Since the first demonstration of in vivo gene transfer into myocardium there have been a series of advancements that have driven the evolution of cardiac gene delivery from an experimental tool into a therapy currently at the threshold of becoming a viable clinical option. Innovative methods have been established to address practical challenges related to tissue-type specificity, choice of delivery vehicle, potency of the delivered material, and delivery route. Most importantly for therapeutic purposes, these strategies are being thoroughly tested to ensure safety of the delivery system and the delivered genetic material. This review focuses on the development of recombinant adeno-associated virus (rAAV) as one of the most valuable cardiac gene transfer agents available today. Various forms of rAAV have been used to deliver pre-event cardiac protection and to temper the severity of hypertrophy, cardiac ischemia, or infarct size. Adeno-associated virus (AAV) vectors have also been functional delivery tools for cardiac gene expression knockdown studies and successfully improving the cardiac aspects of several metabolic and neuromuscular diseases. Viral capsid manipulations along with the development of tissue-specific and regulated promoters have greatly increased the utility of rAAV-mediated gene transfer. Important clinical studies are currently underway to evaluate AAV-based cardiac gene delivery in humans.