This topical review provides an overview of nanolithographic techniques for nanoarrays. Using patterning techniques such as lithography, normally we aim for a higher order architecture similarly to functional systems in nature. Inspired by the wealth of complexity in nature, these architectures are translated into technical devices, for example, found in integrated circuitry or other systems in which structural elements work as discrete building blocks in microdevices. Ordered artificial nanostructures (arrays of pillars, holes and wires) have shown particular properties and bring about the opportunity to modify and tune the device operation. Moreover, these nanostructures deliver new applications, for example, the nanoscale control of spin direction within a nanomagnet. Subsequently, we can look for applications where this unique property of the smallest manufactured element is repetitively used such as, for example with respect to spin, in nanopatterned magnetic media for data storage. These nanostructures are generally called nanoarrays. Most of these applications require massively parallel produced nanopatterns which can be directly realized by laser interference (areas up to 4 cm2 are easily achieved with a Lloyd's mirror set-up). In this topical review we will further highlight the application of laser interference as a tool for nanofabrication, its limitations and ultimate advantages towards a variety of devices including nanostructuring for photonic crystal devices, high resolution patterned media and surface modifications of medical implants. The unique properties of nanostructured surfaces have also found applications in biomedical nanoarrays used either for diagnostic or functional assays including catalytic reactions on chip. Bio-inspired templated nanoarrays will be presented in perspective to other massively parallel nanolithography techniques currently discussed in the scientific literature. © 2009 IOP Publishing Ltd.