Best Tower of Terror: Which of the 4 Disney Towers Reigns Supreme?

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Best Tower of Terror

One of the reasons I was most excited for my recent Disney around the world trip was so I could come back and compare rides across resorts. Sure, I had been to all of these places and on all of these rides before, however never in such a short amount of time! Thankfully it gave me a new perspective that I’ll be sharing with you starting today when I compare all of the unique versions of Disney’s famous Tower of Terror.

Tower of Terror Locations

Best Tower of Terror
One of the four towers. Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout! at Disney California Adventure

As an overview, the Tower of Terror (under any name) is located in four parks around the world.

  • Disney’s Hollywood Studios – Opened 1994
  • Disney California Adventure – Opened 2004 (Rethemed to Guardians of the Galaxy in 2017)
  • Tokyo DisneySea – Opened 2006
  • Walt Disney Studios Paris – Opened 2007

What is unique about Tower of Terror compared to other Disney cloned rides is that each of the four versions are now unique with no full overlap between ride system and theme. Let’s take a quick look at each of Disney’s Towers of Terror and then I’ll tell you which is the winner and why. Surprisingly my overall rankings changed on this recent trip!

Tower of Terror Ride Basics

Tower of Terror is a drop type ride where you board an elevator which will ascend and descend rapidly. Each version has a themed queue, a pre-show and then a loading area that is heavily themed to the ride’s story. During the ride you’ll experience several large drops of up to 130 feet.

Twilight Zone Tower of Terror – Disney’s Hollywood Studios Orlando

Best Tower of Terror
Tower of Terror at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Walt Disney World has the original Tower of Terror located at the end of Sunset Blvd. in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Unlike the three versions to come later, Orlando’s Tower of Terror utilizes trackless elevator cars which travel on a guide wire from the entrance shaft to the drop shaft through a “dark ride” themed section. It makes this ride unique and is a reason that many people rank it as the best.

I really love this ride, but it has two problems. First, it is located in Hollywood Studios meaning it is often crazy busy. Hollywood Studios doesn’t have a ton of attractions to soak up guests and this is one of the most popular ones! Try to grab a fast pass, because during our recent trip waits were 120+ minutes every single day and it wasn’t even that busy! Hopefully Galaxy’s Edge will help a bit when it opens.

The second main problem is the theme. This would apply to the Paris version as well, however I just think the theme is feeling a bit too dark and dated. I’ll elaborate more on that when covering the other Towers, but I easily feel Twilight Zone (as much as I like it) is easily the worst of the three themes presented at Towers of Terror around the world.

Twilight Zone Tower of Terror – Walt Disney Studios Paris

I’ll move onto this version next since it is the only one that carries the same theme as the original. This version was built as an identical copy to the California version and differs from the Florida version in that it utilizes 3 shafts and the vehicles do not move through a dark ride section like in Florida. In fact the Anaheim, Tokyo and Paris versions all share this ride system.

If you’re nostalgic for the way things used to be in Anaheim, then the Paris tower is for you. You’ll find what almost amounts to a carbon copy of the old Anaheim version in Paris. I’m not sure which version of the software this ride has, but it seemingly had a random ride sequence and plenty of drops. It is fun, but being housed in the worst of Disney’s parks doesn’t help this versions chance of being the best.

Tower of Terror – Tokyo DisneySea

Best Tower of Terror
Tower of Terror at Tokyo DisneySea!

Up until this year the Tokyo DisneySea version of Tower of Terror was my favorite. Since Twilight Zone is not popular in Japan, the park didn’t use that theme and instead created a completely unique story and look for the attraction! The building features a Moorish architecture and is quite distinct from the other versions.

Tokyo’s Tower of Terror has you visiting the fictional Hotel Hightower. The hotel used to be occupied by Harrison Hightower a rich collector who traveled the globe obtaining and sometimes stealing precious artifacts. One day on a trip to Africa he found a mysterious idol who eventually came to life causing Mr. Hightower’s elevator to come crashing to the ground.

Japan’s parks are perhaps the least English friendly and this ride is no different. While most of the theming and story is in Japanese, the queue is so richly detailed that it isn’t hard to figure out what is going on. The pre-show here is a delight as well, but unfortunately the ride system sucks when compared to the other versions.

We only had the opportunity to ride it twice during our recent trip, however the rides on Tokyo’s Tower of Terror felt very short when compared to the other three versions. While the other versions have received upgrades over the years to provide for a longer and more random ride experience, this version doesn’t seem to have those. So, it gets an “A” when it comes to theming and story, but the ride is a bit lackluster compared to the others. I suspect that will change though as it is upgraded.

Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission:Breakout! – Anaheim

Which brings me to the surprising winner of this battle. In 2017 the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney California Adventure closed for a re-theme to Guardians of the Galaxy. While this ride no longer carries the “Tower of Terror” name, it has the same ride system as Tokyo and Paris and thus belongs in this battle.

So why do I think Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout! is the best version of Tower of Terror? It is quite honestly the most fun. I don’t want to spoil it for you, but instead of the doom and gloom of Twilight Zone you are given a fun mission to accomplish with awesome music and a ride sequence that is truly incredible. The ride randomly drops you a ton of times and it is just plain fun.

I’ve never been one of those Disney fans who hates all change, but admittedly I wasn’t excited about the re-theme of Tower of Terror until I rode it. I have so much fun on Guardians of the Galaxy that it has easily become one of my favorite Disney rides in the world and probably my favorite ride at Disney California Adventure.

Overall Rankings & More Thoughts

Best Tower of Terror
The original Tower of Terror in Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

I love each of the versions of Tower of Terror and am happy at this point that each is unique. While I am sure that will change over time, right now you can essentially ride the same attraction with different stories, pre-shows and themes. That is pretty amazing and I highly recommend all of them.

With that said, here are some more detailed rankings of which Tower of Terror is the best:

Best ToT Ride System: Orlando hands down. The extra “dark ride” scene makes this awesome, although I wonder what they could do with that area if they changed to a Guardians theme!

Best ToT Story: Tokyo without a doubt. While I love the Guardians story and think it is more fun, the completeness of the theming in Tokyo is awe-inspiring plus the pre-show is fantastic as well. I think Tokyo has some of the best elements of the original without the dreariness. Plus it is located in what is by far Disney’s best overall theme park.

Best ToT Overall: When it comes down to it we visit Disney to have fun. With the most up to date ride software and a theme that is just plain old fun, Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission:Breakout! is on the top of my list.

Ellie’s Take

Best Tower of Terror
Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Walt Disney Studios Paris

Now that I have spilled over 1,000 words telling you what I think, perhaps I should share the opinion of my 4 year old daughter Ellie who has also ridden all of the versions of Tower of Terror. Her favorite theme is by far Twilight Zone and the Orlando Tower is her preferred version. Guardians is her least favorite. I’m just glad she rides them all, because rider switch sucks at this ride. ­čÖé

Conclusion

We are very blessed to have been able to ride all of the versions of Tower of Terror again this year because we truly love every version of the ride. While Paris suffers from its surroundings and Orlando and Tokyo have huge crowds, Anaheim wins with the most fun story, a great ride experience and with Maxpass its a ride you can get on often without 2 hour long lines.

Shawn Coomerhttp://www.disneyhacks.com
I grew up an hour from Disneyland and spent most of my childhood at Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom. As I grew up my love of theme parks and Disney grew as did my love of travel. For the past 13 years I have circled the globe with my family for pennies on the dollar. I am an expert at travel hacking, saving money, family travel and of course Disney.

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