It is presented a systematic literature review of artificial reef research, including 620 studies throughout the world from 1962 to 2018. The primary focus of this study was to examine long-term trends in research, focusing on ecological and socioeconomic questions, and to develop new research directions for this field. From 1962 to the beginning of the 1990s, the United States and Japan were the main centers of artificial reef research. Subsequently, researchers in several other countries (particularly China, Australia, Italy, Brazil, and the United Kingdom) began to focus on this subject, resulting in an increase in the number of artificial reef studies. In general, publications about artificial reefs have concentrated on investigating the structure of populations and marine communities and evaluating new technical designs and materials to construct artificial habitats. The science of artificial reefs is responding to new challenges with an increase in more elaborate techniques, such as the use of remotely-operated submarines, organic indicators, isotopes, and molecular biology, while research that evaluates the socioeconomic aspects of artificial reefs is lacking. There are many aspects that deserve more research attention, such as the use of alternative inert materials, environmental impact assessment and mitigation, and analysis of conflicts with affected fisheries communities. The greater challenge is to overcome the apparent division between theory vs. application and to include robust management models of these artificial environments.