Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) in older patients is often associated with biologic and clinical characteristics that predict poor outcomes to cytarabine and anthracycline based induction chemotherapy (IC). The impact of hypomethylating agents (HMA) in the treatment of these high-risk patients is unknown. Here we retrospectively examined the remission rates and survival outcomes of 201 newly diagnosed patients ≥60 years old with therapy-related (t-AML), secondary (s-AML), or AML with myelodysplasia-related changes (AML-MRC). Ninety-eight patients received IC, and 103 received HMA. Patients in the IC cohort were younger than those who received HMA (68 vs. 74 years; p < 0.01) with lower comorbidity burden. Composite complete remission rates (CR) were 39% in IC and 27% in the HMA cohorts (p = 0.10). Overall survival (OS) was not significantly different between the two cohorts (7.59 mos vs. 5.49 mos; HR 0.75 95% CI 0.55–1.02) despite the fact that more patients in the IC cohort (33% versus 5%, p < 0.01) underwent allogeneic stem cell transplant. Patients with t-AML (HR 0.56; 95% CI 0.33–0.97) and complex karyotype without monosomal karyotype (CK + MK-; HR 0.37; 95% CI 0.19–0.75) had better OS following IC. Patients with CK + MK+ (HR 2.00; 95% CI 1.08–3.70) had improved OS following HMA. Our results support the use of HMA as an alternative upfront regimen in older individuals with newly diagnosed high-risk AML based on similar clinical outcomes to IC.