The localization of mRNAs in developing animal cells is essential for establishing cellular polarity and setting up the body plan for subsequent development. Cellular and molecular mechanisms by which maternal mRNAs are localized during oogenesis have been extensively studied in Drosophila and Xenopus. In contrast, evidence for mechanisms used in the localization of mRNAs encoded by developmentally important genes has also been accumulating in several other organisms. This offers the opportunity to unravel the fundamental mechanisms of mRNA localization shared among many species, as well as unique mechanisms specifically acquired or retained by animals based on their developmental needs. In addition to maternal mRNAs, the localization of zygotically expressed mRNAs in the cells of cleaving embryos is also important for early development. In this review, mRNA localization dynamics in the oocytes/eggs of Drosophila and Xenopus are first summarized, and evidence for localized mRNAs in the oocytes/eggs and cleaving embryos of other organisms is then presented.