Traditional therapies have limited efficacy in hepatocellular carcinoma, pancreatic cancer, and biliary tract cancer, especially for advanced and refractory cancers. Through a deeper understanding of antitumor immunity and the tumor microenvironment, novel immunotherapies are becoming available for cancer treatment. Oncolytic virus (OV) therapy is an emerging type of immunotherapy that has demonstrated effective antitumor efficacy in many preclinical studies and clinical studies. Thus, it may represent a potential feasible treatment for hard to treat gastrointestinal (GI) tumors. Here, we summarize the research progress of OV therapy for the treatment of hepato-bilio-pancreatic cancers. In general, most OV therapies exhibits potent, specific oncolysis both in cell lines in vitro and the animal models in vivo. Currently, several clinical trials have suggested that OV therapy may also be effective in patients with refractory hepato-bilio-pancreatic cancer. Multiple strategies such as introducing immunostimulatory genes, modifying virus capsid and combining various other therapeutic modalities have been shown enhanced specific oncolysis and synergistic anti-cancer immune stimulation. Combining OV with other antitumor therapies may become a more effective strategy than using virus alone. Nevertheless, more studies are needed to better understand the mechanisms underlying the therapeutic effects of OV, and to design appropriate dosing and combination strategies.© 2020 The Authors. Cancer Medicine published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.