The mall's concept was designed by the Triple Five Group, owned by the Ghermezian brothers, who also own the largest shopping mall in North America, the West Edmonton Mall. The Mall of America is located on the site of the former Metropolitan Stadium, where the Minnesota Vikings and Minnesota Twins played until the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome opened in 1982. A plaque in the mall's amusement park commemorates the former location of home plate and one seat from Met Stadium was placed in Mall of America at the exact location it occupied in the stadium, commemorating a 520-foot (160 m) home run hit by hall-of-famer Harmon Killebrew on June 3, 1967.
In 1986, the Bloomington Port Authority signed an agreement with the Ghermezian organization. Groundbreaking for the mall took place on June 14, 1989. Organizations involved include Melvin Simon and Associates, Teachers Insurance and Annuity (a.k.a. TIAA) and the office of architect Jon Jerde.
Mall of America opened its doors to the public on August 11, 1992. Its anchors were Nordstrom, Macy's, Bloomingdale's and Sears. Even before opening, the mall had earned several nicknames, including "The Megamall", "Sprawl of America", "Hugedale" in reference to the four major "dale" shopping malls within the Twin Cities: Rosedale, Southdale, Ridgedale and the now-defunct Brookdale.
Mall of America became the largest shopping mall in total area and largest in total store vendors in the United States when it opened. The Mall of America's 42 million annual visitors equal roughly eight times the population of the state of Minnesota. As of 2015
, the mall employed over 11,000 workers year-round and 13,000 during peak seasons.
On September 4, 1995, the mall hosted the first episode of WCW Monday Nitro.
In 2003, after a protracted six-year legal battle between Simon Property Group, the managing general partner of the property, and the Ghermezian brothers/Triple Five Group, over majority ownership of the site, a federal appeals court ruled in favor of the Ghermezians, effectively transferring control and planning authority of the mall back to the creator of the concept. The dispute stemmed from a 1999 purchase of Teacher's Insurance's 27.5% equity stake by Simon Properties, giving them majority ownership. The Ghermezians claimed they were never told of the deal and sued Simon, citing fiduciary responsibility. On November 3, 2006, the Ghermezians gained full control of Mall of America by spending US$1 billion.
On May 18, 2008, the Mall of America received a tax break for a proposed $2 billion expansion. The bill gave the city of Bloomington the ability to increase taxes on sales, lodging and food and beverages to finance a parking ramp at the mall.  On March 24, 2012, the Triple Five Group announced the start of a $200 million expansion that would build into the north parking lot of the mall. The plans called for an additional hotel and an additional 200,000 square feet (19,000 m2) of retail space. The project broke ground in the fall of 2013 and began opening in stages in the summer of 2015. In March 2014, ground was broken on the mall's north side for the $104 million, 14-story JW Marriott hotel, owned and financed by the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community. In 2018, it was announced that MOA had proposed to build an indoor water park, with a cost between $150 to $200 million for the project.