Nanostructured materials have drawn a broad attention for their applications in biomedical fields. Ligand-modified nanomaterials can well mimic the dynamic extracellular matrix (ECM) microenvironments to regulate cell functions and fates. Herein, ECM mimetic gold nanoparticles (Au NPs) with tunable surface arginine-glycine-aspartate (RGD) density are designed and synthesized to induce the chondrogenic differentiation of human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs). The biomimetic Au NPs with an average size of 40 nm shows good biocompatibility without affecting the cell proliferation in the studied concentration range. The RGD motifs on Au NPs surface facilitate cellular uptake of NPs into monolayer hMSCs through integrin-mediated endocytosis. The biomimetic NPs have a promotive effect on cartilaginous matrix production and marker gene expression in cell pellet culture, especially for the biomimetic Au NPs with high surface RGD density. This study provides a novel strategy for fabricating biomimetic NPs to regulate cell differentiation, which holds great potentials in tissue engineering and biomedical applications.