Gaming in the 2000s took another leap forward with the PlayStation 3, Nintendo Wii, and the Xbox 360. The latter is still one of the most loved consoles, with plenty of exclusive titles of its own, just like its competitors. If console gaming is not to your liking, at least some of the games can be played with the best Xbox 360 emulator.
Xbox 360 emulation is very young compared to that of other systems and that is not because of a lack of interest, but rather the difficulty of tackling the hardware. You have two solutions to play Xbox 360 games and one of them isn’t quite what we might have expected.
Emulating: Xbox 360
Platform: Windows (it could work on Linux and Android)
Take note that Xenia is the only working Xbox 360 emulator and with that, the best Xbox 360 emulator for PC. It is built for Windows, using DirectX 12, meaning you have to use Windows 10 or above. Older Windows operating systems, as well as Android and Linux, would have to use Vulkan. That is doable but with additional headaches and crashes.
The working game library boils down to around 300 titles that are playable. Some may have bugs, crashes, and glitches. That is around 18% of the 1614 tested games. You could play around 980 more, though they would be even worse, performance-wise, with more crashes and bugs.
The remainder of the games might load into the main menu, or they might not. They might have functioning gameplay up to a point. 16 titles do not even boot. That being said, provided that you have a powerful enough computer, you could play some of the titles. It is recommended to check the compatibility list before making any commitments.
Emulating: Xbox, Xbox 360
Platform: Xbox One, Xbox Series
When an emulator made by the manufacturer of the consoles is released, you know that it will be good. However, it was short-lived, no matter its performance. It had faster load times and ran more accurately, naturally. However, Microsoft stopped the Fission project on November 15, 2021. The reason behind the cancellation of the project is mostly licensing and dealing with the game developers/publishers. Technical difficulties were also mentioned, but as believable as they are, it is different when you know everything about the device you want to emulate.
This emulator is tied to Microsoft’s newer consoles, namely the Xbox One at first, and now the Xbox Series S/X. The project being canceled does not mean that the already available titles are no longer available. The compatible games can either be purchased digitally or inserted in the disc drive if you have a physical copy.
Firstly, Xbox 360 emulation was brought to the table in 2015. Given the popularity of the original Xbox and the demand for more, Xbox was also emulated and some titles were prepared, in the following years. There are 63 original Xbox titles and 632 Xbox 360 titles.
Interestingly, games that you own via disc will not be played from the disc. Instead, the console will download a version that is optimized to work on the One or Series S/X. There are a couple of Xbox 360 titles that are modernized. That includes better graphics/resolution and tweaks to the gameplay that make the titles play better and feel modern.
This is most likely the best Xbox 360 emulator that you cannot download. It comes packaged with the Xbox One and Series consoles.
Why Is Xbox Emulation So Difficult?
Upon release, the Xbox 360 was not that outrageous in terms of specification nor was it the most powerful console, quickly losing the hardware battle to the PlayStation 3.
It has a three-core PowerPC processor called the Xenon. The Xenon was not the difficult part of the emulation process. PowerPC processors were common in consoles and this one, while challenging, was tackled pretty quickly.
The problem was with the graphics card, Xenos. The Xbox 360 was often dubbed a DirectX 9 box, but that is far from the truth. Developed at the very end of DirectX 9’s lifecycle but before DirectX 10, it was a card with many features that were never standardized on the PC.
The card is much more like a mobile graphics card than otherwise, having almost identical registers as the Qualcomm Adreno 200, also known as the AMD Z430, called the mini Xenos.
After developer Triang3l joined the Xenia team, it took around three years for the graphics emulation part to be rewritten. It is now in a working state, being improved with each build. However, for decent performance, high-end hardware is necessary.
System Requirements and Emulation
The Xenia team recommends at least 6 GB of RAM, with 4 being the minimum. The CPUs should have AVX2 instruction support, meaning the Haswell Core series and onwards for Intel and Zen 1 and above for AMD.
The graphics are also tricky. Ideally, you want to run a DirectX 12-capable card that also has support for Rasterized-Ordered View. This is a hardware feature, so a newer card is mandatory for decent performance.
Given the use of DirectX 12, Windows 10 or 11 are recommended. The best 360 emulator could run on Linux and Android, but then you would have to rely on Vulkan and another layer of compatibility, further obstructing performance.
Running a Game
Xenia, the best Xbox 360 emulator, makes running games easy. There isn’t a need for a BIOS or anything like that. You simply load the dumped game file and you are good to go if the game was tested and is in a playable state.
Saving, loading, peripheral support, and standard features are all present. Xbox Live is not emulated. Other Xbox 360 features are yet to be implemented, such as Netplay and Achievements. Configuration is not available through the GUI but must be accessed through a config file, giving us the old-school emulator experience.
If you want to play Xbox 360 titles, you have two options. Option one is to download Xenia, the best Xbox 360 emulator, and hope that the games you want to play run well. The other option is to own an Xbox Series or One console and play with the official emulator, Fission.
Either of the two solutions is limited, especially the game library size. Over time, Xenia should be in a much more favorable state, given that there are daily improvements.