How Xbox One X emulation technology is helping to resurrect the last two generations of Xbox classics in 4K

This was by no means an easy list to put together. Thanks to Microsoft’s exhaustive emulation efforts, there are dozens of games from past generations you can now play in Ultra HD. We’ve narrowed it down to our favourite eight titles, encompassing greats from both the original Xbox and Xbox 360. Was it hard leaving out patched 4K versions of Portal 2 and Panzer Dragoon Orta? Damn straight. But the following group of varied, now superbly sharp, classics all strike a great balance between offering unique experiences, and really making the most out of Xbox One X’s superb back- compat features. Get ready for 4K cowboys, and one super sweary squirrel. 

8) Conker: Live and Reloaded

Following the frequently drunken, expletive-filled frolics of a sauced-up squirrel, Conker: Live & Reloaded’s madcap action is as eclectic as it is filthy. Hurl toilet rolls into the gaping jaw of an almighty singing poo; embark on a gory beach invasion ode to Saving Private Ryan; help an amorous bee seduce a sentient flower – don’t ask. The 16x resolution boost over the original Xbox title unsurprisingly benefits the game’s superb character models hugely. Conker’s bushy tail and furry face look lovely in 1920p, and the raw power of the Xbox One X ensures velvety smooth 60fps performance. A rude riot. 

7) The Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind

This was always visually drab: even a resolution boost to 1920p can only do so much to make all those brown environments look appealing. Thankfully, there’s more to Xbox One X backwards-compatibility than a mere pixel upgrade. On the first Xbox, Bethesda’s fantasy RPG was a jittery mess. Thanks to the beefy 12GB of RAM Microsoft’s supercharged console boasts, Morrowind now runs at a relatively stable 60fps, whereas Bill’s first box could barely hit half that framerate. One of the main selling points of the X’s back-compat features is making older games less of a hassle to play, a box this newly smooth RPG more than ticks. 

6) SSX 3

This open-ended extreme sports treat boasts amazing ambience, a disgustingly hummable soundtrack and three momentous peaks to carve up. SSX 3’s freeride mode makes it a more relaxing experience than its trick- obsessed predecessors, and careening down a mountain, casually collecting snow crystals, is the definition of original Xbox chill. And SSX 3 has a widescreen mode, meaning it will fill every inch of your 4K display. The Xbox One X patch delivers a crystal clear experience that makes us sorry extreme sports titles have died a death on Xbox One. Sorry Steep: you’re no SSX 3

5) Mirror's Edge

There’s very little out there in the Xbox space that’s quite like Mirror’s Edge. The game’s urgent first-person parkour controls elegantly, and the option to go through the entire campaign without once firing a gun is refreshing in the current blaster-obsessed climate. The Xbox One X enhancements also serve DICE’s unique platformer better than most upgraded 360 titles. With the appropriate X patch running, the uncluttered aesthetic that defines the look of Faith’s boldly minimalist world really impress on a 4K TV. Thanks to the sparse art style, those original 720p textures don’t grate as much as you’d expect in Ultra HD. 

4) Halo 3

Until the Master Chief Collection gets a 4K patch, the most striking way to replay Halo 3 is to run the 360 version on Xbox One X. Whether you look out that slightly scratched 11-year-old disc or download a digital copy, Chief’s trilogy-capper runs at 2160p on the X. Compare this to the 1080p upscaling job seen in the MCC, and the emulated 360 version is significantly sharper – it also supports HDR. Sure, it’s a slight bummer we’re locked to 30fps, but seeing big John in 4K is a Covenant-crippling pleasure. This is no antiquated nostalgia act: for our money, Halo 3 serves up a far more compelling campaign than Halo 5

3) Gears of War 3

It’s astonishing how good this 2011 game looks with Xbox One X enhancements in place. Such were the budgets Epic Games was working with, Gears 3 visually outguns many 2018 games. Unlike its two predecessors, the majority of cutscenes are delivered in-engine, meaning far fewer cutaways to grubby 720p pre-rendered videos. Play the first level and that boss fight on a decent 4K TV, and you’ll be floored. It may not be quite as critically acclaimed as Gears 2, yet this sequel is still well-paced, while also boasting the series’ best script. 

2) Crackdown

With the bump to a full 2160p, Crackdown is instantly revitalised as an ultra attractive 4K open world. The game’s parkour playground holds up admirably,and the Xbox One X patch smooths out the original 360 adventure’s performance dips, too. Now when you send a grenade hurtling into large groups of goons, the framerate no longer dips into the 20fps range, instead holding firm at 30fps. The X’s emulator also allows for the addition of 16x anisotropic filtering, which results in clearer ground textures. 

1) Red Dead Redemption

Perhaps the greatest open world game ever is now playable in pin-sharp 4K, and hoo- boy if that doesn’t make our eyes elated. We’ll probably never get a remaster of John Marston’s scintillating Wild West saga, but thanks to this spring’s Xbox One X patch, 4K TV owners no longer need one. Such is the strength of Rockstar San Diego’s original art assets, playing the game from a 360 disc at 2160p looks wonderful. With the 9x resolution boost, you can feel the baking heat of those prairies around Armadillo like never before, while the stars that pepper the night sky suddenly pierce the darkness more vibrantly than before. Even without the 4K emulation, Red Dead Redemption remains an undisputed masterpiece. The American Frontier mesmerises and those shootouts still crackle, while no other game captures a sense of time and place quite like this Old West wonder. You need 4K Mr Marston in your life pronto. 

David Meikleham
Google AMP Stories Editor

David has worked for Future under many guises, including for GamesRadar+ and the Official Xbox Magazine. He is currently the Google Stories Editor for GamesRadar and PC Gamer, which sees him making daily video Stories content for both websites. David also regularly writes features, guides, and reviews for both brands too.