Over the last 15 years, the supernova community has endeavoured to directly identify progenitor stars for core-collapse supernovae discovered in nearby galaxies. These precursors are often visible as resolved stars in high-resolution images from space-and ground-based telescopes. The discovery rate of progenitor stars is limited by the local supernova rate and the availability and depth of archive images of galaxies, with 18 detections of precursor objects and 27 upper limits. This review compiles these results (from 1999 to 2013) in a distance-limited sample and discusses the implications of the findings. The vast majority of the detections of progenitor stars are of type II-P, II-L, or IIb with one type Ib progenitor system detected and many more upper limits for progenitors of Ibc supernovae (14 in all). The data for these 45 supernovae progenitors illustrate a remarkable deficit of high-luminosity stars above an apparent limit of logL/L⊙ ≃ 5.1 dex. For a typical Salpeter initial mass function, one would expect to have found 13 high-luminosity and high-mass progenitors by now. There is, possibly, only one object in this time- and volume-limited sample that is unambiguously high-mass (the progenitor of SN2009ip) although the nature of that supernovae is still debated. The possible biases due to the influence of circumstellar dust, the luminosity analysis, and sample selection methods are reviewed. It does not appear likely that these can explain the missing high-mass progenitor stars. This review concludes that the community’s work to date shows that the observed populations of supernovae in the local Universe are not, on the whole, produced by high-mass (M ≳ 18 M⊙) stars. Theoretical explosions of model stars also predict that black hole formation and failed supernovae tend to occur above an initial mass of M ≃ 18 M⊙. The models also suggest there is no simple single mass division for neutron star or black-hole formation and that there are islands of explodability for stars in the 8–120 M⊙ range.The observational constraints are quite consistent with the bulk of stars above M ≳ 18 M⊙ collapsing to form black holes with no visible supernovae.