The theming is gorgeous and creative too, a little too cartoonish for somewhere like Efteling for instance but not too corny either. Despite being entirely in Polish the storytelling is mostly visual and through the themed sets and music so it's perfect for an international audience too!

For some reason few things fill me with more joy than a dark boat ride so I squealed when I turned a corner in Six Flags Over Georgia to discover Monster Mansion - a dark boat ride complete with MONSTER PUPPET ANIMATRONICS?! I was enchanted from the first scene and gazed wide-eyed as the ride built to its crescendo at how wonderfully whimsical and original this attraction was. Honestly it's the reason I'd most like to go back to the park above even the coasters. Obviously it has to be pointed out that the attraction has had somewhat of a questionable history that the park have made a good effort to rectify to ensure families of all backgrounds can continue to enjoy the ride together which is great to see. It's crazy to me that such a ride exists in a Six Flags park and that aside from a small subset of hardcore fans nobody really talks about this attraction, yet whenever it's brought up everybody agrees that it's great. 

Unlike many a theme park nerd I am actually partial to a shooting dark ride but it was so refreshing to see a version of this that wasn't some iteration of GUN (shooter/laser/whatever) to KILL THE THING or similar. Maus au Chocolat is such a charming and original concept that it's pretty hard not to fall in love with it. The building itself is gorgeous and smells divine (who DOESN'T love the smell of baking?!) and it's all the little intricacies and details that make this ride so special. From the tiny mice hiding in and around your vehicle to the fact that your 'gun' is a bloody icing piping bag, from the way the 'game' scenes are blended seamlessly with themed transitions complete with animated parts to the general light-hearted silliness of the overall tone, every inch of the ride delightful. It's the perfect example of how to make an attraction that's instantly timeless and enjoyable for riders of all ages. 

There was a lot of noise around these attractions when they opened around 2016/17 and generally seemed to be positive but I'd all but forgotten they existed by the time I was able to ride one on our US road trip last year. I'm not big into super heroes so wasn't particularly interested in the theme but honestly that didn't matter. The animatronics in this attraction are stupidly impressive - I hate to say 'for a Six Flags park' because obviously they're much better at this stuff than we enthusiasts usually give them credit for but damn, the Joker in particular. And the pacing - usually these multi-media style dark rides that try to blend shooting action scenes with actual themed sets struggle with pacing but somehow Battle for Metropolis manages to maintain a frantic pace throughout that really translates into a high-energy, action packed experience for us riders where we really feel the jeopardy and risk at play. It's a phenomenal ride and a stand out attraction for me at the park I rode this, Six Flags Great America. 

What can I say about Valhalla that hasn't already been said a thousand times? The daddy of the boat-based dark ride, some of the most insane practical effects on any dark ride in the world, a genuinely thrilling layout underpinned by infamous levels of wetness. I think it says a lot to the attraction when everybody is willing to brave the usually grim Blackpool weather and risk getting soaked just to ride this. I feel genuinely terrified every time I go on Valhalla, everything about it is so BIG - I wince at the giant log (you know the one) every single time and I still get so turned around and disoriented by the constant deluge of water, booming music and towering physical props and effects that I pretty much have no idea where I am in relation to the outside world once I enter the show building. It's an absolute marvel of a themed attraction and I'm amazed that it sits quietly in a corner of Blackpool Pleasure Beach. Looking forward to seeing how it looks once it comes out of its rehab next season. 

Speaking of giant sets, can we talk about Tomb Blaster for a sec. Alongside having one of my favourite queue lines of any ride in the UK (aside from the smell of fried chicken...) Tomb Blaster is an absolutely GORGEOUS dark ride. It's one of the rare shooters that I'll leave my gun in its holster for and just take in the theming and set pieces. Descending further into the tomb and being met with terrifying towering effigies of ancient Egyptian gods is incredibly intimidating and immersive and the ride does a great job at building this horrible sense of peril and danger. I genuinely think Tomb Blaster's are some of the most impressively themed sets of any ride in the UK, which is impressive seeing as the ride is a few decades old at this point! Add in the dashes of more 'traditional' ghost train style gags (the axe throwing mummies, etc) for some true scare moments and it's easy to see why this isn't a ride I often miss on a visit to Chessington World of Adventures!

Much like the Justice League ride, I wasn't particularly excited for Avengers: Battle of Ultron as I don't really care about superhero stuff, but I was excited to be boarding an attraction that I quite literally knew zero about. When it opened in the late 90s, The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman dark ride at Islands of Adventure re-wrote the rules on what a dark ride could be, and of course to this day it's still a world class attraction. Avengers: Battle for Ultron is the ride I've ridden that's closest to delivering a Spiderman-level quality experience for a fraction of the budget. The action feels HUGE, with screens interweaving cleverly between physical sets to create a fantastic, larger than life comic book style adventure. If this ride were at a park outside of the UAE that more theme park fans had a chance to visit I'm convinced we'd never stop hearing about it because it absolutely blew me away with how thrilling and action-packed it was for a ride I'd never heard of. 

I won't pretend I remember the ins and outs of this attraction too vividly seeing as it's been six years since I last visited Walibi Belgium, but what sticks out to me about Challenge of Tutankhamon is the incorporation of the multiple-endings sequence. Dependent on how well riders score, different endings are unlocked, which is an absolutely genius way of not only putting your attraction on the map with a stand-out USP but also ensuring rerideability where guests will ride over and over again to improve their score and get to experience the different endings. Given the popularity of the likes of Black Mirror's Bandersnatch, I'm surprised we haven't seen more development of these choose-your-own-adventure style attractions within theme park rides. One can only assume it's the complicated nature of the tech, eg how do we deliver this en masse to a large audience to maintain high throughputs without compromising on experience, but the fact is CoT exists and it's great and the thing opened almost 20 years ago now!

A slightly cutesier, sillier take on the interactive dark ride yet something wholly unique that I've certainly not seen anywhere else is the sickeningly sweet Mymeroad Drive at Sanrio Puroland in Japan. The premise is this - you sit in a vehicle that takes you through several different cutely decorated scenes where you get an on ride photo in each one. Once the ride is over you're taken into a design booth of sorts where you can edit your photos with stickers and other such cuteness. The concept is based on the Japanese fad of Purikura - photobooths where you can take photos with friends and decorate them. It's...a ridiculous ride but as soon as I realised what the hell was going on I laughed my ass off and then got to posing. Of course it's not for everyone but if you can learn not to take yourself seriously and get into the spirit of the ride it's some of the most fun you'll have and I thought was an inspired way to elevate a traditional vehicle going along a track style dark ride into a unique and exciting experience. 


Of course, this isn't an exhaustive list and I could write about dark rides I adore all damn day but I'll give it a rest for now! I think even just glancing at this list is a testament to just what an amazing selection of dark rides we have to enjoy all over the globe and you don't necessarily have to cough up the Disney or Universal prices to experience something world class. 

Do you agree with my list? What are your favourite non-Disney/Universal dark rides? Let me know in the comments, I'd love to have a chat!

Talk later xoxo,


  1. Popcorn's Revenge at Walibi Belgium
    Madam F's Curiosities at Europa Park
    Adventureville at Adventure Island
    Silver Mine at Gulliver's Milton Keynes