The Xbox 360 was a powerful console that, like the PlayStation 3, was considered impossible to emulate on PC. As with the PS3 and the RPCS3 emulator, the impossible has become a reality, with Xenia becoming the first emulator to bring dozens of Xbox 360 games to our desktop. Let’s see how you can use this super simple emulator to play Xbox 360 games on your PC.
Note: Xenia currently only supports “xinput” controllers. You will therefore have to use an Xbox 360 / One joypad with it. For other types of controllers, you can search online for third-party solutions that can make them xinput compatible.
To get started, visit Xenia’s official website.
Look for the string “Latest version: available here” on the page and click the “here” link.
A new page will load, showing only one version for Windows 7 or later. Click the single “master” link to get the only version available for Windows. Save the file somewhere.
The developers also make available experimental versions of “Canary”, which could (much) work better in some games but break others. The Canary Islands versions are the most recent and the most important, but are considered to be unstable. In short, you should have both versions available and try both with the games you want to play to find the one that works best.
Once the two versions have been downloaded, extract their archives somewhere on your hard drive. In our screenshot you can see three instead of two versions, as an even more recent version of the Canaries was published when this article was written. It’s worth keeping these alternate versions, as things can and can break between versions, making a game you were playing temporarily incompatible.
Time to play
Congratulations, with the difficult part behind you, you are now ready to start playing! Start by trying the Canary version. Enter its folder and run the “xenia-canary.exe” you will find there.
Note: Xenia works with disk game ISOs and digitally distributed XBLA files. It is not part of this tutorial to talk about how to save your games, and it is a relatively complicated process. You can read more here.
Select “File -> Open” to load your first game into Xenia.
Point the file requester that appears to the location of a game. If it is a disk game, you must select its ISO file or the folder where the ISO files are extracted. If it is an XBLA game, you must point the requester to his folder and select his main executable file, with an extension “.xex”. For this tutorial, we only used disk backups.
Almost immediately the game loads and you can start looking for the next one. You see, Xenia is in full development and remains incompatible with many games for the Xbox 360.
If two of your three games don’t work, as in, they don’t load at all, freeze or display graphical faults, there is not much you can do, but go to the next game and hope that ‘he works.
Xenia does not offer options that could improve compatibility like RPCS3 for the PS3. If you open your Documents folder, you will find its configuration file in a “Xenia” sub-directory. And yet, nothing you adjust to it can make an unsupported game work. What you can do, however, is to switch between versions. This is why we suggested that you download the Canary and Master versions, as well as keep backups of the previous versions. If a game does not work, close the version of Xenia you are using and try it in another one.
Also note that some requesters that normally appear with the Xbox 360 Dashboard interface will appear using their own windows in Xenia. One such example is the Xbox Live requester in the screenshot above, or any prompts that may ask you to enter a character name, select a storage device, and so on. Unlike reading on an actual Xbox 360, here you will need to use your mouse and keyboard to interact with them.
And that’s all you need to know to play Xbox 360 games on your PC with Xenia. Future versions should improve compatibility and include better form of in-game menus instead of the above seekers, or perhaps even emulate the console dashboard for a more authentic experience. Each new version comes with optimizations, fixes and tweaks. Therefore, if a game you want to play doesn’t work in the current version, try again in a newer version in a month or two.
If you have an Xbox One instead, you can stream Xbox One to your Windows PC instead of using Xenia.
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