Xbox 360 was a powerful console that, like the PlayStation 3, was considered impossible to emulate on PCs. As with PS3 and the RPCS3 emulator, the impossible became a reality, with Xenia becoming the first emulator to bring dozens of Xbox 360 games to the desktop. Let’s see how you can use this dead-easy emulator to play Xbox 360 games on your PC.
Note: Xenia is very much a work-in-progress and currently isn’t functional with most Xbox 360 games. The emulator has a much smaller team working on it than the more polished RPCS3, so manage your expectations with regard to how well it will perform.
The general rule is that Xenia is more GPU-dependant, while RPCS3 is more CPU-dependent, so a powerful GPU for this to run properly is required.
Xenia Game Compatibility List
Before diving in with Xenia, you probably want to have an idea of what games you can actually run with it (assuming you have the recommended Nvidia GTX 1070 GPU to run games smoothly in the first place).
The best place to get the most up-to-date list of games compatibility on Xenia is to go to the games compatibility list on the Xenia Github. Here you’ll see developers submitting information about how playable games are.
The ideal tag you’re looking for is “state-playable,” which means the game runs pretty smoothly from start to finish. The next one down from that is “state-gameplay,” but don’t expect a seamless experience.
So if you’ve checked out the games compatibility list and have seen that the game you want to play works, read on.
To get started, visit the official Xenia site.
Search for the “Latest Release: Available here” string in the page and click on the “here” link.
A new page will load, presenting only a single version for Windows 7 or later. Click on the single “master” link to get the only available version for Windows. Save the file somewhere.
The developers also make available experimental “Canary” builds, which could perform (much) better in some games but break others. Canary builds are the latest and greatest but are considered unstable. To make a long story short, you should have both versions available and try both with the games you wish to play to find which performs better.
With both versions downloaded, extract their archives somewhere on your HDD. In our screenshot, you can see three instead of two versions because an even newer Canary version was released while writing this article. It’s worth keeping such alternative versions since things can and may break between releases, rendering a game you were playing temporarily incompatible.
Time to Play
Congratulations, with the hard part behind you, you’re now ready to start playing! Start by trying out the Canary version. Enter its folder and run the “xenia-canary.exe” you’ll find there.
Note: Xenia works with both ISOs of disc-based games and digitally-distributed XBLA files. It’s not within this tutorial’s scope to talk about how to back up your games, and it’s a relatively complicated process. You can read more about it here.
Select “File -> Open” to load your first game into Xenia.
Point the file requester that pops up to the location of a game. If it’s a disc-based game, you should select either its ISO file or the folder where the ISO’s files are extracted. If it’s an XBLA game, you should point the requester to its folder and select its main executable file, with a “.xex” extension. For this tutorial, we used solely disc-based backups.
Almost immediately, the game will load, and you can start looking for the next one. You see, Xenia is under heavy development and remains incompatible with many games for the Xbox 360.
If two out of your three games don’t work, as in, they don’t load at all, freeze, or show graphical glitches, there’s not much you can do but skip to the next game and hope it works.
Xenia doesn’t offer options that could improve compatibility like RPCS3 does for the PS3. If you open your Documents folder, you’ll find its configuration file in a “Xenia” subdirectory. And yet, nothing you tweak there can make an unsupported game work. What you can do, though, is switch between versions. That’s why we suggested you download both the Canary and Master versions as well as keep backups of past versions. If a game doesn’t work, close the version of Xenia you’re using and try it in a different one.
Also note that some requesters that would normally appear with the Xbox 360’s Dashboard interface, will pop up using its own windows in Xenia. One such example is the Xbox Live requester in the above screenshot or any prompts that may ask you to enter a character’s name, select a storage device, and so on. Unlike when playing on an actual Xbox 360, here you’ll have to use your mouse and keyboard to interact with those.
One of the problems with Xenia is that you can’t change the options and settings from within the app itself. To change things like resolution, you need to manually enter this information in the Xenia config file.
For the config file to appear, just open Xenia once, then close it. In the “Documents” folder (default: C:\Users\username\Documents\Xenia), a few new files should appear, including “xenia.config.toml.” Open this file with Notepad.
Here you’ll see a bunch of options you can change, with information on the right side about what each one does.
You shouldn’t mess with these if you don’t know what they do! Here are a few settings you may want to change:
- license_mask – Change to “1” if playing XBL games; leave at “0” for disc-based X360 games.
- draw_resolution_scale – “1” is the default X360 resolution, “2” will double the resolution, “3” will triple it and so on.
- gpu – if a game doesn’t work, try changing the graphics driver from “any” to one of those listed.
Future versions are expected to improve compatibility and include a better form of in-game menus instead of the requesters above. Alternatively, you may want to emulate the console’s dashboard for a more authentic experience. Each new version comes with optimizations, fixes, and tweaks, so if a game you want to play doesn’t work in the current version, try it again in a newer version in one or two months.
If you have Xbox One instead, you can stream Xbox One to your Windows PC instead of using Xenia.
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