In the early nineties, microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) technology has been still in its infancy. As silicon (Si) is not a transducer material, it was clear at the very beginning that mechanically active materials had to be introduced to MEMS in order to enable functional microdevices with actuation capability beyond electrostatics. At that time, shape memory alloys (SMAs) have been available in bulk form, mainly as SMA wires and SMA plates. On the macro scale, these materials show highest work densities compared to other actuation principles in the order of 107 J/m3, which stimulated research on the integration of SMA to MEMS. Subsequently, two approaches for producing planar materials have been initiated (1) magnetron sputtering of SMA thin films and (2) the integration of rolled SMA foils, which both turned out to be very successful creating a paradigm change in microactuation technology. The following review covers important milestones of the research and development of SMA foil-based microactuators including materials characterization, design engineering, technology, and demonstrator development as well as first commercial products.