The original Xbox is almost a quarter of a century old, which may not seem entirely real to those who remember the console’s rather successful launch in November 2001. Xbox and Microsoft had an uphill battle ahead, but the layout of the company to spend whatever it took for the system to become a serious threat to Sony and Nintendo (mainly Sony) and some really good games helped the system find its footing. There are still many people who fondly remember the original Xbox and would certainly love to learn how to emulate Xbox games on their PC.
Emulation is easier than ever. Let’s start by finding the best emulator for Xbox games.
Which emulator is best for original Xbox games?
There are a few different possibilities to emulate original Xbox games, but open source XEMU in our opinion it is the best. It is dedicated specifically to the original Xbox, is still being updated as of this writing, and has been praised by users for its easy setup and customization. It is available for PC, macOS and even Linux. Not all original Xbox games have been emulated (this is important to keep in mind), but you’ll be happy with what is out there.
Emulating, downloading ROMs, and making sure your settings have been optimized is pretty simple. Having said that, there are still a few things we’ll need to go over to emulate Xbox as it’s meant to be played.
Getting started with XEMU
These are the basic system requirements for XEMU:
- Operating system: Windows 7/10 64-bit
- GPU: DirectD11 and higher (GTX 900 series and higher)
- CPU: Any CPU with more than 4 cores and 6 threads will avoid lag issues
- 32-bit (x86) Visual C++ 2019 Redistributable is essential
You can download XEMU directly from their website. This is also a great way to keep up with any developments in XEMU, or if any significant progress is made in emulating your favorite original Xbox games.
Once you have successfully downloaded XEMU to your preferred folder, it will extract your archive. This should give you XEMU and the license file. Some find it easier to create separate folders and files for faster setup and execution, including Bios, C-Xbox Tool, HDD Image, ISO Creation, and ROMs. Your experience may be different.
To start successfully, you will need several things. you will need the Bios, the MCPX boot ROM imageand the hard drive image. Fortunately, XEMU has written information on this side of things, with downloads available where possible. The Bios and MCPX Boot Rom Image require you to create the original Xbox hardware. Finding a way around this is relatively easy. Once this is done, the rest is easy. With a Bios folder created in your directory, paste the files you need to emulate Xbox games in XEMU.
Once you have booted XEMU, you will need to go into Machineand then in settings. You will need to find and configure certain files, which should be located in the folder you just created. You will also need what is known as EEPROM archive. This specific file can be found in something that will look like C/Users/your PC name/application data/roaming/xemu. You should be able to find it after successfully starting XEMU for the first time.
You will also need to set system memory to at least 128 MiB.
Understanding ISO and XEMU
ISOs are commonly used in other emulation efforts, but not with the original Xbox and XEMU. First you will need to make some ISOs. It will then convert them to XISO files, which will be executed by XEMU. It sounds a bit complicated, but it’s not when you break things down:
- Make sure you have downloaded the C-Xbox tool, which you can find here.
- After opening C-Xbox Tool, go to the left section for ISO Creation.
- After a small window appears on your screen, go to your zip file. If you’ve extracted the ISO, it should be there.
- Once you have selected the file, the ISO creation process begins. It shouldn’t take long.
Now, we are officially ready to launch XEMU and run your favorite original Xbox game. We just need to understand a few settings and make sure your controller works smoothly.
After starting XEMU
Once you have started XEMU, you will select LOAD DISC. From here it will go to where you have placed your extracted ISO. When you hit restart, the game should start booting up in no time.
If you need to configure your controller, you’ll go to Machineso Input. You will then see a mapping window to set your controller to the desired configuration. You also have the option to use your keyboard.
Adjusting your XEMU settings
If you’re interested in making the games you run on XEMU look even better than they did in its heyday, the representation scale Is your friend. Click view once you’ve launched your game and you’ll find a variety of different options for optimizing gameplay, including a Render Scale section. You can set this scaling up to 10x, but you’ll need a pretty powerful GPU to run it. Setting your scale to 3 or 4 is fine for most PCs, and you’ll see a visual difference almost immediately. There are also aspect ratio options to play with, including stretching to fit the size of your screen.
Reviving (most) of your favorite original Xbox games
At this point, most original Xbox games can be played at least through XEMU. Very few games won’t run entirely on the emulator, but it’s worth mentioning again that you should check the list of supported games to make sure yours is there.
“Playable” does not mean it will run smoothly. Some games cannot be completely finished in this state. Only games with a “perfect” rating have been fully emulated from top to bottom with no issues. XEMU is a few years old at the moment, but still receives sporadic updates and improvements. When such an improvement is available, the emulator will simply inform you that a new version is available. Click to update is all you need to do from there.
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