Reactions that lead to destruction of aromatic ring systems often require harsh conditions and, thus, take place with poor selectivities. Selective partial dearomatization of fused arenes is even more challenging but it can be a strategic approach to creating versatile, complex polycyclic frameworks. Herein we describe a general organophotoredox approach for the chemo- and regioselective dearomatization of structurally diverse polycyclic aromatics, including quinolines, isoquinolines, quinoxalines, naphthalenes, anthracenes and phenanthrenes. The success of the new method for chemoselective oxidative rupture of aromatic moieties relies on precise manipulation of the electronic nature of the fused polycyclic arenes. Experimental and computational results show that the key to overcoming the intrinsic thermodynamic and kinetic unfavorability of the dearomatization process is an ultimate hydrogen atom transfer (HAT) step, which enables dearomatization to predominate over the otherwise favorable aromatization pathway. We show that this strategy can be applied to rapid synthesis of biologically valued targets and late-stage skeletal remodeling en route to complex structures.