Despite advantages of in vitro embryo production in many species, widespread use of this technology is limited by generally lower developmental competence of in vitro derived embryos compared to in vivo counterparts. Regardless, in vivo or in vitro gametes and embryos face and must adjust to multiple microenvironments especially at preimplantation stages. Moreover, the embryo has to be able to further adapt to environmental cues in utero to result in the birth of live and healthy offspring. Enormous strides have been made in understanding and meeting stage-specific requirements of preimplantation embryos, but interpretation of the data is made difficult due to the complexity of the wide array of culture systems and the remarkable plasticity of developing embryos that seem able to develop under a variety of conditions. Nevertheless, a primary objective remains meeting, as closely as possible, the preimplantation embryo requirements as provided in vivo. In general, oocytes and embryos develop more satisfactorily when cultured in groups. However, optimization of individual culture of oocytes and embryos is an important goal and area of intensive current research for both animal and human clinical application. Successful culture of individual embryos is of primary importance in order to avoid ovarian superstimulation and the associated physiological and psychological disadvantages for patients. This review emphasizes stage specific shifts in embryo metabolism and requirements and research to optimize in vitro embryo culture conditions and supplementation, with a view to optimizing embryo culture in general, and culture of single embryos in particular.