The nanowire geometry provides potential advantages over planar wafer-based or thin-film solar cells in every step of the photoconversion process. These advantages include reduced reflection, extreme light trapping, improved band gap tuning, facile strain relaxation, and increased defect tolerance. These benefits are not expected to increase the maximum efficiency above standard limits; instead, they reduce the quantity and quality of material necessary to approach those limits, allowing for substantial cost reductions. Additionally, nanowires provide opportunities to fabricate complex single-crystalline semiconductor devices directly on low-cost substrates and electrodes such as aluminum foil, stainless steel, and conductive glass, addressing another major cost in current photovoltaic technology. This review describes nanowire solar cell synthesis and fabrication, important characterization techniques unique to nanowire systems, and advantages of the nanowire geometry.