In the 15 years since Xbox 360 launched, PC hardware has evolved considerably. We’re now at the point where emulators are powerful enough to run both Xbox 360 and PS3 games at playable framerates. Well, at least on top-tier hardware. This is important because, during the seventh-gen, PC wasn’t as important a platform as it is now. Today, we almost take it for granted that multiplatform games will launch on PC. But there are a lot of seventh-gen games like Red Dead Redemption that simply never received PC ports. Besides that, PC gamers are forced to miss out on a lot of great exclusives, too.
But Xenia and RPCS3, the two best Xbox 360 and PS3 emulators respectively, when paired with a powerful PC, can let you experience these games without seventh-gen hardware. Both of these emulators are highly capable. But in terms of usability right now, we’d have to give the edge to Xenia. The PS3’s Cell architecture was infamously hard to code for back in the day. And this makes creating a performant emulator even more difficult. The Xbox 360 has an advantage here because its 3-core IBM PowerPC architecture is better understood. Today, we’ll be exploring 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 you’ll need to have ready before continuing with this guide. For starters, you need a legally-purchased, licensed copy of any game that you plan to emulate in Xenia. Emulation is a bit of a gray space. But you’ll (probably) be safe from a legal standpoint if you use it emulators exclusively to run games you already own. (Disclaimer, don’t take our word as valid legal advice). Fortunately, it’s very easy and super cheap to get hold of seventh-gen games. 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 own a legal copy of the game you want to emulate, you need to obtain a soft copy that’s in a format Xenia can use. You can check out our upcoming guide on how to rip games on Xbox 360 disk and dump the files on PC. But for today’s guide, we’ll point you to an easy alternate: Downloading the ISO. Xenia supports ISO images and you can find an ISO for nearly any Xbox 360 game on this site here. Again, we strongly recommend ONLY downloading ISOs for games you already own.
Third, you’ll need a fairly powerful, modern PC. The Xbox 360 had a powerful GPU and this makes 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 might not get playable performance. Don’t even try running the emulator with integrated graphics. Unless you like gaming at 2 FPS, that is. Keep in mind that the latest builds of Xenia use the Vulkan API. This means that you won’t be able to use these with older GPUs that don’t support the Vulkan standard. In practice, this means anything newer than the HD 7000 line from AMD and the GTX 600 line from Nvidia.
As an emulator, Xenia places a fairly heavy load on your CPU, too. You’ll need a fairly decent processor to get playable framerates. What that means in terms of CPU recommendations is:
- A Skylake i5 like the i5 6500 at the minimum for Intel users
- Ryzen 1500X at the minimum for AMD users
Both of these processors are at the lower end of what we’d actually use in Xenia. If you want a bit more performance from your AMD processor, we highly recommend overclocking it.
RAM and Storage Requirements
You’ll need 8 gigs of RAM and at least 128 GB of free storage space, too (to accommodate 360 ISO 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 indeed a 360 controller. This will work with a variety of controllers, such as the Dualshock 3, Dualshock 4, and Xbox One controller. You can technically control Xenia with the keyboard but this is a frankly terrible way of playing the majority of Xbox 360 games.
Once you have all this, it’s time to get Xenia to work. Read on to find out how.
How to use Xenia
Step 1. Download the latest build of Xenia from the official site.
Step 2. Extract the zip file containing Xenia to a folder of your choice.
Step 3. Launch Xenia. You might get a Windows Defender popup. Don’t worry about this. Click on “More info,” then click on “Run Anyway.” Xenia is not malware, but Windows Defender has a tendency of reporting emulators as such.
Step 4. You’ll be presented a blank screen and a menu bar at the top.
Step 5. Click on file, then open. Select the ISO you downloaded
Step 6. That’s all there is to it. You can press F11 to go fullscreen if you want.
Note that, as Xenia is still in development, not all games work with it, and few actually work well. Have a look at the Xenia compatibility list here before trying to run a game.
If you’ve followed all of these steps, you will have your favorite Xbox 360 games up and running on PC. Xenia is a work in progress. It’s not without its limitations. You need top-of-the-line hardware just to get games running at 30 FPS. Moreover, many titles simply don’t work and because it’s a volunteer project, there are no clear ETAs on when they’ll be fixed. If you can get past these issues, though, Xenia is a great way to enjoy Xbox 360 games that you might have otherwise missed.