Nivin applied for the audition of Malarvaadi Arts Club, but was not included in the 12 shortlisted actors. However, when one dropped out, he was given a second chance to the audition, and got his debut role. Since then, he had acted in the films The Metro and Sevenes, and brief appearances in Traffic and Spanish Masala. He appeared in music video Nenjodu Cherthu from the album Yuvvh, what The Hindu called "a hugely popular" , which became a viral hit on YouTube. The 2012 film Thattathin Marayathu was his acting vehicle which became the biggest hit of the year. After Thattathin Marayathu he was called "the current youth sensation" and "hot property". He received offers from directors including Sathyan Anthikad, Rajesh Pillai, Aashiq Abu and Shyamaprasad. Nivin made his debut in Tamil with the bi-lingual film Neram. His other Malayalam films in 2013 includes Anju Sundarikal and Sunil Ibrahim's Arikil Oraal. In 2014 he appeared in Abrid Shine's directorial debut, 1983 where he played the role of Rameshan. Followed with debutant Jude Anthany Joseph's Ohm Shanthi Oshaana was a romantic comedy in which he portrayed the role Giri, which released a week after 1983. His next release Bangalore Days was directed by Anjali Menon. In the same year, he played a cameo role in the Lal Jose film Vikramadithyan. In 2015, Nivin appeared in Mili, Oru Vadakkan Selfie and Ivide . He then acted in Premam where he played the role of George David. It went on to become one of the highest grossing Malayalam movies.It grossed about 67 crores. After the release of Premam, Nivin Pauly was described as the next Mohanlal in the social medias and got a "superstar" tag.