In the 15 years since the Xbox 360 was launched, PC hardware has evolved considerably. We are now at the point where emulators are powerful enough to run Xbox 360 and PS3 games at playable frame rates. Well, at least on top-tier hardware. This is important because, during the seventh generation, the PC was not as important a platform as it is now. Today, we almost take it for granted that cross-platform games will launch on PC. But there are many 7th gen games like Red dead redemption it just never got PC ports. On top of that, PC gamers are also forced to miss out on a lot of great exclusives.
But Xenia and RPCS3, the top two emulators for Xbox 360 and PS3 respectively, when paired with a powerful PC, can allow you to experience these games without 7th-gen hardware. Both emulators are very capable. But in terms of usability at the moment, we would have to give Xenia the upper hand. The PS3’s Cell architecture was infamously difficult to code in its day. And this makes creating an effective emulator even more difficult. The Xbox 360 has an advantage here because its 3-core IBM PowerPC architecture is better understood. Today, we will explore how to emulate Xbox 360 games like Red dead redemption on your PC with Xenia. Read on to find out.
Before we start
There are a couple of things to have ready before continuing with this guide. To start with, you need a legally purchased licensed copy of any game you plan to emulate on Xenia. Emulation is gray space. But (probably) you’ll be legally safe if you use emulators exclusively to run games you already own. (Disclaimer, don’t take our word for valid legal advice.) Fortunately, getting seventh generation games is very easy and super cheap. You can pick up used disc copies for as little as a few dollars on eBay. You’ve probably spent more on Candy Crush.
Once you have a legal copy of the game you want to emulate, you must obtain an electronic copy in a format that Xenia can use. You can check out our next guide on how to copy games to Xbox 360 disc and dump files to PC. But for today’s guide, we’ll point you to an easy alternative: download the ISO. Xenia supports ISO images and you can find an ISO for almost any Xbox 360 game on this site. here. Again, we highly recommend that you ONLY download the ISO files of the games you already own.
Third, you will need a modern and fairly powerful PC. The Xbox 360 had a powerful GPU and this makes the Xenia more GPU-bound than many other emulators. To get 30 FPS or more in games like Halo 3, these are our GPU recommendations:
- GTX 1070 or better for Nvidia users
- Vega 56 or better for AMD users
Upper-midrange GPUs like the RX 580 will run Xenia, but you may not get reproducible performance. Not even try running the emulator with integrated graphics. Unless you like to play at 2 FPS, of course. Note that the latest versions of Xenia use the Vulkan API. This means that you will not be able to use them with older GPUs that are not compatible with the Vulkan standard. In practice, this means something newer than AMD’s HD 7000 line and Nvidia’s GTX 600 line.
As an emulator, Xenia also places quite a heavy load on your CPU. You’ll need a pretty decent processor to get playable frame rates. What that means in terms of CPU recommendations is:
- A Skylake i5 like i5 6500 minimum for Intel users
- Ryzen 1500X minimum for AMD users
Both processors are on the lower end of what we would actually use in Xenia. If you want a bit more performance from your AMD processor, we highly recommend overclocking.
RAM and storage requirements
You will also need 8 gigs of RAM and at least 128 GB of free storage space (to accommodate ISO 360 files).
Input device requirements
You will also need an Xbox 360 controller connected to your PC. If you don’t have a 360 controller, you can use X360CE to trick your PC into thinking that your controller is actually a 360 controller. This will work with a variety of controllers, such as the Dualshock 3, Dualshock 4, and Xbox One controller. Technically, you can controlling Xenia with the keyboard, but this is a downright terrible way to play most Xbox 360 games.
Once you have all of this, it’s time to make Xenia work. Read on to find out how.
How to use Xenia
Step 1. Download the latest version of Xenia from the official site.
Step 2. Extract the zip file containing Xenia to a folder of your choice.
Step 3. Run Xenia. You may get a pop-up window from Windows Defender. Don’t worry about this. Click on “More Info”, then click on “Run Anyway”. Xenia is not malware, but Windows Defender tends to report emulators as such.
Stage 4. You will be presented with a blank screen and a menu bar at the top.
Step 5. Click on the file, then open. Select the ISO you downloaded
Step 6. That’s all about it. You can press F11 to go full screen if you want.
Note that since Xenia is still in development, not all games work with it and few work well. Take a look at the Xenia compatibility list here before trying to run a game.
If you’ve followed all of these steps, you’ll have your favorite Xbox 360 games running on PC. Xenia is a work in progress. It is not without limitations. You need top-of-the-line hardware just for games to run at 30 FPS. Also, many titles just don’t work and because it is a voluntary project, there is no clear ETA on when they will be fixed. However, if you can overcome these problems, Xenia is a great way to enjoy Xbox 360 games that you might otherwise have missed.