Microphysiological systems (MPS) are making advances to provide more standardized and predictive physiologically relevant responses to test articles in living tissues and organ systems. The excitement surrounding the potential of MPS to better predict human responses to medicines and improving clinical translation is overshadowed by their relatively slow adoption by the pharmaceutical industry and regulators. Collaboration between multiorganizational consortia and regulators is necessary to build an understanding of the strengths and limitations of MPS models and closing the current gaps. Here, we review some of the advances in MPS research, focusing on liver, intestine, vascular system, kidney and lung and present examples highlighting the context of use for these systems. For MPS to gain a foothold in drug development, they must have added value over existing approaches. Ideally, the application of MPS will augment in vivo studies and reduce the use of animals via tiered screening with less reliance on exploratory toxicology studies to screen compounds. Because MPS support multiple cell types (e.g. primary or stem-cell derived cells) and organ systems, identifying when MPS are more appropriate than simple 2D in vitro models for understanding physiological responses to test articles is necessary. Once identified, MPS models require qualification for that specific context of use and must be reproducible to allow future validation. Ultimately, the challenges of balancing complexity with reproducibility will inform the promise of advancing the MPS field and are critical for realization of the goal to reduce, refine and replace (3Rs) the use of animals in nonclinical research.