In the last decade, microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) SU-8 polymeric cantilevers with piezoresistive readout combined with the advances in molecular recognition techniques have found versatile applications, especially in the field of chemical and biological sensing. Compared to conventional solid-state semiconductor-based piezoresistive cantilever sensors, SU-8 polymeric cantilevers have advantages in terms of better sensitivity along with reduced material and fabrication cost. In recent times, numerous researchers have investigated their potential as a sensing platform due to high performance-to-cost ratio of SU-8 polymer-based cantilever sensors. In this article, we critically review the design, fabrication, and performance aspects of surface stress-based piezoresistive SU-8 polymeric cantilever sensors. The evolution of surface stress-based piezoresistive cantilever sensors from solid-state semiconductor materials to polymers, especially SU-8 polymer, is discussed in detail. Theoretical principles of surface stress generation and their application in cantilever sensing technology are also devised. Variants of SU-8 polymeric cantilevers with different composition of materials in cantilever stacks are explained. Furthermore, the interdependence of the material selection, geometrical design parameters, and fabrication process of piezoresistive SU-8 polymeric cantilever sensors and their cumulative impact on the sensor response are also explained in detail. In addition to the design-, fabrication-, and performance-related factors, this article also describes various challenges in engineering SU-8 polymeric cantilevers as a universal sensing platform such as temperature and moisture vulnerability. This review article would serve as a guideline for researchers to understand specifics and functionality of surface stress-based piezoresistive SU-8 cantilever sensors.[Figure not available: see fulltext.]. © 2018, The Author(s).