Catalysis, as the key to minimize the energy requirement and environmental impact of today's chemical industry, plays a vital role in many fields directly related to our daily life and economy, including energy generation, environment control, manufacture of chemicals, medicine synthesis, etc. Rational design and fabrication of highly efficient catalysts have become the ultimate goal of today's catalysis research. For the purpose of handling and product separation, heterogeneous catalysts are highly preferred for industrial applications and a large part of which are the composites of transition metal nanoparticles (TMNPs). With the fast development of nanoscience and nanotechnology and assisted with theoretical investigations, basic understanding on tailoring the electronic structure of these nanocomposites has been gained, mainly by precise control of the composition, morphology, interfacial structure and electronic states. With the rise of graphene, chemical routes to prepare graphene were developed and various graphene-based composites were fabricated. Transition metal nanoparticles-reduced graphene oxide (TMNPs–rGO) composites have attracted considerable attention, because of their intriguing catalytic performance which have been extensively explored for energy- and environment-related applications to date. This review summarizes our recent experimental and theoretical efforts on understanding the superior catalytic performance of subnanosized TMNPs–rGO composites.