Another year, another batch of roller coasters.

The more things change at amusement parks, the more they stay the same. The popularity of one of the oldest amusement rides shows no sign of waning. That’s not to say that the humble thrill machine hasn’t evolved. Today’s roller coasters go faster, higher and steeper – in one case, insanely steeper – than their predecessors. Instead of relying solely on gravity, many of the rides incorporate sophisticated launch systems that allow them to deliver breathtaking (literally) acceleration, physics-defying elements, and wild, if wacky, fun.

Let’s run down some of the most-anticipated coasters opening in 2019:

West Coast Racers at Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia, California

Using electro-magnetic propulsion, two trainloads of passengers on opposing tracks will rev up to 55 mph on a straightaway and chase each other around a course filled with inversions, pops of airtime and overbanked turns. After an indoor “pit stop,” during which the famed car builders from West Coast Customs will cheer the riders on, the trains will take a second lap, but on the opposite tracks. The three-minute experience will include 14 “near-miss” crossings.

Maxx Force at Six Flags Great America near Chicago

Instead of electro-magnetic propulsion, Maxx Force will use a compressed-air launch system to catapult its trains from 0 to 78 mph in two seconds flat. That’ll be the quickest acceleration of any coaster in North America. It will then soar an attention-grabbing 175 feet and deliver two high-flying inversions. The third time Maxx Force sends its passengers tumbling heels-over-head, they’ll be hightailing it at 60 mph, which Six Flags contends will be the world’s fastest coaster inversion.

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