Abstract Plant transformation and regeneration remain highly species- and genotype-dependent. Conventional hormone-based plant regeneration via somatic embryogenesis or organogenesis is tedious, time-consuming, and requires specialized skills and experience. Over the last 40 years, significant advances have been made to elucidate the molecular mechanisms underlying embryogenesis and organogenesis. These pioneering studies have led to a better understanding of the key steps and factors involved in plant regeneration, resulting in the identification of crucial growth and developmental regulatory genes that can dramatically improve regeneration efficiency, shorten transformation time, and make transformation of recalcitrant genotypes possible. Co-opting these regulatory genes offers great potential to develop innovative genotype-independent genetic transformation methods for various plant species, including specialty crops. Further developing these approaches has the potential to result in plant transformation without the use of hormones, antibiotics, selectable marker genes, or tissue culture. As an enabling technology, the use of these regulatory genes has great potential to enable the application of advanced breeding technologies such as genetic engineering and gene editing for crop improvement in transformation-recalcitrant crops and cultivars. This review will discuss the recent advances in the use of regulatory genes in plant transformation and regeneration, and their potential to facilitate genotype-independent plant transformation and regeneration.