Xbox Series X backwards compatibility explained: four generations of Xbox in one place

Xbox Series X backwards compatibility

Xbox Series X backwards compatiblity - as with the last generation - is very easy to understand because everything just works. And some of your games will look and play better than ever before on Xbox Series X. 

Microsoft stated in a blog postthat it "knew from the outset that they wanted to double down on compatibility" and have committed to ensuring "the thousands of games on Xbox One, including Xbox 360 and original Xbox games, will play even better on Xbox Series X".  

This echoes what Xbox boss Phil Spencer said in a previous blog post, where he succinctly outlined Xbox Series X backwards compatibility support. 

"Our commitment to compatibility means existing Xbox One games, including backward-compatible Xbox 360 and original Xbox games, look and play better than ever before," Spencer says. "Your favorite games, including titles in Xbox Game Pass, benefit from steadier framerates, faster load times, and improved resolution and visual fidelity – all with no developer work required. Your Xbox One gaming accessories also come forward with you."

In other words, if you can play it on Xbox One, you can play it on Xbox Series X. This also applies to previous-gen games, so not all Xbox 360 and original Xbox games will be playable on Xbox Series X, but everything in Microsoft's ever-expanding backwards compatible library will. Not only that, but games running on Xbox Series X will benefit from even greater performance improvements than the ones seen on Xbox One, which already worked wonders for older games. With the Xbox Series X specs sporting an NVMe SSD, dramatically more RAM, and a much beefier CPU and GPU, older games should run smoothly and load lightning-fast. 

(Image credit: Microsoft)

As Microsoft's latest blog post explained, next-gen backwards compatibility is also tied to the future compatibility of the Xbox One. Xbox Game Studios head Matt Booty previously confirmed that, for the first few years, all Xbox Series X games will also be available on Xbox One.  

"As our content comes out over the next year, two years, all of our games, sort of like PC, will play up and down that family of devices," Booty told MCV. "We want to make sure that if someone invests in Xbox between now and [Series X] that they feel that they made a good investment and that we’re committed to them with content." 

This leads us to Microsoft's Smart Delivery program, which will help connect the company's multi-console ecosystem. 

"This technology empowers you to buy a game once and know that – whether you are playing it on Xbox One or Xbox Series X – you are getting the right version of that game on whatever Xbox you’re playing on," Spencer explains. "We’re making the commitment to use Smart Delivery on all our exclusive Xbox Game Studios titles, including Halo Infinite, ensuring you only have to purchase a title once in order to play the best available version for whichever Xbox console they choose to play on. This technology is available for all developers and publishers, and they can choose to use it for titles that will be released on Xbox One first and come to the Xbox Series X later."

Sam Loveridge
Global Editor-in-Chief, GamesRadar+

Sam Loveridge is the Global Editor-in-Chief of GamesRadar, and joined the team in August 2017. Sam came to GamesRadar after working at TrustedReviews, Digital Spy, and Fandom, following the completion of an MA in Journalism. In her time, she's also had appearances on The Guardian, BBC, and more. Her experience has seen her cover console and PC games, along with gaming hardware, for a decade, and for GamesRadar, she's in charge of the site's overall direction, managing the team, and making sure it's the best it can be. Her gaming passions lie with weird simulation games, big open-world RPGs, and beautifully crafted indies. She plays across all platforms, and specializes in titles like Pokemon, Assassin's Creed, The Sims, and more. Basically, she loves all games that aren't sports or fighting titles! In her spare time, Sam likes to live like Stardew Valley by cooking and baking, growing vegetables, and enjoying life in the countryside.