Glow discharge atomic spectrometry has been very popular for direct solid, quantitative, conductive and non-conductive materials characterization. Lateral resolution capabilities, however, have been very limited. Described in this review are the advantages and current limitations of glow discharge surface elemental mapping, coupled with optical emission or mass spectrometry, along with recent advances in measurement strategies to overcome many of the conventional limitations. Recent applications, including glow discharge optical emission spectroscopy (GDOES) ultra-high throughput elemental mapping of thin films and combinatorial libraries utilizing glow discharge as an excitation source are presented. Also, current advances for extending the lateral and depth resolution capabilities of GDOES elemental mapping to larger samples by adapting the discharge chamber design are discussed. In addition, the realization of glow discharge mass spectrometry (GDMS) elemental mapping through a pixel-by-pixel rastering method is reviewed, along with the potential advantages. Furthermore, the three-dimensional elemental mapping capabilities recently displayed by GDOES are considered to show the future trends, which include the potential of allowing elemental mapping protocols previously reserved for fundamental studies to be implemented for routine diagnostic mapping of high sample numbers.