4 Coasters That Would Be Nothing Without Their Theme

As themed park enthusiasts, there's nothing we love more than a fantastically themed roller coaster. Something that perfectly marries our love of detailed, immersive theming with our thrillseeking side is usually considered among enthusiasts as the ideal, something all new thrill rides should aspire to. A fantastically themed and thrilling coaster is the creme de la creme of the theme park experience, and thus when it happens they're usually put up on a pedestal and praised like some kind of steel deity. 

Which got me thinking, what are some coasters that would be nothing without their theme? You've got tons of coasters that are elevated by their theme - the visceral Taron, an intensely thrilling coaster amplified by its stunning setting; the incredibly surprising Tron, whose gut-wrenching launch and wonderful smooth layout full of twists and turns are magnified by the mesmerising digital world we're plunged into once inside the show building. Coasters like this would still be fantastic without their theming, but with it are promoted into world-class territory. 

But this works both ways - what are some coasters that are themed so brilliantly that it masks an otherwise uninspiring ride experience? Not a bad ride per se, but certainly not the memorable experiences we know them to be with their cloak of narrative and animatronics and smoke and mirrors. This is five coasters that would be nothing without their theme. 

This KumbaK coaster located at Efteling in the Netherlands is absolutely wonderful, one of my favourite rides in the world in fact. This thing is drenched in immersive narrative goodness the second you step through the slashed painting and into the foggy world of many a sailor's tall tale. The use of forced perspective, lighting, fog, mist and darkness accompanied with some awesome 'big' special effects moments inside the show-building is truly jaw-dropping, and the following outdoor coaster section provides a nice crescendo splashing back into reality. It's really magnificent. 

But strip all that away and the reality is that the start is quite slow and the coaster section kind of uninspiring. There are parts where you feel the boat will barely make it around the track and the splash isn't the kind of. momentous occasion you'd find on a Mack water coaster equivalent. Personally I think it's one of the best rides in the world but I have known many a coaster enthusiast to find the coaster section so lacklustre that it spoiled the remainder of the ride for them.


Iconic, quotable lines; a memorable, epic storyline and some of the most terrifying animatronics you'll find on any coaster anywhere, Revenge of the Mummy knows how to do theming and special effects in a big way and isn't afraid to use them. Launching backwards at what must be pushing top speeds into pitch blackness punctuated with lasers, terrifying black lit monster cut outs and a booming soundtrack, this is a high-octane trip from start to finish. 

For me this is a coaster full of trickery - there's a sense of panic from the get go as we're pursued by the most horrific ghouls imaginable, various bursts of flame and a fast-paced soundtrack, all taking place in low-light settings to create an incredible illusion of speed. This coaster's top speed is just 40mph, way less than I would guess your average rider would perceive it to be and something I'm always acutely aware would be so very glaringly obvious if we stripped back all the bells and whistles. 

I love the retro-futuristic world we're immerse into on Space Mountain. Even with the attempts to modernise, the allure of this iconic Disney coaster stems from its charmingly inaccurate vision of the future combined with a more-thrilling-than-expected wild ride through the darkness of 'space'. There's also something really creepy and unnerving to me about the theme of 'space' and the way this is presented on Space Mountain. A vast, black nothingness with echoes of screams heard within alongside various scenes decorated with eerie lighting, unnerving animatronics and strange other-worldly sounds, the illusion of space travel is a convincing one. 

Yes, the majority of the high-speed portions of the coaster are 'unthemed' in pitch darkness, but I'd argue that the setup that lead us to this point are integral to the immersion and without with our journey beyond the stars wouldn't be quite so convincing. Let's face it, without all the 'Disney-ness' this would be just another cred in a shed, and whilst it's by no means a bad coaster, I can get something similar riding Astro Storm down in Brean as opposed to flying all the way to Orlando!


OK, so in recent times it appears the standards have slipped a little on this late-noughties coaster, but on the version I originally rode back in 2010 this coaster was a fantastic example of just how much fun one could squeeze out of the simplest of coaster types with some great narrative setup and just a sprinkling of theming. Themed to the Christopher Nolan film of the same name, we begin our experience in a pre-show where it quickly becomes clear through some fun black-light gags that the Joker is attempting some kind of scheme and we must now evacuate Gotham as quickly as possible. We're quickly ushered towards our escape vehicles and whisked away through various scenes at high-speeds as we weave and wind our way through the streets of Gotham to safety. Simple, yet effective and I so clearly remember how impressed I was. 

For you see, Dark Knight is but a humble Mack Wild Mouse coaster, ten-a-penny at many a theme park around the world but this was the first time I'd ever had my eyes truly opened to just what fun could be had riding one. I felt the urgency, the sense of peril that the villain was snapping at our heels as we desperately tried to escape, even the more avant-garde parts where the physical theming dried up a little and I was forced to use my imagination a little more to fill in the gaps, it all worked together so perfectly. A deception even more impressive when you consider how well acquainted I am with how these things usually ride (not that they're bad, they're just not usually great!)


Whilst I wouldn't say I'm one of those enthusiasts who turns their nose up at anything not dripping in theming, I'm certainly not blind to the clear benefits of a well themed attraction either. I think it's incredible the way these ride creators are able to take relatively humble hardware, coasters that we wouldn't even bat an eyelid at, and turn them into iconic, world-beating attractions that we want to ride over and over again. 

What do you think? What's a coaster you think would be nothing without its theming? Let me know in the comments, I'd love to have a chat!

Talk later xoxo,


  1. I think Dark Knight is nothing with the Theming

    Also Flying Dutchman at Efteling was my 750th Coaster