Tidal marshes and mangroves are increasingly valued for nature-based mitigation of coastal storm impacts, such as flooding and shoreline erosion hazards, which are growing due to global change. As this review highlights, however, hazard mitigation by tidal wetlands is limited to certain conditions, and not all hazards are equally reduced. Tidal wetlands are effective in attenuating short-period storm-induced waves, but long-period storm surges, which elevate sea levels up to several meters for up to more than a day, are attenuated less effectively, or in some cases not at all, depending on storm conditions, wetland properties, and larger-scale coastal landscape geometry. Wetlands often limit erosion, but storm damage to vegetation (especially mangrove trees) can be substantial, and recovery may take several years. Longer-term wetland persistence can be compromised when combined with other stressors, such as climate change and human disturbances. Due to these uncertainties, nature-based coastal defense projects need to adopt adaptive management strategies.