Cartilage tissue engineering is concerned with developing in vitro cartilage implants that closely match the properties of native cartilage, for eventual implantation to replace damaged cartilage. The three components to cartilage tissue engineering are cell source, such as in vitro expanded autologous chondrocytes or mesenchymal progenitor cells, a scaffold onto which the cells are seeded and a bioreactor which attempts to recreate the in vivo physicochemical conditions in which cartilage develops. Although much progress has been made towards the goal of developing clinically useful cartilage constructs, current constructs have inferior physicochemical properties than native cartilage. One of the reasons for this is the neglect of mechanical forces in cartilage culture. Bioreactors have been defined as devices in which biological or biochemical processes can be re-enacted under controlled conditions e.g. pH, temperature, nutrient supply, O2 tension and waste removal. The purpose of this review is to detail the role of bioreactors in the engineering of cartilage, including a discussion of bioreactor designs, current state of the art and future perspectives.