Around 10 million fatalities were recorded worldwide in 2020 due to cancer and statistical projections estimate the number to increase by 60% in 2040. With such a substantial rise in the global cancer burden, the disease will continue to impose a huge socio-economic burden on society. Currently, the most widely used clinical treatment modality is cytotoxic chemotherapy using platinum drugs which is used to treat variety of cancers. Despite its clinical success, critical challenges like resistance, off-target side effects and cancer variability often reduce its overall therapeutic efficiency. These challenges require faster diagnosis, simultaneous therapy and a more personalized approach toward cancer management. To this end, small-molecule 'theranostic' agents have presented a viable solution combining diagnosis and therapy into a single platform. In this review, we present a summary of recent efforts in the design and optimization of metal-based small-molecule 'theranostic' anticancer agents. Importantly, we highlight the advantages of a theranostic candidate over the purely therapeutic or diagnostic agent in terms of evaluation of its biological properties.