The airship has been an inextricable part of the Final Fantasy series‘ lore dating all the way back to its first entry in 1987. Even the most recent game in the series, Final Fantasy XVI, touches on the importance of these fantastic flying machines by having one of the main characters decide she’d rather no one have the technology than have it be used for war, resulting in that world’s loss of the franchise’s trademark mode of transportation. Since the very first Final Fantasy, obtaining an airship is an important milestone in each game’s adventure, serving as both the ultimate mode of transportation and signaling that the hero and their companions have limitless freedom with which to explore.
While this list isn’t comprehensive in terms of ranking every single airship to feature in the games, it is a list of the best airships throughout the series and an explanation of what makes each of them special. Some of these airships aren’t even ones that the party commandeer, instead serving as a dungeon from their respective Final Fantasy or a symbol of the might of the party’s adversary. Airships are just as inextricable with the Final Fantasy series as crystals and chocobos, and these are some of the best across its entire 36-year history.
11. The Dreadnought – Final Fantasy II
Starting things off is The Dreadnought from Final Fantasy II. This massive warship is a stark contrast to the hope that the first Final Fantasy‘s airship elicits. The Dreadnought is the ultimate symbol of the Empire’s might, traveling across Final Fantasy II‘s world and wreaking havoc wherever it goes. It quickly becomes an entity to be feared, and then a dungeon for players to enter and subsequently destroy in their attempts to cripple the efforts of the Empire toward total control. Firion and his companions have limited access to airships in Final Fantasy II, and using the biggest and most powerful of them all as a means to instill fear in both the player and the world’s inhabitants flips the machines from being desired modes of transportation to something that, apropos of its name, inspires dread.
10. The Strahl – Final Fantasy XII
Vaan may technically be the main character and protagonist of Final Fantasy XII, but there’s a strong case to be made for the side characters and his companions being the true stars of the adventure. One of these characters, the sky pirate Balthier, is certainly a strong contender for one of the best companions in the series as Final Fantasy XII‘s resident Han Solo, and he has his own version of the Millennium Falcon to boot. The Strahl is an incredibly cool looking ship and an excellent showpiece for the art design and aesthetic of Ivalice. Stuck somewhere between technological wizardry and high fantasy, The Strahl is an incredible piece of steampunk engineering, and it makes crusing around Final Fantasy XII‘s world incredibly stylish.
9. The Invincible – Final Fantasy III
Final Fantasy III switches things up by giving players not one, but three modes of transportation. After getting your hands on an airship only to lose it later, players acquire the Nautilus (the series’ first submarine) and then, finally, the Invincible. This incredible airship has a distinctive sprite that distinguishes its design from the airships in Final Fantasy and Final Fantasy II, including several additional propellers and a larger footprint. It’s also the first of the series’ airships for the party that you can pause and wander around inside, beginning a trend of Final Fantasy games that implement airships as both the ultimate mode of transportation and a mobile base for the party. Even better, the ship’s cannon fires a round at the beginning of each random encounter in the sky, something totally unique to Final Fantasy III.
8. The Airship – Final Fantasy
It’s practically impossible to make a list of the best airships from Final Fantasy and not include the original. After deciphering a series of clues and completing quests to get the Warriors of Light in possession of the Levistone, the party takes this mysterious artifact out to a massive barren desert and unearths the last remaining airship. The narrative importance of this vessel in the context of Final Fantasy‘s story can’t be overstated, and the sense of wonder its flight instills immediately separates Final Fantasy from its contemporaries like Dragon Quest. Other games might hold the honor of being the true “first” JRPG, but Final Fantasy perfects the formula by giving the player limitless freedom to explore its world.
7. Sky Fortress Bahamut – Final Fantasy XII
Contrary to his appearances in the other series games, Final Fantasy XII‘s Cid is a bit of a villain and essentially the architect for that game’s version of the Death Star — the Sky Fortress Bahamut. This massive and imposing airship is the final dungeon of Final Fantasy XII and truly a sight to behold. A gargantuan technical behemoth and a symbol of the hubris of the Arcadian Empire, the party must fearlessly board the Sky Fortress in order to stop Vayne and return peace to the world of Ivalice. Each of the airships in Final Fantasy XII take names from one of the series’ classic summon monsters, and Sky Fortress Bahamut aptly takes the moniker of the king of all summons. Bahamut is a monster to both respect and fear, and the final dungeon that bears his name is no different.
6. Ragnarok – Final Fantasy VIII
Although Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy VIII adopt a much more futuristic approach to their blend of fantasy and sci-fi, Final Fantasy VIII dives into its futurism with both feet. Nowhere else is this felt greater than in the design of some of the game’s cities and transportation, including the futuristic warship Ragnarok. Taking its name from the event in Norse mythology somewhat synonymous with armageddon (also the common name for the most powerful weapon in the early Final Fantasy games), Ragnarok looks unlike any other airship in the series. It also happens to move across the game’s world at a clip, making it one of the faster airships in the franchise’s history. It looks cool, it’s an efficient and effective mode of transportation, and there’s truly nothing else like it in Final Fantasy.
5. The Enterprise – Final Fantasy IV
The Enterprise is an incredible airship from an even more incredible game. Final Fantasy IV is undoubtedly one of the greatest games in the long history of the franchise, and the moment that players acquire the Enterprise is one of the game’s many pivotal moments. After becoming a Paladin and rescuing Cid from the dungeon of Castle Baron, Cid repays the party by unearthing his secretly stashed airship, allowing Cecil and company to take to the skies in search of Golbez. What’s remarkable about the Enterprise is that players get to upgrade the ship by adding a towing cable to it, allowing for the party to both fight Rubicante and exchange the Rat Tail for Adamantium ore — a necessary component for turning the Legend sword into Excalibur.
4. Highwind – Final Fantasy VII
When players meet Final Fantasy VII‘s version of Cid, he’s a failed astronaut who views his only dream (building a rocket and launching it into space) as a total failure. He lashes out at the people close to him, failing to see that he’s mostly at fault for many of his life’s tragedies. Still, he recognizes that Cloud and his companions might be his last best chance to take to the skies, and the party does just that through the use of Cid’s incredible flying vessel the Highwind. After several games in the series where the party is able to acquire multiple airships, the Highwind is there for the duration of the adventure after you acquire it. Highwind is arguably just as important a character as any of Cloud’s companions.
3. Fahrenheit – Final Fantasy X
In terms of airships that have importance to both the plot of their respective games and enable further exploration of their worlds, few match the gravity of Final Fantasy X‘s Fahrenheit. Fahrenheit, as it turns out, is actually the very same ruins that Tidus finds himself wandering after awakening in Spira, eventually rising to the skies as the airship that the party uses to try and stop Sin. The one downside to Fahrenheit is that the player doesn’t actually get to control it flying through the skies, instead simply using it as a means of fast travel. To compensate for that, though, the Fahrenheit is the means of the final attack on Sin as the party uses it to break through the creature’s armor and finally face off against the ancient summoner Yu Yevon.
2. Lunar Whale – Final Fantasy IV
The final airship players acquire in Final Fantasy IV is the Lunar Whale, which allows Cecil and his companions to literally fly to the Moon and back. If that weren’t cool enough, the interior of the Lunar Whale serves as a mobile inn that restores the health and status of the party free of charge, as well as contains a Fat Chocobo for storing items. It’s both the ultimate airship capable of space travel and a useful mobile base, but it also represents something important within the context of Final Fantasy IV‘s lore. The Lunar Whale is the ship that brought Cecil and Golbez’s father, Klu-Ya, to Earth, meaning it’s Cecil’s birthright as a Lunarian. And, lest we forget, the Lunar Whale has one of the best flight scores of any airship across Final Fantasy, composed by the legendary talents of Nobuo Uematsu.
1. Falcon – Final Fantasy VI
For anyone who has played Final Fantasy VI, it should come as no surprise that the Falcon lands at the top of the list of best airships for a multitude of reasons. First, players spend the beginning of their time in the World of Ruin wandering from city to city at the behest of what little travel remains in the post apocalypse. Acquiring the Falcon significantly opens up the world and speeds up the act of gathering the party back together to face Kefka. Second, the dungeon you traverse to acquire the Falcon (Darill’s Tomb) provides us with some meaningful character development for Setzer, helping to endear him to the party. And third, the Falcon is the most feature-rich mobile base of any airship in the Final Fantasy series.
Beyond these characteristics, though, the Falcon is vital to the story of Final Fantasy VI. With airships representing hope and freedom, having the party’s first one (the Blackjack) taken away as Kefka destroys the world is a major blow to morale. Obtaining the Falcon provides our heroes with the faintest glimmer of hope, and a fighting chance to take down the evil jester-turned-mad god. And it’s this hope that carries our heroes through to the end of their journey, including the final assault on Kefka’s Tower and the escape aboard the Falcon.