How to Play Xbox 360 Games on Your PC with Xenia
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 our desktop. Let’s see how you can use this dead-easy emulator to play Xbox 360 games on your PC.
Note: Xenia currently supports only “xinput” controllers, so you’ll have to use an Xbox 360/One joypad with it. For other types of joypads, you can search online for third-party solutions that can render them xinput-compatible.
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 might 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.
To learn more about the Canary builds of Xenia, visit its Wiki at Github. You can download the latest Canary build from this link.
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 a lot of 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.
And that’s all there is to know to play Xbox 360 games on your PC with Xenia. Future versions are expected to improve compatibility and include a better form of in-game menus instead of the requesters above, or maybe even 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.