Unofficial Xbox 360 emulation on Series X could save delisted games

Xbox 360
(Image credit: Future)

Xbox 360 emulator Xenia has been ported to Xbox Series X and S, opening up a whole lot of possibilities for playing old games on modern consoles in the future.

Xenia has been in development on PC for some time, and is the only community-made Xbox 360 emulator of note. The console port of Xenia just launched, allowing you to play Xbox 360 games on Series X and S, unfettered by Microsoft's official list of backwards-compatible games. At least, that's how it works in theory.

In reality, the console version of Xenia supports a small number of games and many of those titles exhibit major glitches and crashes. Xenia on PC is already far from mature, and this console port is very early - it's much more of an experimental tool than a meaningful way for you to enjoy your favorite 360 games for now. It comes from the same folks who brought GameCube emulator Dolphin to modern Xboxes, and has a similarly involved installation process that requires you to either put your console in dev mode or dig into ways to circumvent the official app store. If you're up for it, you can download Xenia through GitHub.

360 emulation is a rare case where the official solution - the Fission software that allows backwards compatibility on Xbox One and Series X and S - is far better than any fan-made project yet available. But Microsoft has only provided backwards compatibility updates when permission has been provided by the game's original publisher, and only around half of the Xbox 360 library is playable on the modern consoles. That number's never expanding again, and on top of that, official means to access many of these games is starting to dry up as games get delisted from the 360 marketplace.

Even if Xenia isn't quite ready for prime time right now, continued development on emulators like this will help keep these games playable even as original hardware begins to fail and publisher interest in official remasters and re-releases comes and goes.

One specific use case for Xenia is very timely: GoldenEye. The N64 classic hit modern Xbox with only very light graphical and control updates. The canceled Xbox 360 port which leaked back in 2021 is arguably a much better modernization of the game, and it's already fully playable in Xenia on PC. As YouTuber Modern Vintage Gamer notes, the XBLA GoldenEye is also one of the better-playing games in the console version of Xenia right now - though you're still at risk of bugs and crashes pending further updates.

There's never a bad time to revisit the best Xbox 360 games.

Dustin Bailey
Staff Writer

Dustin Bailey joined the GamesRadar team as a Staff Writer in May 2022, and is currently based in Missouri. He's been covering games (with occasional dalliances in the worlds of anime and pro wrestling) since 2015, first as a freelancer, then as a news writer at PCGamesN for nearly five years. His love for games was sparked somewhere between Metal Gear Solid 2 and Knights of the Old Republic, and these days you can usually find him splitting his entertainment time between retro gaming, the latest big action-adventure title, or a long haul in American Truck Simulator.