Human gastric cancer (GC) is characterized by a high incidence and mortality rate, largely because it is normally not identified until a relatively advanced stage owing to a lack of early diagnostic biomarkers. Gastroscopy with biopsy is the routine method for screening, and gastrectomy is the major therapeutic strategy for GC. However, in more than 30% of GC surgical patients, cancer has progressed too far for effective medical resection. Thus, useful biomarkers for early screening or detection of GC are essential for improving patients’ survival rate. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) play an important role in tumorigenesis. They contribute to gastric carcinogenesis by altering the expression of oncogenes and tumor suppressors. Because of their stability in tissues, serum/plasma and other body fluids, miRNAs have been suggested as novel tumor biomarkers with suitable clinical potential. Recently, aberrantly expressed miRNAs have been identified and tested for clinical application in the management of GC. Aberrant miRNA expression profiles determined with miRNA microarrays, quantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction and next-generation sequencing approaches could be used to establish sample specificity and to identify tumor type. Here, we provide an up-to-date summary of tissue-based GC-associated miRNAs, describing their involvement and that of their downstream targets in tumorigenic and biological processes. We examine correlations among significant clinical parameters and prognostic indicators, and discuss recurrence monitoring and therapeutic options in GC. We also review plasma/serum-based, GC-associated, circulating miRNAs and their clinical applications, focusing especially on early diagnosis. By providing insights into the mechanisms of miRNA-related tumor progression, this review will hopefully aid in the identification of novel potential therapeutic targets.