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Wings Do Nothing

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"They might look fancy, but the truth is that they really don't work at all."

A character has, obtains, or shows wings. These wings don't do anything. They don't help the character fly. They don't throw lasers. They can't be used to hit people. They don't even eat people! Even if you are able to fly (whether or not you could before), the wings clearly aren't responsible in the traditional aerodynamic sense; maybe they flap, but it's just for effect. They just appear because they look cool. This trope is for all wings that don't have an actual use, regardless if they are won from an upgrade, appear in the character's real forms, or they have been all the time in the character.

This trope appears principally in Video Games and Anime.

Related to Power Gives You Wings, and to a lesser extent, Awesome, but Impractical and What Do You Mean, It's Not Symbolic? See also Good Wings, Evil Wings, as these useless wings may serve for identifying a character at least.

Compare Goggles Do Nothing, for clothing and accessories that are there for the sole purpose of looking cool. See also Stationary Wings and the possible justification, on aesthetic grounds, in Symbolic Wings. If the wings work sometimes, but not when it would actually be useful, it's a case of Acrophobic Bird.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Adam, Eva Unit 001 and Arael in Neon Genesis Evangelion.
  • In Haibane Renmei, the Haibane have small wings. They can move a little, but never fold or really flap. The wings are always held stiffly behind them or to their sides. It's even mentioned that Haibane can't fly. The series' trailer has an extremely quick flash of an X-ray of a Haibane wing, which indicates that only half of the wing bones are outside their body; the other half, required to fold them, lays flat in their backs. A fan theory suggests that they break out all the way when the Day of Flight arrives.
  • In one episode of FLCL Khanti is seen wearing little black wings and an obviously fake halo. They don't do anything except convince Mamimi that he's a god...
  • In the One Piece Skypiea arc, the Shandians and Skypieans all have funky wings on their backs that do nothing.
  • Subaru in the .hack anime has tiny wings. Her character is a Digital Avatar, so it kinda makes sense.
  • When Signum of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS gains a new Unison form at the end of the show, she gets a spiffy set of flaming wings to go with it. Of course, since she could already fly even before that, they're mostly just there to look cool.
    • Hayate's black wings also seem to only be there for the Perpetual Molt effect, though the Book of Darkness, the original owner of those wings, did use them to help her with her initial lift-off.
  • Wings that do something are viewed as a "power" in Saint Beast, meaning most angelic characters have wings that do nothing if it's not granted to them. These wings tend to be hidden as such.
  • Subverted in Angel Beats!: Tachibana uses her "Angel Program" to create wings to make her seem more "angel-like." They're beautiful and seem to be mere decoration—until the moment she actually uses them to glide off a building.
  • There's a half-example in Rozen Maiden where Suigintou's wings do something—act as weapons—but have absolutely nothing to do with flying.
  • Sailor Moon's Eternal form's seem to be purely decorative. If you look closely, you'll even see the "wings" are actually an overly elaborate bow that sits at the small of her back, at the top of her skirt.
  • Cell's wings in Dragon Ball Z are a real waste in a series where flight is all about Ki. He flexes them occasionally, but the fact that he loses them in one form says everything. Averted with Cell Max in Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero when he attempts to fly away, his wings spread and flutter rapidly.
  • In My-Otome 0~S.ifr~, Lena Sayers has extremely long wings as part of her psudo-HiME powers. It's not clear if they have a purpose or not since she can fly anyway, and the only time we see them is right after her robe breaks.
  • Gundam doesn't seem to be sure whether it wants to play this trope straight or subvert it. In some cases (such as Destiny, Freedom, Deathscythe, Aile Strike, Force Impulse, and Zeta Gundam), the wings are just there for show, though Freedom does hide two guns in them, and Strike Freedom uses them to store its DRAGOON system. In other cases (such as the Tallgeese, Wing, and Wing Zero), the wings actually serve a purpose, as they contain several thrusters inside to increase speed. They're still static, except for Wing Zero in Endless Waltz.
  • This is the case for the Angel and Imp races of humans in A Centaur's Life. Since they can't use their wings to fly, there are in-universe theories for why else they would have evolved - protection from harsh weather is one.
  • Monster Musume has shown two Winged Humanoid monster girls who had useless wings. The devil Lilith's wings are far too small for her body to grant any sort of flight, and the dragonet Draco's wings aren't strong enough to support her weight.
  • In the Digimon series it's specifically stated that dracomon's wings are this since they aren't fully developed yet.
  • Voltron: the Black Lion has wings, and that means that Voltron does as well. In neither instance do they actually do anything. They certainly don't affect either robot's ability to fly, the other lions can fly just as well without wings.
  • While some Pretty Cure series had power-ups that allow flight, Hugtto and Healin' Good fit this trope as their power-up (Mother Heart and Special Healin' Good Style, respectively) are only for show with their ultimate attacks.

    Comic Books 
  • After Medusa's departure from the Frightful Four (obvious Evil Counterpart to the Fantastic Four), the Wizard sought a new supervillain to replace her. Among the applicants was a fellow named the Osprey, who had nifty-looking wings attached to his back. When the Wizard discovered the wings were nothing but decoration, and that the Osprey had no powers at all, he stuck an anti-gravity disk on the fellow and sent him floating helplessly into the upper atmosphere.
  • Alana from Saga is a Winged Humanoid, but, unlike many members of her species, her wings are far too small to be useful. At least until her husband pulls a literal Die or Fly on her.
  • Namor the Sub-Mariner has tiny wings on his ankles a la Hermes, that Depending on the Writer, do allow him to fly, but depending on some other writers, they are this. Some have even tried to explain that his 'flight' is actually him freezing the air around him so it turns into water, so he's actually swimming, not flying (which, while equally ludicrous, does tie closer to his status as an aquatic superhero). It's not all that consistent; Namor may be an example of this trope, but he may not be. Of course, plenty of Marvel heroes fly without wings, so it's easy for modern storytellers to assume the wings are just there for symbolism.
  • Perhaps a borderline example but in ElfQuest neither Tyldak's flesh-wings nor Windkin's leather-and-wood wings are required to hold either aloft since they can fly by their levitation magic. The wings do however help them to direct their flight, and Tyldak can fly much faster and longer than his non-winged tribemates.
  • W.I.T.C.H. get wings when powering up, but only Hay Lin can fly (being the Guardian of Air). This gets lampshades at several points, with none of the girls knowing why they have wings. Averted with their New Power powers, which gives them all flight.
  • Vampirella: Vampi has flown without wings Depending on the Author; also even with her strength, it still violates aerodynamics; we conclude it's part magic at least and they just look hellish sexy on her. Also a subversion of Good Wings, Evil Wings (other than that she's the grandmother of every Good Bad Girl).
  • Wonder Woman Vol 1: While the wings of Odin's Valkyries allows them to fly Odin's much smaller set do not do the same for him. This isn't much of a problem for him since he doesn't do anything for himself when he can order a minion to do it for him.

    Comic Strips 
  • This is a regular lament of Opus in Bloom County. As a penguin, he frequently wishes that he could fly. This becomes the key plot point in the animated holiday special, A Wish for Wings that Work, but is finally subverted in the end when he rescues Santa when his sleigh crashes into a lake since he can easily hand freezing cold waters unlike the ducks who were teasing him throughout the special. A grateful Santa then tells him that maybe his wings aren't so useless after all.

    Fan Works 
  • With Strings Attached: the John Lennon of New Zork (as opposed to protagonist!John) has wings but is otherwise human, so he can't fly.
  • In Morphic, Mia and Peter have wings due to being half Pokémon. However, it's played realistically (like most other things in the fic); their wings are far too small to be able to support them in flight.

    Films — Animated 
  • A Bug's Life: In the final scene, Heimlich emerges from his chrysalis as a butterfly, but his wings turn out to be way too tiny to lift his fat body.
  • My Little Pony: A New Generation: Due to the disappearance of magic, pegasi can no longer fly under their own power, though they can glide as long as they have a current. This also means that they can no longer interact and live atop the clouds like they did in the past, resorting instead to living in tall mountains like Zephyr Heights. The royal family uses wires to pretend that they can still fly.
  • The Blue Fairy from Pinocchio sports a pair of massive wings on her back, but she cannot fly. Instead, she travels by teleporting and turning into a star.
  • In Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf - Mission Incredible: Adventures on the Dragon's Trail, Xiao Shen Long the dragon has wings but is never seen using them to fly.
  • Sleeping Beauty: Dragon Maleficent has a pair of teeny-tiny wings that couldn't possibly lift the dragon's bulky body. Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep reveals that they do in fact allow her to fly and it looks rather bizarre.
  • In Turning Red, the members of 4*Town don fake wings during their concert and give their fans the impression that they can fly with them using wires.

    Films — Live-Action 

  • One of The Lord of the Rings's oldest arguments is over whether or not the Balrogs actually had wings. If so, they didn't save it from falling down the pit with Gandalf.
  • "The Metamorphosis of Justin Jones" by Bruce Coville is about a teenager who wanders into Elives' Magic Shop and ends up purchasing a home magic kit thematically inspired by the metamorphosis trick of stage magic shows. Rather than switching places with an assistant, he finds that it gives him wings — which don't work. He continues to follow the instructions but grows increasingly agitated as it's becoming harder and harder to hide them from his abusive uncle, and they still don't let him fly, so his dreams of getting away from said uncle are as kaput as ever. Fortunately for our protagonist, he manages to keep them under wraps until he's finished the process, after which they fill out and do let him fly, and by the time his uncle finds out, he's already headed out the window.
  • In the book Storm Thief there is a character named Vago, who is a giant genetically engineered golem with wings, though technically they do let him glide he can't actually fly. This is lampshaded/justified by The Dragon when he says that he had overseen Vago's creation and insisted that they give him wings despite the technicians telling him that Vago was too heavy to fly but was able to glide on strong wind currents.
  • Peregrine in the Wild Cards series while often called an Ace is actually a Joker-Ace, i.e. someone who was both physically mutated by the disease and gained superpowers as a result. Her wings would allow her limited flight, or at least gliding, but she actually uses specialized telekinesis to fly. She avoids the stigma of Jokerhood because her wings are pretty, unlike most Joker mutations.
  • The Insectoid Aliens called S'krrr in Galaxy of Fear: The Swarm possess vestigial wings which an observing human can immediately tell are useless for flight - but later it does turn out that S'krrr poets use them to make wingsong which even people of other species find intriguing. Wingsong can also be used to calm The Swarm, temporarily.
  • In the world of Red Rising, members of the caste of sex workers are often surgically altered to suit their owner's tastes. The addition of useless but pretty wings are a popular addition, fused to the victim's body by surgeons known as Carvers.
  • The title character of Frederick Pohl's Man Plus has enormous batlike wings anchored in his back. They have no aerodynamic function whatsoever; they're actually solar collectors.
  • In Animorphs, Visser Three once morphs an alien monster called a kaftid (fanartist's depiction). Tobias, who has plenty of experience flying, notes that those wings couldn't possibly allow it.
  • Growing Wings is a book where a girl in her teens, well, grows wings. Linnet finds that her mother before her had started to grow wings herself at her age, only for her mother to feed her brandy, lay her across the kitchen table, and cut them off with a knife, leaving massive scars like flowers on her back. Linnet's mother refused to do that to her daughter, so the wings grow and grow, becoming large enough that Linnet struggles to hide them and can't comfortably ride in a car, but even though she's small her wings are never actually able to lift her. Gradually Linnet meets others with wings, and other "cutwings" whose wings were severed to allow them to live normal lives. The former category includes an athletic girl who desperately wants to fly and has rigged up a zipline to try and practice, though it never works, and a boy whose wings were bound as they grew, leaving them warped and crippled.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Magic: The Gathering, Whippoorwill is a bird and has wings, but cannot fly. Art guidelines have been changed so as to prevent this kind of confusion in current sets.
  • In Changeling: The Dreaming, you can have wings as either a merit or a flaw. As a merit they do indeed allow you to fly, while as a flaw they get in the way a lot and make clothes shopping hard (but they look cool).
  • In Wraith: The Oblivion, some wraiths will spontaneously develop vestigial wings after waking up dead. This, and other physical alterations, is related to their psychology, somehow.
  • In Witchcraft's follow-up game Armageddon, angels and fallen angels can have wings or not and are able to fly either way. However, having wings does improve maneuverability in the air.
  • Warhammer's Kislev faction, as a mash-up of various Eastern European cultures, boasts Winged Lancers and the heavier Gryphon Legion for cavalry, obviously inspired by the hussar pictured above.
  • The Dark Angels space marine chapter from Warhammer 40,000 applies similar feathered banners to its Ravenwing bikers.
  • Some mechs in BattleTech have winglike structures on their backs. While rules for a piece of tech called Partial Wings were eventually added to the game, which improved the mech's jumping ability, for the most part, wing structures are purely decorative.

  • BIONICLE: Hahli Mahri has a wing for fins that she used underwater to great effect, but became useless after she turned into an air-breather again.

    Video Games 
  • Arrogation: Unlight of Day has a Raven-demon monster who repeatedly pursues you for the game's first half, but luckily for you, despite having wings the Raven-demon can't fly and can only pursue you on foot.
  • Played with in Spyro the Dragon, where Spyro, while able to glide short distances, is unable to achieve true flight due to him being a young and inexperienced dragon (it was decided that him being able to fly in a platformer game would make it too simple and less challenging). He does gain a Super-Fly powerup in the second game though, that allows him to fly uninhibited for a short period of time.
  • Temtem:
    • Adoroboros has a pair of wings made of toxic gas, but seems to be able to hover independently of them.
    • Waspeen loses the ability to fly upon evolving because its wings are weighed down by crystal spikes. As a trade-off, it can use them to attack.
  • A Very Long Rope to the Top of the Sky: The Lydians have wings, but they don't actually do anything; in particular, they don't let Lydians fly (by natural means, that is).
  • Nina from Breath of Fire III has a pair of wings that do absolutely nothing. Justified in that her race's gene pool gets progressively weaker every generation, as every heroine (also called Nina) from the other games get some kind of special ability from their wings. It's even implied at some points that her wings are actually an accessory (notably, they change from bird wings to butterfly wings after the Time Skip somehow) and Wyndians don't have wings anymore.
  • Dragon City: Soccer Dragon, Gold Dragon, Platinum Dragon, Pirate Dragon, Korean Soccer Dragon and Storm Dragon have wings, but they are never seen flying.
  • Fable III will feature wings that pop out of the Hero's back, and so far as anyone can tell they exist only to look awesome and show just how badass good/evil the Hero is.
  • Final Fantasy loves this trope. See One-Winged Angel and Power Gives You Wings.
    • Also, some versions of Moogles can fly, but others can't (including almost all of the ones in Ivalice) yet have wings anyway.
    • The moogle in Final Fantasy XIII-2 can fly, but it's stated that it flies by magic and that its wings are just for show.
  • Castlevania:
  • The Reapers and Angels in The World Ends with You. Both have wings and can fly, but use not their wings to fly, but their Psychic Powers.
  • Sacred Odyssey: Rise of Ayden plays this straight with Mycek and his fellow hawk-people, whom are never shown flying despite having wings.
  • Super Smash Bros. Brawl:
    • Pit can flap his wings in the form of three Double Jumps or activate four seconds of free flight as a special move (both are replenished by landing on the ground). He has neither of these abilities during the story mode cutscenes.
    • Tabuu gains wings for precisely one attack. They don't seem to do anything (given that he seems to be able to levitate and warp for short distances, anyway), but since Masahiro Sakurai says that Sonic weakened said move by attacking them, they may serve some purpose. Since there's very little reason for them to be wings specifically, though, they still count.
  • Almost all wings in Touhou Project are decorative. Even without wings, almost all of them can fly. Most of the fastest flyers in the series have wings... but retracting them doesn't seem to affect their speed.
  • The Fab Fairies from Miitopia. Despite the trio having visual wings, they are always on the ground with said wings folded; we never see them flying even once throughout the entire game.
  • Many games with Virtual Paper Doll features (e.g. Guitar Hero 5 and Tony Hawk's Underground 2) have wings as character creation items. Even Mortal Kombat: Armageddon, which had characters that could fly, gave your character the possibility to add wings to their design, but not a move to put them to work (not even a mo-capping from Sindel, who can fly without wings).
  • Nitara used to avert this trope in Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance until playing it entirely straight in Armageddon.
  • Baten Kaitos:
    • Everyone in the world has wings, which allow them all to fly. In battle. Outside of battle, they still use stairs, ladders, etc, and most buildings are one or two stories. This is subverted in Baten Kaitos Origins, where characters fly around with wings outside of battle, and the main character uses them to dash about and jump over large gaps.
    • Early in the first game, you're told that the wings aren't as functional as they look - short flights, like in battle, are fine, but you're going to fall a long way if you try to get any further than that. The wings used to be more functional, but over time they've atrophied. That's why they have flying boats. As for buildings, it would be an unnecessary mindjob to draw up building plans with the door on a higher level (you have to take into account that there's going to be a very large hole on an upper wall). Just because they have limited flight doesn't mean their entire society is based around their wings.
  • Demonic Dreadlords, Illidan Stormrage, and other Demon Hunters in Warcraft 3 have huge bat wings, but can't fly. One of the Dreadlord's vocalizations if clicked has him saying, "If I have wings, why am I always walking?" Most ridiculous are the Pit Lords, enormous scaled demonic centaur things with a set of woefully inadequate wings sprouting from their humanoid torso.
  • Dragon Disciples in Neverwinter Nights gain wings at level 9. Flight is not implemented in the game, so these wings do nothing.
  • Kaelyn in Neverwinter Nights 2 Mask of the Betrayer and Persey in the Tales of Arterra mod both explain when asked that their wings aren't powerful enough to fly with, but make wonderful waterproof cloaks when it rains.
  • City of Heroes, Champions Online and DC Universe Online all allow for a character to have or lack wings entirely separate of the ability to fly. They at least flap when they jump.
  • In Kid Icarus (1986), the hero starts out with only decorative wings, but acquires flight power in the final stage. In Of Myths and Monsters, they can slow Pit's descent and he is again able to obtain a powerup that allows flight. In Uprising, he's still incapable of flight, and Palutena has to personally bestow the "Power of Flight"* upon him, in order to let him fly for 5 minutes at a time.
  • Several characters in Baroque have wings but are never seen flying—not even the Archangel, who has the only wings that look big enough to be functional. The protagonist can also acquire (fake) wings that grant various effects (immunity to Poison, Vitality regeneration, etc.), but never the power of flight.
  • In LEGO Star Wars, you can play as Watto, the Toydarian junk dealer from The Phantom Menace. His normal mode of travel is flying, but don't try it over a chasm...
  • In the various Atari Godzilla games (like Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters Melee), the creators made a point to ensure that the only flying monsters were those who rarely touched the ground, like Rodan, Mothra, and Megaguirus. While this isn't a big deal for burrowing Megalon (whose wings only appear when he opens his shell) or teleporting Gigan (whose ability to fly in the films was due to jet boosters not seen on his design) Destoroyah sports not one but two pairs of enormous, bat-like wings that do absolutely nothing. This is especially frustrating since the movie Destoroyah spent half its onscreen appearance in the air.
  • In Star Ocean: The Last Hope, your winged White Mage Sarah has huge wings but is described both by the game and in her own words as being incapable of flight, though she can glide. In any case her ending has her get over this and properly fly.
  • Dwarf Fortress:
    • There's a fairly unusual example with cave dragons: they have wings incapable of flight, which their description implies worked before they became adapted to the underground. But the thing is, regular dragons don't have wings at all, which implies they're either descendant of a type of dragon not in the game or that they grew wings which served no purpose after coming underground Toady has said that dragons will have wings to fly at some future point. He's waiting until he can program them to use it to devastating effect.
    • Some titans and forgotten beasts don't fly even when they do have wings, while demons do whether or not they have them.
    • In the raws, whether or not a creature can fly and whether or not they have wings are based on two different tags. The only effect of the wings is that a flying creature who starts out with wings will lose their ability to fly if the wings are injured.
  • Etrian Odyssey III: The Drowned City: The Zodiac class features large, artificial, crystalline wings in all of its character portraits. While they appear to allow the Zodiacs to hover in place in said portraits, they don't serve any kind of purpose whatsoever in gameplay.
  • Phlegethon has two recurring winged demon enemy types, whose wings are just meant for show. They move by running all over the place like the regular zombies and occasionally spits fireballs at you, but doesn't actually fly with it.
  • Pokémon:
    • Despite having wings, Druddigon is not a Dragon/Flying-type—it's just a Dragon-type and doesn't have Levitate. According to the Pokedex, it uses its wings to absorb sunlight for warmth.
    • The ostrich-like Doduo and Dodrio are inversions. Despite having no wings, they can learn the move Fly. (The original Japanese name for Fly can be translated as both "Fly" and "Sky Jump".)
    • Torchic, a tiny chicken-like Fire-type, has wings that are really short and fluffy, making them useless for flight. As it matures, it loses the wings entirely, replacing them with a pair of long and powerful arms.
    • Archen, one of the two fossil Pokemon in Pokémon Black and White, is based on Archaeopteryx and other maniraptoran dinosaurs, and true to form it has fully feathered wings. However, it is observed throughout the franchise that Archen is unable to fly. Double subverted when it becomes Archeops—Archeops can fly, but it's not very good at it at all, illustrated by its Pokémon X and Y model, which is visibly struggling to stay aloft.
    • Hydreigon has three pairs of wings but apparently flies by using the Levitate ability instead.
    • When Absol Mega Evolves, its fur bristles and gives the appearance of a pair of majestic wings. The Pokédex states that these "are not true wings" and don't allow it to fly.
  • In SSX On Tour you can get bat wings as an accessory, but they're just there for show and don't actually allow you to fly.
  • Bug has the titular character. He's a bug that has wings, but they're too small and thus he is unable to fly. In the sequel Bug Too!, he gains the ability to hover for a short distance, but he hilariously flaps his arms to do so instead of using his wings.
  • Soul Series: Elysium in Soulcalibur V sprouts wings in her Victory Pose and Critical Edge animation, but can't use them to recover from a Ring Out. Averted in Soulcalibur 3, though; Night Terror, the game's SNK Boss, has a big pair of fiery wings and is immune to ringouts. If you do ring him out, a short cutscene of him flying back into the ring plays.
  • In Popful Mail, the Gaws have short wings that aren't very useful in helping them fly. One of the Gaws that joins your party can use his to do a floating jump.
  • Ernest from Battleborn carries a pair of mechanical folding wings that open up to provide him a bit of a glide during certain jumps of his. It's not on par with that of his fellow Aviant Benedict though and is more of a cosmetic animation than an actual glide.
  • Zig-Zagged in Cataclysm: Dark Days Ahead. Drinking mutagens has a chance of giving your character wings. Bird wings protect you from falling damage and insect wings let you run faster, so they're aversions. Meanwhile, butterfly wings just make your character pretty but prevent wearing shirts, and bat wings do nothing except make shirts fit you badly.
  • Starbound: Stargazers - Avian priests - wear ceremonial wings (which you may obtain for yourself) which are rigid and do nothing. There's also a rare set of articulated wearable wings you can find, which flap impressively when you jump and run... but do not let you actually fly.
    • Averted with some fan-made mod races. The Wasp Hives can fly and glide in brief bursts, while the Avali's wings reduce their falling speed enough that they can fall from any height without taking damage.
  • In Diablo III, one of the types of Cosmetic Award items you can get as random drops is wings. They don't let you fly or glide but hey, they look cool.
  • Planescape: Torment has a party member named Fall-From-Grace, who is a puritan succubus priestess (It Makes Sense in Context) with large bat wings she never uses. Odd, since as a Dungeons & Dragons setting, Planescape succubi could always fly. There are also Elite Mook devils called Abishai that don't use their obvious wings, which (again) could happen in the tabletop game.
    • Justified in the case of Trias, an angel whose wings were burned off by fiends or so he says.
  • While The Binding of Isaac has Azazel as an aversion to this trope, fellow playable character Apollyon has small feathery wings that offer nothing but decoration.
  • In X: Rebirth, the archaic Terran capital ships used by the Republic of Cantera all mount elaborate fins and wings near their engines, in contrast to the flying box Standard Human Spaceship used by the majority of the factions. The wings have absolutely no impact on their performance or handling, which would be handy for their Sucellus battleship with its massive Fixed Forward-Facing Weapon.
  • Flight Rising:
    • The Snapper breed of dragons is land-bound, although Wind Snappers can fly by using magic to manipulate gusts of air to lift them up and Arcane Snappers can manipulate gravity.
    • The Arcanist has two sets of wings, one of which is explicitly stated to be vestigial...although considering that his larger wings are functional and he can float anyway, they don't affect him much.
  • In Bug Fables, even though every character is a bug, and most of them feature wings, only bees, wasps and dragonflies, as well as several non-sapient bugs, are actually capable of flying, while moths, butterflies, beetles, and etc. are permanently stuck on the ground. One of the lore books states that the reason behind this is due to the fact that, after the evolution, everyday life no longer required flight, so bugs eventually lost an ability to fly after many generations. It's even theorized in-universe that one day, not even flying bugs will retain this ability in the near future.
  • Super Mario Bros.: The Rex enemies introduced in Super Mario World are dinosaur-like dragons that sport tiny wings but never fly.
  • Despite having his own wings, Wingnut in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants In Manhattan seems to prefer using flying machines over flying, first flying on a flying saucer in his boss-fight and then flying away on a glider. The closest we ever see is that he flaps his wings when he jumps high, implying his wings are not meant for flight. Later subverted in his second boss fight where he is seen hovering.
  • Varies from game to game in Devil May Cry. In Devil May Cry and Devil May Cry 2 Dante can fly with his winged devil trigger forms, however in Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening all his forms have wings, but only the Nevan form allows for actual flight while the Rebellion form can only glide, and in Devil May Cry 4 they don't even unfurl. In Devil May Cry 5 Dante's DT can glide like in 3 while allowing for an additional jump, and Sin Devil Trigger flies freely. Similarly, Vergil has wings in all his forms but never uses them only flying in 5 after gaining a Sin Devil Trigger.
  • Fate/Grand Order: Despite having large butterfly-like wings and dragonfly wings in his true form of Vortigern, Oberon can't actually fly with them and even admits they're pretty much just decorations. In order to "fly", he needs to shrink down to his Sleep-Mode Size and hitch a ride on one of his many insects. It's a big part of his ultimate defeat within his Abyssal Worm form that's effectively a living black hole. All Mash and Altria Avalon have to do to beat him is inflict critical damage on him to the point he can't shrink himself and then knock him off the flying Storm Border, causing him to fall forever into the depths of the Abyssal Worm without any hope of saving himself (at least assuming you don't end up summoning him).
  • Hell Fighter has the second dragon boss, who has wings but can't fly with it.
  • The old PC game, Winged Warrior. You are the titular character, but can't fly at all - in fact, one stage have pitfalls that you can fall in, requiring you to restart the area constantly, despite your name.
  • Tekken: In the first game, Devil Kazuya has wings, but they're just for show, since he has the exact same movelist as his human counterpart. Averted with the second game onward, as he has actual flying moves that incorporate his wings.

    Visual Novels 
  • The player character in Slay the Princess is some kind of shadowy avian being and if the shot of him looking into a mirror is adjusted, it can be seen that he has large wings. These are not mentioned at any point in the game except for some of the endings where he's accepted his true identity as a god and spreads them. There were certainly points before that where they could have been useful, if he was able to use them.

  • Demon Candy: Parallel explicitly states that the wings of incubi are for "decoration" rather than use.
  • El Goonish Shive notes that of all the various flying characters, many of whom have wings (Fairy summons, Vlad, Nanase's angelic guardian form, etc) none of them are actually aerodynamically functional. The flight is all magical and the wings, at best, provide some help with maneuverability.
  • Slightly Damned has Sun Pendants, which grant angels their wings. However, when Buwaro, a demon, ends up owning a sun pendant with no anti-demonic defences, it gives him stylish but obviously non-functional miniature wings.
  • Alien Dice: Lexx has wings, but never flew outside battles.
  • Subnormality: The Sphinx has wings, but walks everywhere. Justified in this case as she has to file a flight plan each time, and she does not want to do that, just to go somewhere.
  • Gunnerkrigg Court:
    • Seraph robots have decorative vestigial wings. At least S1 moved fast enough that they may have been an aerodynamic adjustment, but on S13 they only helped to look plain sad.
    • Faeries come at it from the other direction. They can naturally fly, but wear ornamental wings they make themselves as a form of clothing.
  • Used and subverted in Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures. Dan doesn't know how to fly using his wings but later when his cubi heritage kicks in in turns out he can do other things with them
    • Lorenda also has a tiny pair of wings on her shoulders as a result of being half-demon on her mother's side that she sprouts at the demon equivalent of reaching adulthood. They're clearly too tiny to let her fly. She decides they work better as something like a fashion accessory anyway.
  • X and Alexis from A Magical Roommate grow wings, but their wings aren't strong enough to fly with. They can fly with a weightlessness potion, however.
  • My Impossible Soulmate: Justified with Nagisa, as her wings were broken when she was rescued after being thrown off her homeland as a newborn and are too small to be used in flying, but she still sees views them as a source of pride.
  • There are several Winged Humanoids in Tower of God who can't fly, leading to rather funny situations when Endorsi knocks people off platforms.
    Apparently those wings were not made for flying…
  • Some dragons in Drowtales have small vestigial wings that have grown useless from being underground for generations, which has also resulted in most dragons being mindless beasts compared to their more humanoid, intelligent ancestors. There's one dragon (implied to be the progenitor of most of the others) spotted at the bottom of a pit whose wings look big enough to actually let them fly, though clearly it's not able to.
  • In Homestuck, when a member of the Troll alien race reaches God-Tier they gain a pair of butterfly/insectoid-esque wings. However, as shown when the normal human players also enter God-Tier and don't get wings but are still capable of flight, the Troll wings are pretty much assumed to be completely superfluous.

    Web Original 
  • Wingy from Melody Star is, as you could've guessed by his name, a halo with a pair of wings. However, these wings are too small for him to actually fly.

    Western Animation 
  • Jane and the Dragon: Princess Lavinia has a set of toy dragon wings that tie onto her back the way other little girls might have fairy costumes. They are, of course, non-functional.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • Borderline example: pegasus wings do something to allow flight, but they definitely don't do so in the usual way — in occasions where they lose their magic, they also lose the ability to fly. Scootaloo is a straighter example, but that's an actual in-universe disability according to Word of God.
    • Discord, a mishmash of many different animals, mythical, legendary, or otherwise, has teeny tiny bird and bat wings sprouting from his serpentine body. Being an entity made of magic, he doesn't need them to move anywhere or any way he wants, and they're completely decorative.
    • My Little Pony: Equestria Girls: The Super Mode Magical Girl transformations give Twilight, Rainbow Dash, and Fluttershy wings that match their pony counterparts (and, occasionally, Sunset Shimmer), but since these transformations happen as a group which allows everyone to fly magically, and last only long enough to dispatch the latest threat, they're most likely there to coordinate with their outfits than to actually help them fly.
  • DC Animated Universe: The Thanagarians are Winged Humanoids that can fly, and yet Hawkgirl's wings don't usually move when she flies. This is apparently just part of the animation, as when her wings are restrained (like getting caught by a bolo) she's unable to fly.
  • Played with in The Owl House. Palismen are modeled after various animals, meaning only Palismen modeled after birds, bats, or flying insects have wings. However, while non-winged Palismen can't fly in animal form (with the exception of Stringbean), in staff form a Palisman can fly regardless of whether or not it has wings. Winged Palismen do flap their wings while flying in staff form, and some non-winged Palismen flap other appendages, like Jerbo's dog Palisman's ears.
  • Superjail!: The Twins' father appears as a large, winged balloon-like creature but, due to the tiny size of his wings, they're unable to help him fly when he's injured and generally just flap uselessly as he speaks.
  • The Transformers: Numerous Transformers have wings in robot mode as a result of vehicle mode kibble. Starscream and the other Seekers are the most obvious ones, with the wings from their jet modes, but others include Prowl (wings formed from his car doors), Omega Supreme (wings formed from the rails of his base mode), or Kickback (his grasshopper wings). In no cases do these wings have any influence on whether or not the character can fly- all Decepticons were able to fly in robot mode, including those who had vehicle modes that couldn't like Soundwave and Megatron, while the winged Prowl couldn't fly.
  • The Venture Brothers: Eventually subverted. In the first season, the Monarch and his henchmen's butterfly wings seem to be purely decorative — the writers intended for the Monarch using his wings to fly in the early season 2 episode Hate Floats to be a big deal, but this didn't come across in the animation - then in the season finale, the henchmen discover, to their shock, that they can, in fact, fly.
    Henchman #24: Why did nobody tell us this? This changes everything!
  • W.I.T.C.H.: The guardians all have small wings in their magic forms. While they do flap when they fly, and are grounded if their wings are restrained, this only works because of their powers. In the episode where they lost their powers, they all instantly dropped out of the sky. (In the comic Hay Lin was the only one who could even fly at all.)

    Real Life 
  • Polish hussars, as pictured above, were often depicted in art with large ornate wings as part of the uniform. It's unclear whether hussars actually went into battle with the wings and what use they could possibly have. Some theories suggested that they might deflect blows from certain angles, used to reduce the effectiveness of Tatar lassoes, or that the vibrating feathers make an eerie noise during a charge. On the other hand, so much drag and extra weight would probably counter whatever small advantage they might have provided, making it unlikely that they were anything more than parade dress.
  • Many flightless birds have highly vestigial wings that are useless for flying. Some species use their wings for other purposes, including penguins, which use their wings while swimming, rheas and ostriches, which use them as running aids and display structures, the kakapo, which uses them for gliding, and the kagu, which uses them for display and gliding, possibly among others.
  • Many species of Deinonychosaur dinosaurs (the "raptors") could glide or fly, and even species that are considered to be flightless, such as Velociraptor itself, have quill knobs, something that doesn't exist in flightless birds. One theory is that they used their wing feathers like modern raptors do, flapping them for stability as they clung to and attacked prey. Others suggest they used their feathers for Wing Assisted Incline Running, or in other words, flapping their wings so hard they can run vertically.
  • Reproductive-caste ants and termites use wings to fly in search of a mate, but after mating these have no purpose and are shed or bitten off. Most queen ants dissolve the wing muscles for nutrition after shedding. Species where queens are wingless usually can't found a colony by themselves as they're missing the wing muscles and would starve on their own.
  • Boris Vallejo has stated himself that the wings he paints on his models are purely aesthetic.
  • Mesopotamian art often shows gods and other supernatural beings with wings, but they never show them in flight.
  • Winged cats: As stated in The Other Wiki, the origin of such "wings" is either matted fur for longhaired cats, a skin disease, or conjoinment/birth defect.