Plasma-based ambient mass spectrometry is emerging as a frontier technology for direct analysis of sample that employs low-energy plasma as the ionization reagent. The versatile sources of ambient mass spectrometry (MS) can be classified according to the plasma formation approaches; namely, corona discharge, glow discharge, dielectric barrier discharge, and microwave-induced discharge. These techniques allow pretreatment-free detection of samples, ranging from biological materials (e.g., flies, bacteria, plants, tissues, peptides, metabolites, and lipids) to pharmaceuticals, food-stuffs, polymers, chemical warfare reagents, and daily-use chemicals. In most cases, plasma-based ambient MS performs well as a qualitative tool and as an analyzer for semi-quantitation. Herein, we provide an overview of the key concepts, mechanisms, and applications of plasma-based ambient MS techniques, and discuss the challenges and outlook. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Mass Spec Rev 34: 449–473, 2015.