The tagline attached to Superman - the Ride is after riding it, “You’ll swear you have superpowers.”
This is actually the perfect encapsulation of the indescribable feeling that a rider of this hyper-coaster will feel upon completion of the Six Flags fan favorite.
A hyper-coaster is any roller coaster measuring in at a peak vertical height of at least 200 feet.
These monumental coasters owe their allure and excitement to zero gravity caused by steep inclines, gigantic drops, and extremely tight turns. The coaster, modeled after its legendary DC comics namesake, utilizes sharp twist and turns as well to create and emulate a feeling of flying.
Going with the trends amongst the latest coasters, Superman trades loops for the increasingly coveted g-force moments. Whether you are a fan of the famous comic book character or not, if you are a roller coaster enthusiast who loves keeping up with the latest ground-breaking thrill ride experiences, Superman - the Ride is an absolute must.
The Location of the Superman Roller Coaster
Although there are several iterations of this ride within the Six Flags family of amusement parks, the original and consensus pick for the very best is located in Six Flags New England in Agawam, Massachusetts. Built in 2000 by Intamin, the number one name in roller manufacturing and design, Superman was intended to provide a memorable rider experience that would stay relevant amongst the best roller coasters in the world.
Now almost 20 years later, this Superman roller coaster is annually ranked as one of the best coasters in the world.
Prior to the construction of the coaster, its current location experienced a total transformation. The long running Riverside Park was acquired by Six Flags and changed from a NASCAR themed park to an enshrinement of all things DC Comics.
The Superman roller coaster would work as the cornerstone attraction. Opening May 5, 2000, the first version of this massive success would debut as Superman: Ride of Steel.
THE HISTORY OF SUPERMAN - THE RIDE
At the time of its release to the public, Superman: Ride of Steel was tallest and longest roller coaster available on the East Coast of the United States.
The highest point by way of an approximate 45 second ascension maxed out at 208 feet in the air, qualifying it as a hyper coaster.
Once arriving at its peak, a drop of 221 feet would follow, leading riders below the initial ground level of the coaster track and into a tunnel. Quickly emerging from the tunnel, riders would then embark on an over 1-mile experience of tight turns and frequents peaks and valleys creating a feeling of weightlessness the likes of which rivals the most popular coasters today.
Six Flags would run with the same general theme of immersing riders into the Superman universe for 9 full seasons until deciding it was time to make thing a little more bizarre. Ready by the start of the 2009 season, Six Flags New England transformed the theme of the Superman roller coaster to fit that of Bizarro, an arch rival of the hero who would work as his antithesis.
While Superman is capable of heat vision and freeze breath, Bizarro has the opposite abilities of freeze vision and flame breath. Superman’s only weakness is green Kryptonite, but it only strengthens Bizarro.
While the layout of the track remained unchanged, it was painted purple and given numerous 2-D props including buildings of Metropolis for the track to pass beside and through in some cases to give it a fresh new feel.
Along with the new atmosphere - pyrotechnics, flashing lights, and audio would be added to create a fully immersive experience for the rider. Upon completion of the ride, guests would be treated with the monotonous chant of “Bizarro!” straight from the anti-hero as the icing on the cake of a truly bizarre and fun reimagining of the Six Flag New England mainstay.
A YEAR OF VIRTUAL REALITY
The roller coaster would remain in this bizarre state for 7 seasons until reverting back to its Superman form for the start of the 2016 season.
Now named simply, “Superman - the Ride”, the roller coaster would take the immersive experience created by the props, pyrotechnics, misting sprays, and audio from Bizarro, and go one huge step further by introducing virtual reality to offer a new story within the ride that centered around the Man of Steel.
Six Flags knew at the time that VR was the future of entertainment and made sure to incorporate the trending tech in their already world-renowned platform in their most popular coaster.
Upon boarding, riders would be given the option to to wear a Samsung Gear VR headset complete with Oculus technology. Sporting one of these would allow the rider a completely immersive 360 degrees, 3-dimensional experience throwing the patron right in the middle of a DC Comics storyline.
All of the VR action began at the start of the ride and depicted a scenario where Superman had to save the world from his arch nemesis, Lex Luthor. Lex created an army of Lex Bots using an anti-gravity machine to cause havoc.
Periods of anti-gravity within the storyline would coincide with parts of the physical ride that led to feelings of weightlessness.
Developers tailored the VR storyline to make riders feel as if they were experiencing what someone being caught in the middle of a fight with anti-gravity wielding robots might feel like. Although popular amongst riders, Six Flags New England would choose to include the VR supplement for only the 2016 season, removing it entirely for the beginning of the 2017 opening.
Manufacturers felt that the VR experience although unique and fun, took away from the ride. In a way, the virtual reality supplement did too good of a job. While it made its users feel that they were in a comic, it actually ended up causing riders to forget that they were actually on a roller coaster.
While the VR inclusion of 2016 would only last a single season, the changes to the ride outside of the tech add-on can still be seen to this day.
SUPERMAN - THE RIDE TODAY
The track was painted back from purple to Superman red, and all props and water and fire elements from Bizarro would be reimagined to keep the immersive experience intact.
Today, the famous coaster incorporates all the aspects throughout the years that have made it such a success. The tunnel after the first big drop still remains and now has added fog elements to add to the darkened fun.
Don’t get to used to the darkness though as entrance of the tunnel marks the peak acceleration of 77 mph. This speed is kept throughout much of the ride as a second smaller hill of 113 feet is climbed and descended in seconds.
Shortly after the second biggest hill, the track rotates to an incredible 120 turn that literally leaves riders on the edge of their seats. Passengers then travel through 2-dimensional building cutouts and some backwards S Shield frames leftover as an homage to the Bizarro days.
Towards the end of the ride, guests will be treated with the spaghetti bowl, a collection of track meant to appear like a tangled mess of noodles complete with a clockwise helix for good measure. Once the track straightens back out, riders are dropped into another fogged tunnel followed by three baby hills to bring the find to completion.
Key Takeaways from Superman Roller Coaster
Superman - the Ride has gone through some big changes throughout the years following its record setting release in 2000. This Superman roller coaster helped mark the beginning of the hyper-coaster movement and transition from loops to g-force drops and gravity defying turns.
From Ride of Steel, to Bizarro, to simply Superman, one thing has stayed constant: this offering from the Six Flags family of parks is one of the best roller coasters in the world and should be experienced by any self-proclaimed roller coaster connoisseur.
If you have some time set aside for a vacation, consider Six Flags New England as your next fun-filled destination.