This review focuses on the recent advances in the synthesis of nanoparticle (NP) catalysts of Pt-, Pd- and Au-based NPs as well as composite NPs. First, new developments in the synthesis of single-component Pt, Pd and Au NPs are summarized. Then the chemistry used to make alloy and composite NP catalysts aiming to enhance their activity and durability for fuel cell reactions is outlined. The review next introduces the exciting new research push in developing CoN/C and FeN/C as non-Pt catalysts. Examples of size-, shape- and composition-dependent catalyses for oxygen reduction at cathode and formic acid oxidation at anode are highlighted to illustrate the potentials of the newly developed NP catalysts for fuel cell applications.