Currently, sedimentologists focus on the challenging issue of microbial carbonates, which are regarded as "one of the sedimentary rocks most difficult to study", having complicated sedimentary fabric. Their characteristic features closely related to microbial activity, distributed over a long period of geological time, and formed in diversified sedimentary environments. The main research concentrations are the calcified microbial mats and biofilms in geological records as the products of lithification and diagenesis. Starting from the origin, this paper systematically reviewed and explained the processes dwelling within two types of microbial communities, the thinner biofilm and the thicker microbial mat, which enabled them to convert into microbial carbonates through biomineralization and lithification. This study proposed that the existence of multiple microbial mats was another important cause for the diversification and complexity of microbial carbonates in addition to its complex depositional process. Moreover, the sedimentary characteristics and classification of different types of microbial carbonates were reviewed, exemplifying the Cambrian microbial carbonates in the North China Platform. These microbial carbonates are suggested to be placed under "bindstone" after Embry and Kloven, which can be further divided into 5 types, stromatolites, thrombolites, oncolites, laminites and leiolites. Dendrolite is not categorized as a separate class, instead attributed to thrombolites. The microbial carbonates may possess good source rock potential because of the enriched organic content, and may also serve as hydrocarbon reservoirs because of certain microbial textures and fabrics leading to significant porosity and permeability. Because of their biomineralization processes related to microbial activity, the microbial carbonates are not only an important window to understand the evolution of the earth's surface environment, but also capable of forming large-scale reservoirs, and their scientific and economic values are self-evident.