Updated on 2008-09-22
Table of Contents
What is backwards compatibility?
Backwards compatibility is the ability of new equipment to utilize components made for an older generation of equipment. This site is specifically dedicated to Xbox 360 backwards compatibility with original Xbox games. The catalog of games that work on the Xbox 360 is limited to nearly 460 games.
Why aren't all Xbox games backwards compatible with the Xbox 360?
If you are one to wonder why only a limited number of Xbox games are backwards compatible where as all Playstation games were compatible with the Playstation 2 at the time of its launch, you are not the only one.
The short answer is hardware vs software emulation. The Playstation 2 actually had both system built inside the Playstation 2 box. The hardware was somewhat similar so cost and space could be consolidated. While hardware emulation was a possibility with the Xbox 360, Microsoft took a different approach with software emulation. Software emulation is a very time consuming process to implement but it was preferable to hardware emulation since the Xbox was a relatively expensive system to produce and shared almost nothing in common with the Xbox 360. Having two systems inside one box would have driven up the cost and more importantly (or so Microsoft thought so) the size of the system.
Software emulation requires a big investment of time to implement and is implemented on a title by title basis. Microsoft said it would like to make all original Xbox games backwards compatible however they have always said that 100% backwards compatibility was far from a realistic goal. Over the passage of time, we are seeing Microsoft add more and more games to the list of backwards compatible titles.
What is the frequency of updates to the library?
When the Xbox 360 launched, Microsoft released a list of over 200 games that were backwards compatible with the Xbox 360. Every few months Microsoft would release an update to the list. Most updates added 30+ games to the list and updated a few, some of which did not run very well on the first release. After six updates (the last being 2007-11-27) and two years after the release of the Xbox 360, Microsoft all but confirmed that they would be calling an end to this ongoing project. Their reasoning was that there was not enough interest to make it worthwhile for them to continue their efforts.
Why do some games work well while others do not?
There were very few guidelines developers had to follow when making games for the Xbox. Many games made use of custom tailored features that were used exclusively in that one game. While the standard features of the system were relatively simple to emulate, the custom made features posed a huge challenge for the backwards compatibility developers. Games developed sticking to the standards usually run without much of a hiccup however since there was little emphasis on closely following standards, many games that do work do so with some difficulty.
What are game regions?
Video games as well as movies come trademarked with the regions of the world they were intended for. Differing regions of the game may contain different languages, box art, game ratings and even game content. There are three major regions for Xbox games. These regions are Japan intended for the Asian market, Europe intended for Europe and the surrounding lands and North America intended for both the American continents.
Why are some regions not backwards compatible?
Some games enjoy being nearly identical throughout all their regions. However in some instances, the differences between regions can be more than subtle. Just as the processes of making a game backwards compatible happens on a game by game basis, so does each region release of any given title. In the best case scenario, two region releases are nearly identical and after one release has been worked on, zero extra work is required to get the other versions up and running using the same emulator. However, this is usually not the case. Even games that differ subtly from one region to another usually require extra work to get all versions up and running.
Unfortunately, not all games listed as backwards compatible are in all compatible in all regions. I have denoted this issue on affected games with the symbols shown below.
(US) – The North American region is the only compatible version of this game.
How do I obtain the most recent emulator package for the Xbox 360?
(EU) – European region of this game is not backwards compatible.
(J) – The Japan region of this game is not backwards compatible.
If your Xbox 360 is connected to Xbox Live via Silver or Gold subscription, your system will automatically download the most recent emulator for the game you are attempting to play. For those who do not have Xbox Live access, there is an alternative method. Microsoft offers a downloadable software package which contains the emulators for all the games in the backwards compatibility library. There is a one time installation step and you must burn the package file to a CD in order to install it on your console.