Xbox One backwards compatibility – Can I play Xbox 360 games on Xbox One?
Xbox One backwards compatibility has become a very popular feature, and with its growing list of available titles, it's easy to see why.. The Xbox 360 had a fantastic library of games so it's satisfying to see them running on current generation hardware.
There are currently over 200 titles on the roster, with the most recent addition one of its most notable in the form of Rockstar's iconic Red Dead Redemption. While fans feverishly await news of Red Dead Redemption 2, it's nice that we can head back to the Old West on Xbox One right now.
Microsoft recently announced the addition of a further eight games to the program: Sonic the Hedgehog 4 Episodes 1 & 2, Capcom Arcade Cabinet, Pac-Man Museum, Bionic Commando Rearmed 2, NeoGeo Battle Coliseum, Crystal Defenders and Fret Nice. Every month the service goes from strength to strength.
Playing Xbox 360 games on Xbox One is free and simple. All you need to do is insert an Xbox 360 disc or download it directly from the online marketplace. Much like Xbox One games, everything will be installed directly to your hard drive, so make sure you have enough space.
All of the digital downloads linked to your account will be available straight away, so long as the game is supported by Microsoft. Your achievements, cloud saves and whatnot also carry over.
If you're an Xbox Live Gold member, many of the games found in Microsoft's Games with Gold service are backwards compatible, giving you a handful of new games to play around with each and every month.
It’s interesting to note that the PS4 is still not backwards compatible, with Sony instead throwing its eggs into the Playstation Now service basket. This lets you rent PS3 titles and stream them to your PS4 along with select Sony Bravia Smart TVs and Sony Blu-ray players. But, this comes at a cost. Two-day rentals on PlayStation Now start at £2.99, with the majority of high-profile titles actually costing a steep £4.99 to rent for two-days going up to £7.99 for a 30-day rental period.
Xbox One backwards compatibility – How does it work?
“One of the features that we’ve had a lot of requests for — and very vocals requests for — is the ability to run Xbox 360 apps on Xbox One, which is quite difficult to do,” explained Microsoft’s Product Evangelist for Windows 10, Ian Moulster. “It is easy to conceptualise, but actually quite difficult to achieve.”
To turn the Xbox One into a backwards compatible machine, Microsoft has built an Xbox 360 emulator that will run on the new console. This basically means that Microsoft has essentially built an Xbox 360 in software, which then runs within the Xbox One. This emulator does all the same things as the Xbox 360, but it just sits inside the newer console.
The emulator springs into life when you insert a compatible Xbox 360 disc and lets you download and install the title right to your HDD. You’ll notice that any Xbox 360 game you have installed on your Xbox One will be shown with an Xbox 360 logo strip down the left hand side, so you can quickly distinguish between your old and new games at a glance.
As you had to with the Xbox 360, you’ll need to keep the game disc in the tray while you play, but you won’t need to be connected to the internet unless you want to access any of the game’s online components.
We’ve tried it with Mass Effect and all you need to do is insert the disc and wait for it to boot up. Then you’re ready to play.
If you’ve previously purchased any compatible Xbox 360 titles from the Store, these will automatically show up in the right-hand panel of your “My Games” section of your Xbox One, where it lists games that are “Ready to Install”.
You can then pick and choose which games out of your Xbox 360 collection you wish to install on your Xbox One — after all you might not have space for all of them.
We tried out Super Meat Boy in this way, and again, all you need to do is download it and you’re off.
What’s great about the Xbox One backwards compatibility service is that even though it’s running your Xbox 360 games within an emulator, you can still take advantage of the Xbox One features while you play. That includes Game DVR, the ability to snap an application to your game and broadcast your gameplay.
Well, we say that, but the recent announcement that Borderlands is one of the games coming to the Xbox One backwards compatibility service was surrounded by some concern.
While we were certainly delighted we could play our old Borderlands game on the Xbox One, it quickly came to light that the game's backwards compatibility is limited. You can't utilise all the Xbox One features when you play Borderlands it seems, with screenshots and gameplay capture inaccessible.
"This is expected. Unfortunately, recording/screenshots are turned off for Borderlands," explained a Microsoft representative.
When pressed for more details, Microsoft said that this was down to a "licensing" issue.
This could well be an issue that you'll find with future Xbox One backwards compatible titles, but it's defintiely something we can put up with for the ease of use with the upcoming service.
Backwards Compatibility and multi-disc games
Xbox's Major Nelson recently confirmed in a Reddit post that Xbox One's backwards compatibility now works for games with multiple discs.
"I can confirm that the BC [backwards compatibility] team has done work to support multi disc scenarios. Be sure to thank the BC engineers," Major Nelson wrote.
So now it seems the possibilities are truly endless when it comes to backwards compatibility on Xbox One. For those looking for a bit of nostalgia amongst all their new and shiny gaming goodness, we could be seeing plenty more available.
Xbox One backwards compatibility – How much does it cost?
Unlike Playstation’s Now streaming service, which charges for all games even if you previously owned them, this Xbox 360 emulation on Xbox One will be completely free for all supported games. That’s definitely a nice touch.
“It is free. You don’t have to pay for the emulator. You don’t have to pay again for the games or anything. They’re your games. It just works,” added Moulster.
See also: Upcoming Xbox One Games 2016
Xbox One backwards compatibility – When’s it coming?
Xbox One backwards compatibility is available now for all users.
Xbox One backwards compatibility – What games are supported?
Xbox One currently has over 200 games supported via backwards compatibility. We've provided the full list of them below, or you can head to Xbox.com/BackCompat to keep abreast of any additions Microsoft makes.
It's also important to remember that all Xbox 360 games available through Games with Gold from November 12 will also be playable on the Xbox One.
Here's the list so far:
- A Kingdom for Keflings
- A World of Keflings
- Aegis Wing
- Age of Booty
- Alan Wake
- Alan Wake’s American Nightmare
- Alien Hominid HD
- Altered Beast
- Assassin’s Creed
- Assassin’s Creed II
- Asteroids & Deluxe
- BattleBlock Theater
- Bejeweled 2
- Bellator: MMA Onslaught
- Beyond Good & Evil HD
- Bionic Commando Rearmed 2
- Bioshock 2
- Bioshock: Infinite
- Blood of the Werewolf
- BloodRayne: Betrayal
- Call of Duty: Black Ops
- Call of Juarez Gunslinger
- Capcom Arcade Cabinet
- Castle Crashers
- Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
- Centipede & Millipede
- Comix Zone
- Condemned: Criminal Origins
- Counter-Strike: GO
- Crazy Taxi
- Crystal Defenders
- Dark Souls
- Dark Void
- Dead Space
- Deadliest Warrior: Legends
- Defense Grid: The Awakening
- DEUS EX: HUMAN REVOLUTION
- DiRT 3
- DiRT Showdown
- Discs of Tron Arcade
- Domino Master
- Doom Arcade
- DOOM 3 BFG Edition (only available on disc)
- Doom II
- Doritos Crash Course
- Double Dragon Neon Arcade
- Ducktales Remastered
- Duke Nukem Manhattan Project
- Dungeon Siege III
- Earthworm Jim HD
- Fable II
- Fable III
- Fallout 3
- Fallout: New Vegas
- Feeding Frenzy
- Feeding Frenzy 2: Shipwreck Showdown
- Fret Nice
- Frogger 2
- Galaga Legions DX
- Garou: Mark of the Wolves
- Gears of War
- Gears of War 2
- Gears of War 3
- Gears of War: Judgment
- Geometry Wars Evolved
- Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime
- Golden Axe
- GRID 2
- Gunstar Heroes
- Halo Wars
- Halo: Reach
- Halo: Spartan Assault
- Hardwood Backgammon
- Hardwood Hearts
- Hardwood Spades
- Heavy Weapon
- Hexic HD
- Hexic 2
- Hydro Thunder
- Iron Brigade
- Jeremy McGrath’s Offroad
- Jet Set Radio
- Jetpac Refuelled
- Joy Ride Turbo
- Just Cause 2
- Kameo: Elements of Power
- Kane & Lynch 2
- Left 4 Dead 2
- LEGO Batman
- LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean: The Video Game
- LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga
- Lode Runner
- LUMINES LIVE!
- Magic The Gathering 2012
- Mass Effect
- Metal Slug 3
- Metal Slug XX
- Might & Magic Clash of Heroes
- Mirror’s Edge
- Missile Command
- Monaco: What’s Yours is Mine
- Monday Night Combat
- Monkey Island 2: Special Edition
- Monkey Island: Special Edition
- Motocross Madness
- MS. PAC-MAN
- Ms. Splosion Man
- Mutant Blobs Attack!!!
- MX vs. ATV Reflex
- NBA JAM: On Fire Edition
- Neo-Geo Battle Colisuem
- NiGHTS into dreams…
- Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising
- Pac-Man: Championship Edition
- Pac-Man: Championship Edition DX+
- Pac-Man Museum
- Perfect Dark
- Perfect Dark Zero
- Phantasy Star II
- Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds
- Pinball FX
- Plants vs. Zombies
- Portal: Still Alive
- Putty Squad
- R-Type Dimensions
- Rayman 3 HD
- Rayman Origins
- Red Dead Redemption
- Runner 2: Legend of Rhythm Alien
- R-Type Dimensions
- Sacred 3
- Sacred Citadel
- Saints Row IV
- Samurai Showdown 2
- Sam & Max Save the World
- Sam & Max Beyond Time & Space
- Sega Vintage Collection: Alex Kidd & Co.
- Sega Vintage Collection: Golden Axe
- Sega Vintage Collection: Monster World
- Sega Vintage Collection: Streets of Rage
- Shadow Complex
- Skate 3
- Small Arms
- Sonic CD
- Sonic and Knuckles
- Sonic the Fighters
- Sonic The Hedgehog
- Sonic The Hedgehog 2
- Sonic The Hedgehog 3
- Sonic the Hedgehog 4 Episodes 1 & 2
- Soul Calibur II HD
- South Park: The Stick of Truth
- Space Giraffe
- Splosion Man
- Star Wars: The Force Unleashed
- Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II
- Super Meat Boy
- Supreme Commander 2
- Tekken Tag Tournament 2
- Texas Hold ‘Em
- The Cave
- The King of Fighters ’98 Ultimate Match
- The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings
- Ticket to Ride Arcade
- Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Vegas
- Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Vegas 2
- Toy Soldiers
- Toy Soldiers: Cold War
- Trials HD
- Tron: Evolution
- Ugly Americans: Apocalypsegeddon
- Unbound Saga
- Viva Piñata
- Viva Piñata: Trouble In Paradise
- Wolfenstein 3D
- XCOM: Enemy Unknown
- Zuma’s Revenge!
All the developers need to do is to approve Microsoft's access and then Microsoft itself does a bit of work to make it compatible. And, so far, developers have been keen to get on board.
“Certainly no-one has said no, and you can understand why. I mean why wouldn’t you. The choice of which games we pick are based on how popular the game is, what ratings it’s got and what the fans vote for,” explained Moulster.
The only restrictions to the full Xbox 360 games catalogue being ported over is peripherals. Sadly, you won’t ever be able to play Xbox 360 Kinect games on the Xbox One, because you can’t connect your old Kinect to the new machine. And the new Kinect isn’t compatible with the older titles due to its advanced technology.
General performance with backwards compatible games has proven to be quite divisive. Some games are a notable improvement over Xbox 360, while others fail to maintain a solid framerate due to the emulation. With any luck this will improve over time as Microsoft refines and updates the feature.
Also, the same can be said for games like Guitar Hero or Rock Band due to the same hardware issues.
See also: Xbox One vs Xbox 360
Why wasn’t the Xbox One initially backwards compatible?
The Xbox One is fundamentally different to the Xbox 360. It uses a x86-64 processor architecture processor, just like most current PCs and laptops, as opposed to the Xbox 360’s PowerPC (PPC) chip. Why did Microsoft choose to shift to this architecture? The reasons are simple – it wanted to keep costs low and make game developers' lives easier.
It’s arguable that the PowerPC architecture is better than the x86 one – it’s newer for a start, PPC was created by Motorola, IBM and Apple to compete with Intel in the 90s. However since then the PPC architecture has lost favour, primarily because it was a lot cheaper to manufacture x86 processors. This is down to scale – practically every PC and laptop uses one. There's more to it though. AMD and Intel aggressively invested in the technology and advanced x86 at a faster rate than the PPC backers could cope with. In the end even Apple dumped PPC in 2006 and switched to Intel x86 processors for their iMac and Macbook ranges.
More power at a lower cost means a cheaper console to produce. Some of those savings are even passed onto the consumer. Win-win, sort of.
The second aspect is, perhaps, more interesting. Having the same x86 architecture as the PC means that games can be ported much more easily from the Xbox One to PC, and vice-versa. This means less complexity, shorter development times and fewer dodgy ports – the bane of many a gamer. In addition the PS4 also uses a very similar x86 AMD Jaguar processor, which will further help developers when creating cross-platform games.
Xbox One backwards compatibility – Can I use my Xbox 360 controller?
The Xbox 360 controller won’t work with the new Xbox One. That means that you will need to purchase extra controllers for same screen multiplayer action.
An Xbox One controller with with play and charge kit will set you back £59.99 or £44.99 for it without the extra battery. In the US that's $75 and $60 respectively. Microsoft has also just announced a rather fantastic looking ‘Elite’ controller. This lets you customise your game with replaceable triggers, a new stainless steel d-pad and a host of other improvements. It’s available now for £129.99. Yes, that much.
Related: Best Xbox One Deals
Xbox One backwards compatibility – Can I use my Xbox 360 Kinect?
Once again the answer is no, but it’s less of a problem than the controller incompatibility. Some Xbox One bundles still come bundled with the new Kinect but you can also pick them up separately.