AbstractMagnesium (Mg) and its alloys present great potential to be extensively applied in different applications. However, the relatively poor resistance to corrosion and wear significantly restricts their applications in practice. As one of strategies of surface treatment, micro-arc oxidation (MAO) process attracts a lot of attention, since it does not use neither expensive equipment, nor complicated manipulation. This review systematically discusses MAO mechanism and some typical models, which still need to be further developed to provide a better understanding and guide for future researchers. Subsequently, main influencing factors of MAO process are analyzed in detail. Further, some popular applications of MAO coatings are respectively reviewed, including biomedical application, decoration, thermal control, corrosion and wear resistance, and industrial applications in practice. The existing issues and future perspectives are finally discussed to further accelerate extensive applications of Mg alloys.