Development of energy storage systems is a topic of broad societal and economic relevance, and lithium ion batteries (LIBs) are currently the most advanced electrochemical energy storage systems. However, concerns on the scarcity of lithium sources and consequently the expected price increase have driven the development of alternative energy storage systems beyond LIBs. In the search for sustainable and cost-effective technologies, sodium ion batteries (SIBs) and potassium ion batteries (PIBs) have attracted considerable attention. Here, a comprehensive review of ongoing studies on electrode materials for SIBs and PIBs is provided in comparison to those for LIBs, which include layered oxides, polyanion compounds and Prussian blue analogues for positive electrode materials, and carbon-based and alloy materials for negative electrode materials. The importance of the crystal structure for electrode materials is discussed with an emphasis placed on intrinsic and dynamic structural properties and electrochemistry associated with alkali metal ions. The key challenges for electrode materials as well as the interface/interphase between the electrolyte and electrode materials, and the corresponding strategies are also examined. The discussion and insights presented in this review can serve as a guide regarding where future investigations of SIBs and PIBs will be directed.