With the rapid development of materials science, the noble metal nanoparticles (NPs) with tunable size and shape have attracted much attention because the tailored nanoparticles affected the catalytic performance tremendously. Besides the noble metal nanoparticles, the easily available transition metal nanoparticles such as Ni-NPs have also been utilized as catalysts recently for various kinds of reactions. In this review, we presented primarily work towards the preparation approach for Ni nanoparticles with predictable and controllable size, shape, composition, and morphology. Especially, the synthetic routes to the controllable Ni nanoparticles through chemical reduction, thermal decomposition, ultrasonic and microwave irradiation, coupling with using reasonably environment-friendly, low cost alternative solvent systems like ionic liquid or w/o microemulsion were illustrated. The particular attention has been given to the recent research progress in employing Ni nanoparticles as catalysts in catalytic hydrogenation of olefins, alpha, beta-unsaturated aldehydes and derivatives of nitrobenzene, and decisive factors influencing the catalytic activity of Ni nanoparticles were then summarized.