- The best Xbox emulators still leave something to be desired.
- Xemu is the best original Xbox emulator with over 80% compatibility.
- Cxbx-Reloaded is a runner-up with lower hardware requirements.
- Xenia is the best Xbox 360 emulator with less than 20% of the catalog playable.
The best Xbox emulators still leave something to be desired. When it comes to the creation and development of emulators, very little seems to be said about Microsoft’s consoles. The original Xbox and Xbox 360 were major players of their respective generations, tussling head-on with consoles like the PlayStation 2 and Nintendo Wii. Thankfully, emulation isn’t a lost cause when looking at these consoles.
Today’s guide will take a closer look at three of the best Xbox emulators you’ll find for PC. Now, keep in mind that nothing is perfect in how these run games just yet. Much like the PlayStation Vita, development is spotty and sporadic. While many commercial games are bootable and playable, many titles aren’t just yet. After reviewing the options, here are our top picks for best Xbox emulators for PC:
- Best Original Xbox Emulator: Xemu
- Best Original Xbox Runner-Up: Cxbx-Reloaded
- Best Xbox 360 Emulator: Xenia
Best Original Xbox Emulator: Xemu
Few options for Xbox emulation are outshining Xemu right now. With the highest overall compatibility of any of the actively developed Xbox projects, Xemu is poised to be the default choice for most users. You’re looking at well over 80% of the Xbox catalog playable, with obscure titles like Otogi and Gun Valkyrie being easily playable.
Now, on one hand, this is fantastic, because some of those Xbox titles are impossible to find. On the other hand, it comes at the cost of other development aspects. Xemu does come with Xbox Live support to some extent. However, when looking at controllers for the likes of Steel Batallion, support is non-existent. For certain titles, like the aforementioned Steel Batallion, this is the only way you can play the game.
A little more work needs to be done to realize the full potential of Xemu. However, if you’re looking to play beloved titles like Jet Set Radio Future, Xemu is the best way of doing it. You’ll want a powerful CPU, as most processes for the emulator rely on the central processor. It does thankfully support internal resolution scaling, meaning your Xbox games can look incredible in the right circumstances.
As such, Xemu is one of the best Xbox emulators you’ll find. It is further along than any other open and closed-source projects in active development. Time will tell if additional peripherals are added. If you’re looking to play games online with friends, this is a fantastic option, however.
|It has higher overall compatibility compared to its competitors.
|There is a steep hardware requirement to be effectively used.
|It supports some resolution upscaling and additional performance enhancements.
|You can’t emulate peripherals like the steering wheel.
Best Original Xbox Runner-Up: Cxbx-Reloaded
Cxbx-Reloaded is making great gains in terms of emulation. This is a fork of the then-promising Cxbx but moved far past just the shaders compiling. Many games are fully playable, but it doesn’t account for the sheer breadth of the library just yet. That said, you’ll find some of the more popular suspects floating about. Titles like Burnout Paradise and Ninja Gaiden are readily completed in the emulator.
Cxbx-Reloaded’s strongest selling point is going beyond emulating just games. You’ve got access to functions like controller support for light guns and the Steel Batallion controller. This might not be perfect just yet, but it is further along than what Xemu is doing on that front.
Networking support is present, but it shouldn’t be your first choice for playing original Xbox games online. Xemu does it far better at this point. Cxbx-Reloaded could very easily surpass Xemu’s development. One of the bigger selling points that makes this one of the best Xbox emulators is the hardware requirements.
Simply put, you don’t need a powerful machine to make the most of Cxbx-Reloaded. More powerful hardware can certainly help with running certain games, but it isn’t a base-level requirement. As such, you might want to look here if your CPU isn’t enough for running certain titles in Xemu.
|It doesn’t require hardware as strong as Xemu’s.
|The playable games only account for around 16% of the original Xbox’s library.
|It can support additional peripherals and hardware elements of the original Xbox console.
|Networking support is present, but not fully developed.
Best Xbox 360 Emulator: Xenia
Xenia is the current best choice for Xbox 360 emulation. Despite the widespread popularity of Microsoft’s Xbox 360, the clamor for an emulator has been minimal. This is seen in other consoles from the same hardware generation being emulated, like the PlayStation 3 or Wii. Despite this, Xenia is making fantastic progress when it comes to getting games playable.
There are certainly other 360 emulator projects in existence, but few are as refined and steadily developed as Xenia. If you’re looking to play your favorite 360 games, this is one of the best Xbox emulators you’ll find on PC right now.
However, you’ll have to set some reasonable expectations. With less than 20% of the entire Xbox 360 catalog playable right now, options are slim. The games that do run, run exceptionally well. If you have modern PC hardware, you can take your GPU and greatly increase performance.
Like Xemu and Cxbx-Reloaded, Xenia does bring some modern features to the fore. Certain titles will support expanded internal resolution, making for crisper and more enjoyable gameplay. It isn’t a perfect solution just yet for playing 360 games, but it is one of the only viable methods aside from the original hardware.
|It’s one of the only viable 360 emulators around.
|Less than 20% of the Xbox 360’s catalog is in a playable state.
|Supported games run exceptionally well.
|You’ll need a dedicated GPU to make games run well.
How to Pick the Best Xbox Emulators for PC: Step by Step
Emulating more modern consoles has its challenges. As such, before using an Xbox emulator, there are a few things you’ll likely want to keep in mind. Unless you’re looking at older consoles, cycle-accurate emulation simply isn’t viable just yet.
Overall compatibility is going to be one of the largest things to keep in mind when choosing an emulator. You’ve got three options in total, and only one is close to 90% of a playable catalog. Major titles are certainly playable for both Cxbx-Reloaded and Xenia, but the lion’s share isn’t available yet.
Compatibility is one of the weak points of any developing emulator. Don’t mark this as a sign of bad software. It might be that certain system functions or hardware calls aren’t emulated just yet. Both the original Xbox and Xbox 360 are complicated machines to emulate, especially compared to something like the Game Boy Advance.
Xbox emulation isn’t for someone running a low-powered PC. You aren’t going to take a 15-year-old laptop and play Jet Set Radio Future. This might be disappointing to hear, but that’s just the simple truth. These might be older consoles, but you’re going to need powerful hardware. Modern CPUs and GPUs are heavily recommended.
You’ll want to run game images off of an SSD if you can. Anything that removes a bottleneck is going to be your best bet for making these games shine in ideal conditions.
What to Know Before Picking the Best Xbox Emulators for PC
There aren’t many viable options when it comes to playing Xbox games on your PC. If you want to run most Xbox titles and you’ve got powerful hardware, Xemu is your best choice. Players wanting to revisit the 360 have Xenia as their primary option. You might have great luck with Cxbx-Reloaded if you’ve got a powerful GPU. Choosing the right one for you is going to be mostly trial and error, which is fine considering the circumstances.
Using the Best Xbox Emulators for PC: What It’s Like
Playing games on the best Xbox emulators is like having a native means of revisiting the past. They might not nail the feel and nostalgia of playing something like Burnout 3 after school, but you get some wonderful additional features. While the Xbox was the most powerful console of its day, you certainly can see that shine with emulators like Xemu and Cxbx-Reloaded. It isn’t fully like playing a native port just yet, but it is the next best thing.
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