Over recent decades, the exploitation of wave energy resources has sparked a wide range of technologies dedicated to capturing the available power with maximum efficiency, reduced costs, and minimum environmental impacts. These different objectives are fundamental to guarantee the development of the marine wave energy sector, but require also refined assessments of available resource and expected generated power to optimize devices designs and locations. We reviewed here the most recent resource characterizations starting from (i) investigations based on available observations (in situ and satellite) and hindcast databases to (ii) refined numerical simulations specifically dedicated to wave power assessments. After an overall description of formulations and energy metrics adopted in resource characterization, we exhibited the benefits, limitations and potential of the different methods discussing results obtained in the most energetic locations around the world. Particular attention was dedicated to uncertainties in the assessment of the available and expected powers associated with wave–climate temporal variability, physical processes (such as wave–current interactions), model implementation and energy extraction. This up-to-date review provided original methods complementing the standard technical specifications liable to feed advanced wave energy resource assessment.