During mammalian reproduction, germ cell chromatin packaging is key to prepare parental genomes for fertilization and to initiate embryonic development. While chromatin modifications such as DNA methylation and histone post-translational modifications are well known to carry regulatory information, histone variants have received less attention in this context. Histone variants alter the stability, structure and function of nucleosomes and, as such, contribute to chromatin organization in germ cells. Here, we review histone variants expression dynamics during the production of male and female germ cells, and what is currently known about their parent-of-origin effects during reproduction. Finally, we discuss the apparent conundrum behind these important functions and their recent evolutionary diversification.