A series of N-dibenzosuberene substituted aroyl selenourea ligands L1–L3 and their Ru(II) (η6-p-cymene) complexes 1–3, [Ru(II) (η6-p-cymene) L] (L = monodentate aroyl selenourea ligand) were synthesized and characterized. The molecular structures of the ligand L3 and complex 3 were confirmed by single-crystal XRD method. The single-crystal XRD study results revealed that aroyl selenourea ligand coordinates with ruthenium via Se neutral monodentate atom. In vitro DNA interaction studies were investigated by UV–Visible and fluorescence spectroscopic methods which showed that the intercalative mode of binding is in the order of 3 > 2 > 1 with the Ru(II) (η6-p-cymene) complexes. The binding affinity of the bovine serum albumin with complexes was calculated using spectroscopic methods. Quantum chemical computations were made using DFT (density functional theory), BL3YP; LANL2DZ basis set in order to determine the frontier molecular orbital parameters and MESP for the newly synthesized complexes. The complexes 1–3 have shown intensive cytotoxicity against the cancer lines HepG-2 and A549 under in vitro conditions. Complex 3 (IC50 = 62 μM) has shown significant cytotoxic activity against HepG-2 compared to cisplatin standard drug. The complexes also examined for their antimicrobial activity. The complex 2 exhibited good activity against B. subtilis (MIC: 13.60 μg/mL), E. coli (MIC: 8.01 μg/mL) and A. flavus (MIC = 15.60 μg/mL), respectively, compared to reference drugs Streptomycin and Ketoconazole. © 2020, Springer Nature B.V.