In this review we consider three classes of superconductors, namely cuprate superconductors, MgB2 and the new Fe based superconductors. All of these three systems are layered materials and multiband compounds. Their pairing mechanisms are under discussion with the exception of MgB2, which is widely accepted to be a 'conventional' electron–phonon interaction mediated superconductor, but extending the Bardeen–Cooper–Schrieffer (BCS) theory to account for multiband effects. Cuprates and Fe based superconductors have higher superconducting transition temperatures and more complex structures. Superconductivity is doping dependent in these material classes unlike in MgB2 which, as a pure compound, has the highest values of Tc and a rapid suppression of superconductivity with doping takes place. In all three material classes isotope effects have been observed, including exotic ones in the cuprates, and controversial ones in the Fe based materials. Before the area of high-temperature superconductivity, isotope effects on Tc were the signature for phonon mediated superconductivity—even when deviations from the BCS value to smaller values were observed. Since the discovery of high Tc materials this is no longer evident since competing mechanisms might exist and other mediating pairing interactions are discussed which are of purely electronic origin. In this work we will compare the three different material classes and especially discuss the experimentally observed isotope effects of all three systems and present a rather general analysis of them. Furthermore, we will concentrate on multiband signatures which are not generally accepted in cuprates even though they are manifest in various experiments, the evidence for those in MgB2, and indications for them in the Fe based compounds. Mostly we will consider experimental data, but when possible also discuss theoretical models which are suited to explain the data.