The pursuit for sustainability in the papermaking industry calls for the elimination or reduction of synthetic additives and the exploration of renewable and biodegradable alternatives. Cellulose nanofibrils (CNFs), due to their inherent morphological and biochemical properties, are an excellent alternative to synthetic additives. These properties enable CNFs to improve the mechanical, functional and barrier properties of different types of paper. The nanosize diameter, micrometre length, semi-crystalline structure, high strength and modulus of CNFs has a direct influence on the mechanical properties of paper such as tensile index, burst index, Scott index, breaking length, tear index, Z-strength, E-modulus, strain at break, and tensile stiffness. This review details the role played by CNFs as an additive to improve strength properties of papers and the factors affecting the improvement in paper quality when CNFs are added as additives. The paper also includes techno-economic aspects of the process and identifies areas that need further research.