It has long been known that there is a genetic component to obesity, and that characterizing this underlying factor would likely offer the possibility of better intervention in the future. Monogenic obesity has proved to be relatively straightforward, with a combination of linkage analysis and mouse models facilitating the identification of multiple genes. In contrast, genome-wide association studies have successfully revealed a variety of genetic loci associated with the more common form of obesity, allowing for very strong consensus on the underlying genetic architecture of the phenotype for the first time. Although a number of significant findings have been made, it appears that very little of the apparent heritability of body mass index has actually been explained to date. New approaches for data analyses and advances in technology will be required to uncover the elusive missing heritability, and to aid in the identification of the key causative genetic underpinnings of obesity.