Over the years, theme park attractions have gotten more intense, more immersive, and more steeped in popular culture. With Universal’s Marvel Super Hero Island and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, along with Disney staples like Star Tours, it’s also clear that theme parks have a lot to offer to a nerdier crowd. Nintendo even went so far as to announce Nintendo Land, a virtual theme park filled with some of the publisher’s most beloved characters, at their recent E3 press conference.
What’s next? Well, as we've said before, we're hoping for a physical gaming theme park, or at least a few attractions that draw inspiration from video games. Though the possibilities for gaming-related rides are just about endless, we thought long and hard about which series would best make that transition. Here are our choices for top seven video games that should be theme park attractions.
7. It’s Pokémon World!
As insanely popular as the Pokémon franchise is, it should come as no surprise that a Pokémon theme park, appropriately called PokéPark, already existed. The traveling theme park had a short run in Japan and Taiwan, staying open for just a few months at each location and featuring such surely exciting attractions as Mudkip’s Splash Adventure and Safari Zone Explosion.
Maybe an entire park was too much, but one Pokéride would be just right. It would have to be a kid-friendly attraction, so fairly tame. Maybe a little repetitive. And definitely musical. If you’re not familiar with Disney’s It’s a Small World, it’s a slow-moving boat ride in which the titular song repeats itself over and over until the riders get off or go insane. The Pokémon ride would be extremely similar in concept, as the sluggish vehicle moved through fields and rivers full of animatronic Pokémon. Meanwhile, the theme song from the Pokémon television show will play repeatedly, to the delight of Pokémon fans young and old (and absolute horror of their companions). Oh sure, you can laugh, but can you really say you wouldn’t wait in line for 40 minutes to see that?
6. Uncharted: The Half-Tucked Stunt Spectacular
One of the most famous attractions at Disney World is the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, in which trained stunt doubles perform some of the most daring and explosion-filled stunts from Raiders of the Lost Ark. Since Uncharted has often been compared to the Indiana Jones series, it wouldn’t be too difficult to repurpose this idea for an Uncharted stunt show.
With a smolderingly handsome Nathan Drake lookalike – as well as appearances from Elena and Sully stunt doubles – the show would feature pyrotechnics, vehicle crashes, and plenty of improbably survivable stunts. Epic scenes from the games would be acted out, with audience members being pulled into the action for an added dose of fun. It would have the same appeal as the Indiana Jones show; after all, how often to you get to watch stunt actors pull of death-defying stunts? And also, did we mention the smolderingly handsome Nathan Drake lookalike?
5. Kingdom Hearts World Tour
Kingdom Hearts seamlessly combined Final Fantasy characters with Disney universes when it launched in 2002. Since Disney already has multiple theme parks around the world, it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to feature a video game ride with some of its most popular characters. Combining Disney characters with familiar elements from Kingdom Hearts and Final Fantasy in a Star Tours-like simulation experience would be a huge draw for gamers and non-gamers alike.
Kingdom Hearts’ Gummi Ship would take the place of the motion simulator’s Starspeeder, with FFVII’s Cid navigating the journey. A few variations would take the riders through several Disney and Kingdom Hearts universes, with special appearances by classic Disney heroes and villains, Final Fantasy characters, and Kingdom Hearts’ keyblade-wielding Sora. As an added bonus, it would be a lot more fun than piloting the Gummi Ship in Kingdom Hearts (though to be fair, most things are).
4. God of War: The Ride
Some theme parks already utilize elements of popular mythology, such as the Lost Continent in Universal’s Islands of Adventure. Giving Kratos and his godly companions from the God of War series their own attraction makes total sense –even non-gamers are familiar with the mythological gods and monsters portrayed in the franchise. It wouldn’t be a walking tour or kiddie coaster, though; no, don’t even bother getting in line for this one unless you’re over 60 inches.
A thrilling roller coaster ride through Mount Olympus, a God of War-themed attraction would feature steep climbs, sharp drops, fast loops, and appearances from the gods themselves. It would climax with a visit from Kratos, right before the coaster takes its final death-defying twist. With the potential to be one of the biggest, fastest, craziest roller coasters in the country, daredevils and gamers alike would gladly stand in line for an encounter with the gods.
In 2010, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened in Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure, giving fans of the boy who lived a chance to explore Hogsmeade, drink Butterbeer, and get a tour of Hogwarts in the form of the simulation ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. A Portal ride would follow the same concept, allowing riders to get a look inside Aperture Labs as the attraction takes them through a series of testing rooms.
The Portal ride would combine moving parts, special effects, and digital screens portraying events from throughout the lab, with the riders trying to survive the deadly tests set forth before them. Naturally, Glad0s would mock the riders the entire time, serving as both a guide and a tormentor. After outsmarting the robot, escaping the testing area, exploring the bowels of Aperture, and unfulfilled promises of baked goods, the riders escape Aperture and are spit back into the real world. Naturally, “Still Alive” plays from speakers positioned around the exit, so riders can have it stuck in their heads for the rest of the day. Oh, and there’d be a cake stand after you exit.
2. BioShock: Journey Through Rapture
As one of the most atmospheric games in recent history, BioShock would translate perfectly to multiple kinds of attractions. But since the dystopian world of Rapture is located under the sea, there’s only one option: log flume.
Wait, wait, hear us out. This isn’t some cheesy raft ride with singing animals or fake-out drops before the ultimate plunge. First the riders get a tour of Rapture, with a mix of robotic Splicers and television screens immersing them in the experience. There will even be a few terrifying appearances by Big Daddies and Little Sisters, with a jazzy tune helping to set the mood. And finally, after making their way through Rapture, they’ll be treated to… a final plunge that soaks the riders, forcing them to walk around in soggy clothes for a few hours. What? It’s a log flume. It has to happen.
1. Dead Space: The Ishimura
To a child, Disney’s Haunted Mansion ride might be terrifying. To an adult, it’s a mildly creepy source of amusement; a fun but harmless ride through an eerie, unkempt manor occupied by ghouls. A Dead Space ride would take the Haunted Mansion concept to the next level, delivering a seemingly innocent ride designed to frighten adult riders.
Instead of a mansion, the ride would move through the USG Ishimura – slowly at first, with unexpected bursts of speed, quick turns, and shocking appearances by necromorphs. With the riders kept mostly in the dark, with very little music and atmospheric sound effects, the monstrosities show up unexpectedly; even though the riders know they’re coming at some point, the surprise heightens the tension. Best of all, there would be a few different variations of the attraction, so even repeat riders would get some thrills out of the experience. Isaac Clarke would also make an appearance, ultimately saving those aboard from becoming mutilated by necromorphs.
Be sure to get your park hopper
Though it might be a while before we see a video game theme park pop up outside of Japan, we can always dream. If such a thing existed, what kind of rides and attractions would you want to see? Where would you want to visit with the magic of metal, pyrotechnics, and funnel cake?
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