Aims The optimal treatment for patients with atrial fibrillation (AF) and heart failure (HF) has been a subject of debate for years. We aimed to evaluate the efficacy and safety of rhythm control strategy in patients with AF complicated with HF regarding hard clinical endpoints. Methods Up-to-date randomized data comparing rhythm control using antiarrhythmic drugs (AADs) vs. rate control (Subset and results A) or rhythm control using catheter ablation vs. medical therapy (Subset B) in AF and HF patients were pooled. The primary outcomes were all-cause mortality, re-hospitalization, stroke, and thromboembolic events. A total of 11 studies involving 3598 patients were enrolled (Subset A: 2486; Subset B: 1112). As compared with medical rate control, the AADs rhythm control was associated with similar all-cause mortality [odds ratio (OR): 0.96, P = 0.65], significantly higher rate of re-hospitalization (OR: 1.25, P = 0.01), and similar rate of stroke and thromboembolic events (OR: 0.91, P = 0.76,); however, as compared with medical therapy, catheter ablation rhythm control was associated with significantly lower all-cause mortality (OR: 0.51, P = 0.0003), reduced re-hospitalization rate (OR: 0.44, P = 0.003), similar rate of stroke events (OR: 0.59, P = 0.27), greater improvement in left ventricular ejection fraction [weighted mean difference (WMD): 6.8%, P = 0.0004], lower arrhythmia recurrence (29.6% vs. 80.1%, OR: 0.04, P < 0.00001), and greater improvement in quality of life (Minnesota Living with Heart Failure Questionnaire score) (WMD: -9.1, P = 0.007). Conclusion Catheter ablation as rhythm control strategy substantially improves survival rate, reduces re-hospitalization, increases the maintenance rate of sinus rhythm, contributes to preserve cardiac function, and improves quality of life for AF patients complicated with HF.