Rats and mice are attracted by novel objects. They readily approach novel objects and explore them with their vibrissae, nose and forepaws. It is assumed that such a single explorative episode leaves a lasting and complex memory trace, which includes information about the features of the object explored, as well as where and even when the object was encountered. Indeed, it has been shown that rodents are able to discriminate a novel from a familiar object (one-trial object recognition), can detect a mismatch between the past and present location of a familiar object (one-trial object-place recognition), and can discriminate different objects in terms of their relative recency (temporal order memory), i.e., which one of two objects has been encountered earlier. Since the novelty-preference paradigm is very versatile and has some advantages compared to several other memory tasks, such as the water maze, it has become a powerful tool in current neurophamacological, neuroanatomical and neurogenetical memory research using both rats and mice. This review is intended to provide a comprehensive summary on key findings delineating the brain structures, neurotransmitters, molecular mechanisms and genes involved in encoding, consolidation, storage and retrieval of different forms of one-trial object memory in rats and mice.