MicroRNAs are small RNAs involved in various biological processes and cancer metastasis. miR-196a was associated with aggressive behaviors in several cancers. The role of miR-196a in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) metastasis remains unknown. This study aimed to examine the role of miR-196a in HCC progression. Expression of miR-196a was measured in 83 human HCC samples. The HCC patients with high miR-196a expression had younger ages, lower albumin levels, higher frequency with alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) levels ≥20 ng/mL, more macrovascular invasion, and non-early stages. Kaplan–Meier analysis showed that high miR-196a expression was associated with lower recurrence-free survival. Knockdown of miR-196a decreased transwell invasiveness, sphere formation, transendothelial invasion, and Slug, Twist, Oct4, and Sox2 expression, suppressed angiogenesis, and reduced sizes of xenotransplants and number of pulmonary metastasis. Down-regulation of miR-196a decreased Runx2 and osteopontin (OPN) levels. Knockdown of Runx2 in vitro resulted in comparable phenotypes with miR-196a down-regulation. Restoration of Runx2 in miR-196a-knockdown HCC reverted tumor phenotypes. This study showed that high expression of miR-196a is associated with HCC progression in a subset of younger patients. miR-196a mediates HCC progression via upregulation of Runx2, OPN, epithelial–mesenchymal transition (EMT) regulators, and stemness genes. We proposed that miR-196a can be used as a prognostic marker and a potential therapeutic target.