Best Xbox Emulator for PC in 2019

Published May 2, 2019

It’s no secret that the Xbox is infamous for being one of the most difficult consoles to emulate properly. At long last, the efforts of many dedicated developers have paid off, and we now have more than one working original Xbox emulator. However, two stand out from the pack:

I took the time to test out each Xbox emulator currently available, and these two were so far ahead it wasn’t even worth comparing them to the others. Keep reading to find out which is the best Xbox emulator.

Cxbx-Reloaded and XQEMU comparison

As you can see, based on several factors, XQEMU is the best Xbox emulator. If you can get it to work, that is. Let me break this graphic down further.

Working Games

Isn’t the main point of emulation to play all of your favorite games? XQEMU supports about 275 games at the time of writing, and Cxbx-Reloaded supports about 60 (including Sega Chihiro). By “support,” I mean that you can play through the game (although some games may have minor issues with graphics and lag).

XQEMU Xbox Emulator Compatibility List (I only counted working games with “ingame” or “playable” status)

Cxbx-Reloaded Xbox Emulator Compatibility List

To save you some time, here is a list of the top 25 Xbox games of all time according to IGN, and which Xbox emulators they work on:

  1. Halo: Combat Evolved – XQEMU
  2. Halo 2 – Neither
  3. Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Chaos Theory – Neither (XQEMU works with the original game)
  4. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic – Neither (XQEMU works with other Star Wars games)
  5. Jade Empire – Neither
  6. Rainbow Six 3 – Neither
  7. Ninja Gaiden Black – Neither
  8. Fable – Neither
  9. ESPN NFL 2K5 – Neither
  10. GTA: San Andreas – Neither
  11. Prince of Persia: Sands of Time – XQEMU
  12. The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay – Neither
  13. Burnout 3: Takedown – Neither (XQEMU works with Burnout 2)
  14. NCAA Football 2003: Neither
  15. The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind – Neither
  16. Mercenaries – XQEMU (see compatibility list)
  17. Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge – XQEMU and Cxbx-Reloaded
  18. Psychonauts – Neither
  19. Madden NFL 2005 – Neither
  20. MVP Baseball 2005 – Neither
  21. Panzer Dragoon Orta – Cxbx-Reloaded
  22. Beyond Good and Evil – Neither
  23. Fight Night Round 2 – Neither
  24. Forza Motorsport – Neither
  25. Jet Set Radio Future – XQEMU and Cxbx-Reloaded

XQEMU Xbox Emulator Gameplay


Cxbx-Reloaded Xbox Emulator Gameplay

Easy to Use

This is the one category where Cxbx-Reloaded destroyed XQEMU. For Cxbx-Reloaded, you only need to make sure you have a few prerequisites installed, and it works out of the box. It also has a handy GUI:

Cxbx-Reloaded GUI

I should mention that XQEMU also has a basic, official frontend called XQEMU-Manager that runs as a Python script:

XQEMU GUI
XQEMU GUI Settings

For XQEMU, the Getting Started instructions are basically:

  1. Dump a boot ROM image from your physical Xbox
  2. Dump the BIOS from your physical Xbox
  3. Find a Xbox hard disk drive image
  4. Launch the Xbox emulator from your command prompt with a bunch of variables

Needless to say, this took me forever to set up properly.

Due to the nature of how XQEMU does Xbox emulation, you unfortunately need all of these things to get it to work. However, these are copyrighted files, so I won’t go into detail on how to acquire them. I’m sure if your Google skills are strong enough you’ll be able to make progress here.

Platforms

XQEMU supports all major operating systems, while Cxbx-Reloaded only has official first-party support for Windows. As of October 2017, you can run Cxbx-Reloaded on Linux using Wine though.

Project Status

Both XQEMU and Cxbx-Reloaded are under active development. Features, bug fixes, and support for new games are constantly being added. In fact, Jannik Vogel of XQEMU and Luke Usher of Cxbx-Reloaded both have Patreons since they work so hard on their respective projects. I’m personally really excited to see what the future of these Xbox emulators holds.

Why is Xbox Emulation So Hard?

There are many reasons why there are no Xbox emulators on the same level as emulators for other consoles like the N64 or PS2. I’ll try not to get into too much detail since there’s some good discussion of this online. The main reason is that the Xbox’s hardware is incredibly complex and not very well documented.

  • Xbox has a x86 CPU, which is common in PCs, but difficult to emulate accurately
  • Xbox has a NV2A GPU, which comes with many complications to emulate
  • The Xbox audio system contains a NVIDIA SoundStorm APU, which is really hard to find detailed information for
  • No one fully understands the Xbox BIOS
  • Xbox has three video encoders, requiring a lot of effort to emulate correctly

Xeon – Honorable Mention

Given how difficult xbox emulation is, the Xeon Xbox emulator deserves a special mention. It can only run one commercial game (Halo), and it plays very roughly. However, that is a huge accomplishment that not even Cxbx-Reloaded can do (yet).

Although there still aren’t any Xbox emulators that can play my all-time favorite Xbox game, Ninja Gaiden, XQEMU, Cxbx-Reloaded, and even Xeon are Xbox emulators that all do a great job compared to all other available options. Which Xbox game is your favorite? Let me know in the comments!

About the Author

Tyler Sanderson

I'm a Canadian who is currently working at Google's NYC office as a software developer. I love board games, cooking, and learning about all things tech related.


Comments

    1. Author

      Hey Rahul, Fortnite is on the Xbox One, not the original Xbox, so these emulators don’t support it.

  1. Interesting analogy. Although most people will not like the technical part, but I think the GUI is an important part for any novice user. The easier it is the better is the chance I will use it. Thanks for the heads up Sanyam.

    1. Author

      I agree that the GUI is important for your average user. Also, the fact that Cxbx-Reloaded is so much easier to use will probably make it the default choice for most people looking for an Xbox emulator.

  2. I am a game lover too and for met his information made feel good to know that Xbox emulator. Thanks for sharing such an informative post.

  3. Finally, Xbox emulation making actual progress. Looking forward to more updates from this 2 emulators.

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