The original Xbox was practically a prebuilt PC running a custom version of Windows 2000, with DirectX as its graphics API. However, things changed quite a bit with the Xbox 360 which was a purpose-built game console using a PowerPC CPU. With the Xbox One, Microsoft went back to an x86-64 processor architecture using one of AMD’s APUs.
So, can you play Xbox 360 games on Xbox One? Despite the big architectural differences, an Xbox One can play Xbox 360 games using software emulation. Inserting an Xbox 360 disc for a supported backward-compatible game will prompt a download of the digital copy to your Xbox One’s hard drive.
During E3 2015, Microsoft announced Xbox 360 backward compatibility as a feature on the Xbox One. They launched the service with 100 games, and today there are over 650 supported Xbox 360 titles. You don’t have to buy Xbox Live or purchase the emulation software, it’s completely free.
Can You Play Xbox 360 Games On Xbox One?
You can, but the Xbox One only supports a specific selection of titles that have been integrated into the backward compatibility program. If you live in America, you can check the list of supported Xbox 360 titles here (there are over 650). Over the Xbox 360’s lifespan, it received over 1000 thousand games.
That list becomes even bigger if you include ports of old games, Kinect games, Xbox Live Arcade, etc. However, all the important games that you do remember on Xbox 360 from your childhood are going to be supported on Xbox One. The library of backward-compatible titles has been carefully crafted to include all big releases, exclusives, and popular multiplatform games.
With over 650 titles supported via emulation, you don’t have to worry about running out of Xbox 360 games to play anytime soon. If you missed out on the 7th console generation, it is possible to purchase Xbox 360 games digitally via the Microsoft Store on your Xbox One. After which, the games will become a permanent part of your game collection and can be deleted/ redownloaded at any time.
Xbox One Backward Compatibility Explained
There is a reason Microsoft doesn’t support every single Xbox 360 game in its backward compatibility program. That’s because there is a massive difference in system architecture between the Xbox 360 and its successor. For starters, one uses a PowerPC CPU running IBM’s version of a RISC instruction set and the other uses an AMD x86-64 APU.
The GPUs are also massively different. While the Xbox 360 uses an ATI “Xenos” GPU based on the old Terascale architecture from 2005, Xbox One is powered by an AMD GCN-based graphics unit. Both are ATI designs (these days ATI is owned by AMD), but one is significantly more advanced and has a very different render pipeline.
Even the operating systems for the two consoles are vastly different. The Xbox 360 uses a heavily modified version of Windows 2000 while the Xbox One originally ran a Windows 8 core. Later, the Xbox One got a modified Windows 10 core.
Microsoft has to validate each game on its emulator and create an emulation profile to provide the optimal experience. Doing this requires a dedicated team, with access to sufficient development resources (time and money). You never know what bugs or glitches you will run into while trying to recreate an authentic Xbox 360 experience on totally new hardware and software.
Plus, the service is entirely free. Sure, you can purchase digital versions of Xbox 360 games to play on your Xbox One. But if you already own an Xbox 360 game disc, you just have to insert it into the tray of your Xbox One.
Then, a digital version of the original game code is downloaded to the hard drive. The disc needs to stay in the tray for validation purposes. But you don’t spend a single dime.
The number of people using this feature is a small fraction compared to those who play current-gen games. There isn’t a lot of monetary incentive for Microsoft to validate emulated games beyond a few years after the launch of the feature. Hence, it can’t accommodate every single Xbox 360 game.
The Xbox One X
Microsoft designed the One X as a mid-life upgrade for the Xbox One. Using advancements in processor manufacturing nodes, Microsoft managed to squeeze a little more frequency out of the CPU. More importantly, they upgraded the old GCN 1.0 “Durango” GPU to a GCN 2.0 “Scorpio” GPU.
In terms of processing power, the 8th console gen was not that massive of a jump over the 7th gen. Unlike the increase in power that we got from 6th to 7th gen (but these new 8th gen consoles did get a massive RAM boost).
That’s because Sony and Microsoft tried to make a profit on each console sold while keeping the development process relatively simple. Because of the budget and time restrictions, certain choices had to be made while acquiring chips from AMD. Even in 2013, the AMD Jaguar core was considered a relatively modest product.
It was optimized to have a low TDP and be efficient for use on mobile devices. Not to compete against the top-tier desktop chips of that time. Plus, the GPU in the original Xbox One had some problems maintaining 30fps in AAA games despite running at 720p.
The Durango GPU was weaker than the base PS4 GPU, with just 12 compute units and 768 processing elements (cores). Even by 2016, this GPU was struggling and had to use upscaling tricks to output games at 1080p (some were internally rendered at 720p).
Most households had switched to 4K by 2017, and Microsoft knew that they needed a massive boost in GPU horsepower. Otherwise, people would start asking questions about why video games on their brand-new Xbox look so ugly. So AMD created the Scorpio chip, and basically slapped an RX 480 in there.
This new GPU uses a more advanced version of GCN and combines it with higher clock speeds. Most importantly, it features 40 compute units (a 333% boost vs the original Xbox One) and can hit native 4K in AAA games.
The One X also features 12GB of GDDR5 memory which is a 50% boost over the 8GB you get with a regular Xbox One. It also has a beefier cooler to deal with the extra heat generated by its faster SoC. Impressively, Microsoft did all this while maintaining a $499 launch price- the same as the Xbox One back in 2013.
Playing Original Xbox Games On The Xbox One
In addition to supporting Xbox 360 games via emulation, the Xbox One can also play original Xbox games (via disc or digital download). Unfortunately, the library of original Xbox games supported by the Xbox One is rather small at just over 60 titles. One would think that running original Xbox games on an Xbox One would be easier since they share the x86 processor architecture.
But there’s so much more that goes into running games that old. The API and OS layers are different, plus the original Xbox GPU uses shaders that would have to be emulated on the Xbox One. Emulation of all original Xbox games is not a priority for Microsoft so don’t expect the majority of its game library to be supported any time soon.
Can The Xbox One Play Blu-Ray Discs?
It can, which makes the Xbox a living room entertainment system rather than just a game console. You can also play DVDs on your Xbox One. This feature is region-locked, so you’ll have to insert a Blu-Ray disc or DVD that was purchased in the same region as your console.
Bootlegs and burned discs won’t work, so you’re better off using a regular Blu-Ray player for that. However, the Xbox will accept USB storage like external HDDs and flash drives. Its media player app lets you play a wide range of supported formats.
Is The Xbox One S Worth It In 2023?
The One S gives you regular Xbox hardware in a package that is 40% smaller, with better I/O capabilities. While the original Xbox One has HDMI 1.4, the One S has HDMI 2.0. It also features Bluetooth 4.0 controllers and ac Wi-Fi.
Both of which are an upgrade over the older Xbox One that uses b/g/n Wi-Fi with a proprietary RF standard for its controllers. Thanks to Bluetooth 4.0, you get more range for your Xbox One S controllers when you connect them to a Windows PC. While connecting to Xbox, the controllers still use the old proprietary wireless format.
In addition to the improved connectivity and form factor, the One S also gets a built-in power supply. So you don’t have to deal with a power brick lying on your floor. This helps you tidy up your living room, and get a cleaner-looking TV stand/ cabinet.
Since Microsoft switched from a 28nm process to a 14nm process, the power consumption and heat emission went down. As a result, the One S runs quieter and requires less cooling (resulting in reduced weight). If you’re going to buy an Xbox One in the current year, might as well go with the One S.
These days, it can be found at heavily discounted prices. And there are some pretty good games available for it, like Red Dead Redemption 2 and The Witcher 3. Sure, it won’t handle next-gen games but the existing library is big enough for you to get lost in it for several years.
And finally, the Xbox One S is about 7 percent faster than the regular Xbox One. This is due to its GPU which is clocked at 914MHz (compared to 853MHz on the Xbox One). Controllers are reverse compatible with the original Xbox One, and you can also use them on PC or the new Xbox Series X/S consoles.
Microsoft started late in the console business but has created a fine legacy of delivering excellent products over the past two decades. It makes sense that people would want backward compatibility to play their old Xbox 360 games on the new One and Series X/S consoles. Because some of those old games from the 2000s are still very enjoyable to this day.
I know some of you want to boot up your Xbox 360 copy of Halo 3 one more time. And you absolutely can, thanks to backward compatibility on the Xbox One. The new Xbox Series X/S consoles can also play old Xbox 360 games.
Some Xbox 360 games are specifically modified to run with increased framerates on the Xbox Series X/S consoles. Visit this page and click on the features tab to learn more about bonus features on backward-compatible games.