Soil moisture (SM) datasets are critical to understanding the global water, energy, and biogeochemical cycles and benefit extensive societal applications. However, individual sources of SM data (e.g., in situ and satellite observations, reanalysis, offline land surface model simulations, Earth system model – ESM – simulations) have source-specific limitations and biases related to the spatiotemporal continuity, resolutions, and modeling and retrieval assumptions. Here, we developed seven global, gap-free, long-term (1970–2016), multilayer (0–10, 10–30, 30–50, and 50–100 cm) SM products at monthly 0.5∘ resolution (available at https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.13661312.v1; Wang and Mao, 2021) by synthesizing a wide range of SM datasets using three statistical methods (unweighted averaging, optimal linear combination, and emergent constraint). The merged products outperformed their source datasets when evaluated with in situ observations (mean bias from −0.044 to 0.033 m3 m−3, root mean square errors from 0.076 to 0.104 m3 m−3, Pearson correlations from 0.35 to 0.67) and multiple gridded datasets that did not enter merging because of insufficient spatial, temporal, or soil layer coverage. Three of the new SM products, which were produced by applying any of the three merging methods to the source datasets excluding the ESMs, had lower bias and root mean square errors and higher correlations than the ESM-dependent merged products. The ESM-independent products also showed a better ability to capture historical large-scale drought events than the ESM-dependent products. The merged products generally showed reasonable temporal homogeneity and physically plausible global sensitivities to observed meteorological factors, except that the ESM-dependent products underestimated the low-frequency temporal variability in SM and overestimated the high-frequency variability for the 50–100 cm depth. Based on these evaluation results, the three ESM-independent products were finally recommended for future applications because of their better performances than the ESM-dependent ones. Despite uncertainties in the raw SM datasets and fusion methods, these hybrid products create added value over existing SM datasets because of the performance improvement and harmonized spatial, temporal, and vertical coverages, and they provide a new foundation for scientific investigation and resource management.