The cerebral cortex is composed of hundreds of different types of neurons, which underlie its ability to perform highly complex neural processes. How cortical neurons are generated during development constitutes a major challenge in developmental neurosciences with important implications for brain repair and diseases. Cortical neurogenesis is dependent on intrinsic and extrinsic cues, which interplay to generate cortical neurons at the right number, time and place. While the role of intrinsic factors such as proneural and Notch genes has been well established, recent evidence indicate that most classical morphogens, produced by various neural and non-neural sources throughout embryonic development, contribute to the master control and fine tuning of cortical neurogenesis. Here we review some recent advances in the dissection of the molecular logic underlying neurogenesis in the cortex, with special emphasis on the roles of morphogenic cues in this process.