Throughout the years, there is no name in Final Fantasy that recurs more than Cid. He's a series trademark, seen in just about every game; even the spin-offs. There's even an official Cid in most of the various other Final Fantasy media, like film and anime.
According to Hironobu Sakaguchi, hailed as the creator of the series, there wasn't any deep meaning to it, but he has a soft spot for this kind of character. Though his skill set varies between the different entries in the series, Cid is usually a wizened older man, often a leader or father figure, and usually an engineer of some kind.
Starting with his first in-game appearance, he is generally associated with airships, either as a pilot or inventor. He has been anything from a helpful non-playable character, to an acting teammate — even a villain. Read on for my ranking of the Cids throughout the main series, from his worst to his best appearances.
16 Cid Of The Lufaine (Final Fantasy I And Dissidia)
Cid doesn't actually appear in the first Final Fantasy, though remakes mention him as the creator of the airship in generations past. The Dissidia games take this further by giving our Lufenian scientist a major role in the lore. He was tasked with creating a weapon by infusing memories into a manikin, they call this creation 'Chaos.'
After Chaos' mother (Cid's wife) is killed, the beast frenzies and opens a portal to the Rift. There, in the ensuing events, Chaos and Cosmos (a manikin given the memories of Cid's wife) begin their cycles of war. Cid loses his body, but he makes a manikin clone of himself. Apparently, after Dissidia, this warrior goes on to be the protagonist of Final Fantasy I. Judging from the Warrior of Light, at least we know Cid had a pretty face before he was trapped in a moogle's form.
15 Cid Del Norte Marquez (Final Fantasy VI)
Cid was the lead genetic engineer for Emperor Gestahl. He invented the process of infusing magic from an esper into a human being. His first test subject, a young Kefka, is considered a success despite becoming mentally demented. His findings renew the destruction by the Empire's Magitek army, but even this pales in comparison to the horrors Kefka later brings.
Conflicted between furthering science and his hatred of war, he stalls his inventions over ten years. Though, he does perfect the infusion process and gives magic to a two-year-old Celes Chere, who he raises as his own daughter. Later, if you're unable to save his life from illness, you'll witness a tragic scene where a hopeless Celes attempts suicide.
14 Cid Haze (Final Fantasy III)
Ten years before the beginning of Final Fantasy III, Cid Haze would ferry passengers on his airship. One day, a dangerous dark cloud spreads across the surface of the Earth. Cid crash lands on the Floating Continent, above the darkness. Only himself and four young children survive. He allows the four (now orphaned) children to be adopted by the neighboring towns.
By the time those four children become the Warriors of Light, Cid is in his mid-sixties and among the many residents of Kazus that were cursed to lose their bodies. Throughout a back-and-forth of helping each other (where Cid can even assist in battle in the 3D remakes), he reveals the orphans' origins. And Cid's pure heart is one of five returning allies, which is integral in saving the heroes.
13 Cid Fabool IX (Final Fantasy IX)
Cid Fabool is the Regent of Lindblum and was like family to Garnet since she was ten. The events of the Final Fantasy IX are started by Cid, as he is the one who employs the Zidane and the Tantalus Theater Troupe to kidnap (and rescue) Princess Garnet when he notices Queen Brahne's strange behavior. In the game, Cid is a well-meaning ruler that does whatever he can to save lives.
Cid isn't all pure of heart though. Six months prior to his first appearance in the game, Cid's wife turns him into an oglop (a large, oily beetle) beacause he was having an affair. This radically decreases his effectiveness as an airship designer. In his attempts to become human, he is later turned into a frog, but his wife does eventually turn him back into a human. By the end of the game, they've made amends and adopt Eiko Carol.
12 Cid Kramer (Final Fantasy VIII)
Headmaster Cid is the creator of Balamb Garden. His wife, Edea, headed an orphanage. After a visit from time travelers, Edea and Cid found SeeD, with the goal of training students to defeat sorceresses. In order to raise funding for the school, Cid and the faculty also head SeeD as a mercenary force. To his chagrin, he is then separated from his wife.
The day comes that Edea stops acting like herself. And knowing that she too is a dangerous sorceress, a conflicted Cid must order the assassination of his own wife, even at the cost of the school investors' backing. He does eventually get his wife back from her possession though. Though his heart is in the right place, Cid isn't suited to this life. At one point he hides in his office, and later he even gives command of the school to Squall, a young man not yet eighteen.
11 Cidolfus Demen Bunansa (Final Fantasy XII)
Dr. Cid was a scientist under the Archadian Empire. Thus, his appearance marks the first time Cid has ever been an antagonist. Although many believed him to be insane, it turns out when he was talking to himself he was actually talking to the Occuria, Venat. This creature showed himself mainly only to Cid and became his friend, teaching him different ways to utilize nethicite.
As head of Draklot Laboratories, he had clout. He had one of his three sons, Ffamran, instated as one of the Judge Magister, but abdicated to become the sky pirate Balthier. Later, in his quest for more research, Cid sank the capital city of Nabudis. He also manipulates the party so that he can use the power of the Sun Cryst to activate the Sky Fortress Bahamut, a giant airship. After his defeat, he bids farewell to Venat and fades away. His final words are to his son, "Hadn't you best be off? Fool of a pirate."
10 Cid (Final Fantasy II)
Here marks the first actual appearance of Cid in a Final Fantasy game. The original Cid was a Captain of Fynn's Order of White Knights. Rumors say after he built an airship, he became enamored with the skies and left for Poft to ferry passengers. Apparently, all the proceeds went toward making further improvements to his ship.
Despite having left his post, he does help the rebels of Fynn against the Empire. This leads to him being mortally wounded by the Emperor's Cyclone. On his deathbed, he gives his beloved airship to Firion. He has an uncertain balance between his honor as a former knight and his passion for sailing. Though, even in the afterlife, he continues helping people.
9 Cid Previa (Final Fantasy V)
Professor Cid is an inventor from the kingdom of Karnak. He was paramount to make Karnak prosper with his machines that utilize the Fire Crystal. However, upon realizing that overuse would damage the crystal, Cid tries to shut his machines down. As he is barred from doing so, Cid along with Bartz' party are too late. The crystal shatters and Cid goes to a pub to mope.
Cid is mobilized by his grandson, Mid. Together they are a necessary duo for most of the party's vehicles from that point forward. They refit their ship to move without the use of wind (or the Fire Crystal). At one point, they activate an ancient airship they find, and refit it to fly to higher altitudes and later to transform into a submarine.
8 Cid (Final Fantasy X)
In Final Fantasy X, Cid is the lion-hearted captain of the Fahrenheit and is integral in helping Tidus and the party defeat Sin. In the past, he disapproved when his sister falls in love and marries a Yevonite, Braska. However, he softened up upon meeting his newborn niece, Yuna. But after his sister and brother-in-law die because of Sin, Cid is heartbroken.
Cid led the construction of the Al Bhed community 'Home' and became their leader. And he begins his plans to kidnap the summoners to save them from their pilgrimages. So, the Guados raid Home with monsters. Fans still tear up as Cid and his son sing the Hymn of the Fayth as they order the destruction of their home with missiles. Two years later, he's coming up with businesses to raise money for rebuilding.
7 Cid (Final Fantasy XI)
In Final Fantasy XI, Cid is Chief Engineer for the Republic of Bastok. He has his own workshop in the Bastok Metalworks and is considered the most prominent and ingenious inventor in all of Vana'diel, so much so that his opinion carries clout and can affect politics. If the player starts his journey in Bastok, he will have significantly more exposure to Cid and his antics, asking for various objects for him to research.
Cid may be well known for his work on crystals, airships, and guns, but Cid is also a fighter. He appeared at the end of the Crystal War to fight the Shadow Lord. And through Trust magic, he is available as a companion in battle with the warrior job. Cid is also a father, having adopted Midras after (mistakenly) believing himself responsible for the accidental death of Midras' real father.
6 Cid Pollendina (Final Fantasy IV)
Cid in Final Fantasy IV marks the first iteration where he is a playable character (albeit not a great fighter). He is an airship designer and engineer. Cid is loud and stubborn, but acts as a fatherly figure to both Cecil and Rosa despite having a daughter of his own. It is while he is working on his latest prototype, the Enterprise, that he realizes the king isn't himself, so Cid hides the airship and is subsequently imprisoned.
Cecil defeats the king's imposter and frees Cid. Together, using the Enterprise, the party ventures into a world beneath the earth's surface to continue trying to thwart Golbez. Later, in an air battle, Cid orders Cecil to fly to safety while he jumps off the airship holding a bomb. He later shows up having somehow survived his suicide bomb stunt, and goes right back to helping the party with his airship expertise.
5 Cid Sophiar (Final Fantasy XV)
Cid Sophiar is the owner of the Hammerhead garage. He is old and crotchety, but has a kind heart. Together with his granddaughter Cindy, he operates a repair and refuel stop for the Regalia (and presumably all cars). Here, Noctis can have Cid upgrade some of his weapons. Ten years later, rather than flee daemons, he turns the Hammerhead into a stronghold for daemon-hunters.
In A King's Tale, decades before FFXV, the player takes the role of Noctis' father Regis, and Cid can be called upon to assist in battle with hammers or spears. However, at an unseen time, Regis and Cid's friendship crumbles, and he isn't invited to Regis' coronation. They reconcile through letters, but when Cid demands to see the king in person right before the game, he is declined. Though, Cid realizes Regis' plan to save Noctis' life.
4 Cid nan Garlond (Final Fantasy XIV)
Cid nan Garlond was originally a Garlean Minister of Industry. He was a popular genius in the field, but couldn't come to grips with his father's destructive plans. He defects from his nation after he sees the devastation they've wrought. In Eorzea, he founds the Garlond Ironworks to defend his new home. Later on, he works on Ishgard's airship projects.
Having had a big hand in developing Garlean magitek technology, he does whatever he can to defy the Empire he was once a part of. In A Realm Reborn, the player must help him regain his memories, though he is still just as skilled of an engineer without them. Cid is useful as a brilliant strategist, and is instrumental in stopping many antagonists in the main storyline. And Cid can fight, skilled with a gunblade or piloting Magitek Armor.
3 Cid Raines (Final Fantasy XIII)
Brigadier General Cid Raines is a commander in the Guardian Corps, at the head of the Wide-area Response Brigade known as the 'Cavalry' as well as the airship, the Lindblum. Few remember that he's actually a tragic hero, integral in helping Lightning's party (though maybe his niche fanbase does give him credit for this). After seeing Cocoon's blind obedience to fal'Cie, Cid helps along the heroes to overthrow fal'Cie rule.
To his chagrin, Cid is branded by Barthandelus, and forced against the party. Rather than go along with Barthandelus' scheme of guiding the party to destroy Cocoon, he fights them, showing that one can defy their fate and focus. He is later revived as a puppet, and must ask his right-hand man to shoot and kill him. And in Lightning Returns, Cid appears in the afterlife as an envoy of the dead.
2 Cid Highwind (Final Fantasy VII)
Cid Highwind appears in Final Fantasy VII as an aircraft designer and pilot. Cid is constantly swearing and chain-smoking. Prior to the game, his dream of going into space was ruined when his assistant, Shera, is doing a safety check during the countdown. He halts the launch to save her from being caught in the blast, and she allows herself to take the blame (even though the launch was sabotaged and the leaking tank would later explode).
Despite calling Cloud's party numbskulls for opposing Shinra, he joins and is even a temporary leader at one point. In battle, his Limit Break skills liken him to a Dragoon. Many consider this iteration of Cid the best one. Though, with his ornery behavior, it's fair to wonder whether he takes things too far. This is especially evident in his relationship wth Shera (who he eventually marries).
1 Cidolfus Orlandeau (Final Fantasy Tactics)
Count Cidolfus Orlandeau (aka Thunder God Cid) is the commander of the Knights of the Southern Sky, and knew Ramza as a toddler. When Cid is framed as a traitor to the church, Ramza rescues him from prison. Upon joining, he is already an extremely powerful ally. With his own unique job 'Sword Saint,' he has all the skills of the unique 'Holy Knight,' 'Fell Knight,' and 'Divine Knight' jobs.
It's a shame that the best Cid is only featured in a spin-off. But at the same time, Final Fantasy Tactics has earned an honorary place within the main series, considered better than most of the numbered games. Though, because Cid's descendant narrates the game, using an account written by Cid's stepson, Orran, the popular theory is that Cid and Orran are overpowered in their appearances entirely due to egotistic nepotism.