Our aim is to present a comprehensive review of the development of modern antibacterial metallic materials as touch surfaces in healthcare settings. Initially we compare Japanese, European and US standards for the assessment of antimicrobial activity. The variations in methodologies defined in these standards are highlighted. Our review will also cover the most relevant factors that define the antimicrobial performance of metals, namely, the effect of humidity, material geometry, chemistry, physical properties and oxidation of the material. The state of the art in contact-killing materials will be described. Finally, the effect of cleaning products, including disinfectants, on the antimicrobial performance, either by direct contact or by altering the touch surface chemistry on which the microbes attach, will be discussed. We offer our outlook, identifying research areas that require further development and an overview of potential future directions of this exciting field.