Cells are continuously exposed to a variety of environmental stresses and have to decide 'to be or not to be' depending on the types and strength of stress. Among the many signaling pathways that respond to stress, mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) family members are crucial for the maintenance of cells. Three subfamilies of MAPKs have been identified: extracellular signal-regulated kinases (ERKs), c-Jun N-terminal kinases (JNKs), and p38-MAPKs. It has been originally shown that ERKs are important for cell survival, whereas JNKs and p38-MAPKs were deemed stress responsive and thus involved in apoptosis. However, the regulation of apoptosis by MAPKs is more complex than initially thought and often controversial. In this review, we discuss MAPKs in apoptosis regulation with attention to mouse genetic models and critically point out the multiple roles of MAPKs.