The κ-opioid receptor (KOR) has recently emerged as an alternative therapeutic target for the development of pain medications, without deleterious side effects associated with the μ-opioid receptor (MOR). However, modulation of KOR is currently under investigation for the treatment of depression, mood disorders, psychiatric comorbidity, and specific drug addictions. However, KOR agonists also trigger adverse effects including sedation, dysphoria, and hallucinations. In this respect, there is currently much debate on alternative paradigms. Recent effort has been devoted in search of biased ligands capable of selectively activating favorable signaling over signaling associated with unwanted side effects. On the other hand, the use of partial agonists is expected to allow the analgesia to be produced at dosages lower than those required to produce the adverse effects. More empirically, the unwanted central effects can be also avoided by using peripherally restricted agonists. In this review, we discuss the more recent trends in the design of KOR-selective, biased or partial, and finally, peripherally acting agonists. Special emphasis is given on the discussion of the most recent approaches for controlling functional selectivity of KOR-specific ligands.