Core cross-linked star (CCS) polymers become increasingly important in polymer science and are evaluated in many value-added applications. However, limitations exist to varied degrees for different synthetic methods. It is clear that improvement in synthetic efficiency is fundamental in driving this field moving even further. Here, the most recent advances are highlighted in synthetic strategies, including cross-linking with cross-linkers of low solubility, polymerization-induced self-assembly in aqueous-based heterogeneous media, and cross-linking via dynamic covalent bonds. The understanding of CCS polymers is also further refined to advocate their role as an intermediate between linear polymers and polymeric nanoparticles, and their use as interfacial stabilizers is rationalized within this context.