Patients with non-valvular atrial fibrillation (AF) face an increased risk of stroke compared with those in normal sinus rhythm. The vitamin K antagonist warfarin, available for over half a century, is highly effective in reducing the risk of stroke in patients with AF, but it is a difficult drug to use properly. As a result, it is challenging to keep the anticoagulant effect of warfarin in the desired range. Newer oral anticoagulants (NOACs) that directly inhibit Factor IIa (thrombin) or Factor Xa provide reliable anticoagulation when administer in fixed oral doses without routine coagulation monitoring. This manuscript will review in detail the pivotal trials of these NOACs that led to their approval as well as comment on the factors that should influence their selection.