I attended a media day preview of the new Six Flags Great America THE JOKER coaster where I had the chance to ride it before the general public. I have my own season tickets and plan to go back – often – to check it out again.
Let me start by saying I love roller coasters. I love the drops and the fluttery feeling in my tummy. Loops are fun, and I don’t tend to get motion sick.
I head straight to the thrill rides whenever I visit a theme park. That doesn’t mean I love all coasters equally, however.
Officially named THE JOKER Free Fly Coaster (I have to shorten it), this is the fifteenth coaster at Six Flags Great America rising 12 stories over the park. The winged seat design means your feet float free while your body remains safely ensconced in the car where riders sit two by two facing two other riders.
Needless to say, the design means the track goes to the side of the coaster, adding the the feeling of flying.
I rode THE JOKER coaster at Six Flags Great America six times in a morning during the media preview. Right there, that gives you a clue that this coaster soars literally and figuratively above most others.
Six Flags Great America added a sixteenth coaster called Maxx Force in 2019. There are not any new rides or attractions at Six Flags Great America in 2023.
Should you ride the Joker? Heck yeah. And here are reasons why.
What theme parks have the Joker roller coaster?
While I rode the Joker at Six Flags Great America in Gurnee, Illinois, you can experience this spinning roller coaster at four Six Flags theme parks.
The roller coaster is the same across the parks, so you can enjoy the same experience in all four parks. Find it at Six Flags Great Adventure, Six Flags Over Texas, and Six Flags New England, in addition to Six Flags Great America.
What is the height requirement for the Joker?
This free spin roller coaster has a minimum height of 48 inches. There is also a maximum height of 76″ (6’4″).
Does the Joker have a single rider line?
Yes, the Joker offers a single rider line, like many rides in the theme park. It definitely makes the wait significantly shorter than the standard line.
That said, be prepared that you will not have a choice of who you ride with. You will be separated from the rest of your party.
8 Reasons to ride THE JOKER Coaster at Six Flags
You have a choice of four ways to ride.
The coaster has cars on both sides of the track. The green side is a more intense ride with more flips and spins. The purple side follows the identical track with a less intense experience as you don’t flip as much.
You still rock and often go upside down but don’t fully flip. Honestly? The videos showing the ride make it appear more fearsome than my actual experience.
Additionally, the cars have riders facing each other. Two face forward and two face backward.
The doesn’t hold true the whole time, however. With all the rotations available, the car also rotates.
The car that starts out on the ground backwards actually faces forward most of the ride. Face backwards to ride forwards!
Needless to say, the ride that ends up facing forwards through most of the ride is slightly less intense than the one that starts out forward. In all, you have four ways to ride the ride with a different experience in each position.
Not quite sure yet? Try the purple side that starts out facing backwards.
You rise while upright.
The 90 degree hill can be daunting. Most coasters, you rise on your back with your feet over your head, and it doesn’t feel great.
THE JOKER coaster allows you to rise upright almost like an elevator. You feel none of the click click jerking as you go.
Though you flip upsidedown, your head and neck aren’t battered.
My biggest pet peeve with most upside down roller coaster is that my head inevitably gets jerked side to side. I end up with my ears boxed or a strained neck.
The rotations on THE JOKER are smooth thanks to one-of-a-kind onboard magnetic technology. It wasn’t until a friend asked that I even realized I never had to brace myself to avoid the usual battery.
The ending is smooth.
Riding wing design coaster leaves your arms and legs with no brace. Many coasters speed through the ride then slam to a stop at the end.
Even when I remember this, it’s still not a comfortable finish to a fun ride. THE JOKER provides a smooth though rapid stop rather than an abrupt jerk.
There’s plenty of thrill without too much thrill.
Going up 12 stories lends itself well to hills and thrills. The relatively small footprint of THE JOKER coaster means there are plenty of smaller drops that serpentine down the 12 stories.
With the free floating cars, you more easily experience the sensation of weightlessness that makes this roller coaster so fun.
That said, all the spinning and drops and turns… they can mess with your vestibular system. After riding the more intense green side twice in a row, I was ready for a little break.
The ride lasts right around a minute and a half, which is long enough to enjoy the ride without lasting long enough that you regret climbing aboard in the first place.
The queue isn’t extensive.
Though I faced no true lines as part of the media preview, I could see the queue, and I was surprised it didn’t involve more twists and turns for people waiting.
Then I thought about it. Each car seats up to eight people. The ride offers five cars running at a time, meaning 40 people moving through each cycle.
With the ride lasting for just over a minute and a half, fingers crossed the queue moves quickly and you won’t see 90 plus minute waits.
I’ve been back time and again since the Joker first opened at Six Flags Great America, and while there are lines, they are not as bad as many others in the park at the same time. It’s generally under an hour, with many times between 40 and 45 miutes.
Additionally, the single rider line helps if you are ok not riding with your group.
The harness is comfortable.
Securing yourself into THE JOKER coaster is a quick and painless experience. Pull down on the overhead restraint, and clip a buckle from between your legs into that restraint.
The simplicity of the system also helps riders move onto and off the ride more quickly – meaning the queue moves faster.
The harness itself is comfortable unlike that of some coasters. The first time I rode, I left it a little loose knowing I often find it uncomfortably tight as the ride continues.
Not so here!
After my first flip that left me weightless and lifting off my seat, I realized I needed more security for my own safety. Fortunately, the handlebars easily let you tighten the harness mid-ride.
The ride fits most people.
For safety reasons, THE JOKER coaster has both a minimum and maximum height requirement.
You must be 48 inches tall to ride. That ensures the safety harness fits securely and comfortably.
On the flip side, the maximum height is 76 inches. Those 6’4″ and taller cannot ride the ride as they risk injury from hitting other riders, but thankfully few fall into that range.