Shape deformation hydrogels, which are one of the most promising and essential classes of stimuli-responsive polymers, could provide large-scale and reversible deformation under external stimuli. Due to their wet and soft properties, shape deformation hydrogels are anticipated to be a candidate for the exploration of biomimetic materials, and have shown various potential applications in many fields. Here, an overview of the mechanisms of shape deformation hydrogels and methods for their preparation is presented. Some innovative and efficient strategies to fabricate programmable deformation hydrogels are then introduced. Moreover, successful explorations of their potential applications, including information encryption, soft robots and bionomic systems, are discussed. Finally, remaining great challenges including the achievement of multiple stable deformation states and the combination of shape deformation and sensing are highlighted.