This article reviews recent progress in understanding the resistive switching (RS) behavior and improvements in device performance of RS metal oxide (MO) thin-film systems and devices. The diverse RS MO materials are classified according to their switching mechanisms and characteristics. For each category, some representative materials are selected, and their characteristics are discussed. In addition, other factors such as the device structure, which also plays a crucial role in determining the device properties, are discussed as well. When applied in a real circuit (e.g., in a crossbar structure), there are device features/characteristics that need to be considered, including the bias polarity for switching, the current-voltage relationship, reliability, and scaling issues. Since nonvolatile RS in many MO materials is primarily associated with localized conduction channels, understanding the nature and the dynamic change of the current path structure is crucial and therefore is reviewed at length here. Guidelines for the choice of materials and access devices and their fabrication methods will also be provided. Finally, this review concludes with the outlook and challenges of MO-based resistance change devices for semiconductor memories.