Xbox Series S/X consoles have three generations of backwards compatibility. Gamers can choose from several original Xbox classics on the new hardware.
By Derek Garcia
Published 4 days ago
Three console generations of backwards compatibility are a significant selling point for the Xbox Series X/S?consoles, and a huge added value early in the generation as new titles are slowly starting to release that make full use of the more powerful hardware. Backward compatibility with select Xbox 360 games was introduced for the Xbox One in 2015, with original Xbox games added in 2017. Though the original Xbox games are several generations old, they display in improved resolutions on the newer consoles. At present, just over 40 of the nearly 1,000 games in the original Xbox library have been added to the backward compatibility list.
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The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One both originally released with no backward compatibility whatsoever. This was a disappointing reversal from the prior generation, as the Xbox 360 was compatible with more than 450 original Xbox games, and the early model PlayStation 3 consoles supported PS1 and PS2 discs, though later PS3 models would only play PS1 discs and select PS2 games purchased through the PlayStation Network digital storefront. The later addition of Xbox 360 compatibility to the Xbox One, as well as the subsequent original Xbox game compatibility, gave gamers incentive to support the struggling Xbox One and helped it stand apart from the single-generation compatible PS4.
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Original Xbox games can be purchased digitally for $10 to $15, and sale prices often see these dip even lower. Several original Xbox games are also included with the?Xbox Game Pass service or offered as free titles through Games with Gold. Those who purchased original Xbox games on the Xbox One will find their library carries over to the new generation Xbox Series consoles. Gamers who retained their original Xbox discs can still use those as validation discs to play compatible games without purchasing a separate digital license, although the disc will need to remain in the drive, as with current generation validation discs. Xbox fans are hopeful that more titles will follow, but for now, these are some of the best original Xbox titles that gamers can play on their Xbox One?or Series X/S consoles.
The original Xbox was not known for having a particularly strong RPG library, although it did include several quality western RPGs that deserve notice. Most of the greats among these are fortunately included in the backwards compatibility list. While all of the Xbox’s backwards compatible RPGs are also available on PC, and often other formats, the low price point, ease of use and access, and improved resolutions, make the Xbox One and Xbox Series consoles arguably the best way to experience these RPG classics.
Jade Empire: A prior-generation classic from BioWare,?Jade Empire?was an action RPG that allowed the developer to branch out from its previous experience with licensed RPG games based on?Dungeons & Dragons?and?Star Wars?into an original IP. The combination of morality choices and action RPG gameplay would later transition into the?Dragon Age?and?Mass Effect?franchises. The martial arts-oriented gameplay and Asian setting helped?Jade Empire?remain a fan favorite, a world many hope BioWare will revisit.Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic1 & 2: Prior to the Mass Effect series, the original Knights of the Old Republic game was BioWare’s first foray into an RPG with science fiction elements. It?had previously developed the beloved Baldur’s Gate and Neverwinter Nights series of Dungeons & Dragons-based computer RPGs, and KOTOR used a modified version of the Neverwinter Nights engine, as well as mechanics from Wizards of the Coast’s Star Wars Roleplaying Game, which was based on third edition D&D’s d20 system rules. Obsidian developed the sequel, building on the gameplay and narrative of the first game to tell an arguably stronger story with memorable characters like Kreia.The Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind: Though considerably more rough around the edges than the later sequels Oblivion and Skyim, The Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind remains a well-regarded classic, and among the first games to showcase an open world RPG as gamers conceive of the genre today. As a first-person, 3D roleplaying game in an expansive setting, Morrowind turned gamers loose to create their own personalized character and lose themselves in a sprawling fantasy world.
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Where the first Xbox was relatively weak on RPGs, shooters were well represented. The first two games in Microsoft’s iconic Halo series are available in upgraded versions as part of the Master Chief Collection instead of through the backward compatibility program. Though there are some omissions from the Xbox shooter library that will hopefully be included in future updates, like Time Splitters: Future Perfect, among others, shooter fans still have plenty of classics to revisit, and experience in higher resolutions than their original versions.
Red Faction 2: The second Red Faction game from Volition, developers of the Saints Row series, continued the science fiction story of guerilla resistance forces battling a militant dystopia on mars, with super soldiers enhanced by nano-machines. Red Faction 2 was a solid shooter with a well-developed story, and multiple endings based on player choices.Black: With Black, developer Criterion Games went from their experience with the racing genre, with Burnout and Need For Speed games, to making one of the?more unusual FPS titles of its generation. Black was a fairly reserved shooter in terms of story, eschewing science fiction elements for a focus on a CIA black ops agent operating in Russia. The game instead pushed realism with an accurate, albeit exaggerated, approach to its gunplay, and an emphasis on destructible environments.Panzer Dragoon Orta: Orta was an original Xbox-exclusive rail shooter, and the final game in the Panzer Dragoon series which began on the Sega Saturn. As an arcade-style shooter, players mount a dragon which flies largely along a predetermined track, with gameplay focused on avoiding and annihilating enemies within a limited time frame, much like the early Star Fox games. The Xbox One-exclusive Crimson Dragon was a later spiritual successor to Panzer Dragoon, with similar aesthetics and gameplay, but?Panzer Dragoon Orta is widely considered to be the better of the two.Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy: Jedi Academy was the third game in the Jedi Knight series of Star Wars games, which began as an offshoot of Star Wars: Dark Forces, one of the trailblazing first-person shooters which introduced many FPS genre innovations. The Dark Forces and Jedi Knight games were part of the Star Wars expanded universe that focused largely on Kyle Katarn, though Jedi Academy cast players as padawan Jaden Korr in a game that combined first person and third person action.
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Outside of shooters and RPGs, there are many worthwhile original Xbox games available on the digital storefront, including platformers, third-person action games, and a lone fighting game. In addition to the games mentioned below, family-friendly classics like Grabbed by the Ghoulies and Blinx the Time Sweeper still hold up reasonably well, and games like Hunter: the Reckoning and Bloodrayne 2 still hold niche appeal, although these have aged more significantly?relative to others.
Psychonauts: With a sequel on the way this year, many gamers welcome the chance to play the original Psychonauts on current-gen hardware. Though the game is now considered a classic, Psychonauts did not sell well at the time of its original release, so its presence on the Xbox backwards compatibility list gives gamers who missed it a chance to experience this unique gem. Psychonauts was a platforming game with a bizarre sense of gallows humor, and a narrative involving a psychic boy joining a group of psionically gifted spies, combating external threats, as well as the inner demons of friends and enemies alike. It also hold up?well today compared to many games of its era.Ninja Gaiden Black: The 2004 Xbox game Ninja Gaiden was a 3D reboot of the NES-era side-scrolling Ninja Gaiden series, and Ninja Gaiden Black incorporated the DLC for Ninja Gaiden along with new enemies and difficulty modes. Ninja Gaiden’s hero Ryu Hayabusa is also a fighter in Tecmo’s?Dead or Alive fighting game series, and the games share the same continuity. Ninja Gaiden was a highly challenging game, well before Demon’s Souls’ 2009 release ushered in the Soulslike subgenre,?though the addition of the easier Ninja Dog difficulty made it somewhat more approachable.The King of Fighters: Neowave: As the sole 2D fighting game currently available on the original Xbox backward compatibility list, Neowave is a welcome addition. A solid SNK fighter that was only available on Xbox in the US, Neowave is?a?King of Fighters?game?but not part of the story canon, rather existing as a “dream match” game combining characters from throughout the franchise’s history. Regrettably, SNK’s crossover title, SNK vs Capcom: SVC Chaos, another North American original Xbox exclusive, has not yet been added as a backward compatible title for current-gen Xbox systems.
Gamers looking to play original Xbox games that look better than they ever did have a small number of options relative to the size of the system’s library, but there are enough quality games among those to make the feature worthwhile. Beyond those mentioned above, gamers can experience the first four home console entries in the Splinter Cell series through backward compatibility, explore several other Star Wars games, or play the Xbox version of Sid Meier’s Pirates.
It has been two years since the last batch of original Xbox games were added to the compatibility list in June 2019, leaving gamers unsure as to whether the current list is final, or whether Microsoft intends to expand it at a later time. The current messaging is unclear, as previous statements indicated the focus was on ensuring all currently available backward compatible games would work well with the Series X/S consoles. With the new consoles having been available for more than six months, fans can remain cautiously optimistic that more Xbox games beyond the roughly 40 titles?available currently will be added, and that more of the remaining 900 plus original Xbox games will become playable on current-gen hardware.
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About The Author
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Derek Garcia is a Game Feature Writer for ScreenRant. He lives with his wife, three dogs, and a likely excessive number of video game consoles. When he is not writing, playing video games, watching movies or television, or reading novels or comic books, he occasionally takes some time to sleep. Derek majored in journalism and worked for a print newspaper before discovering the internet. He is a fan of science fiction and fantasy, video game and tabletop RPGs, classic Hong Kong action movies, and graphic novels. After being immersed in nerd culture for many years, Derek is now happy to write about the media he enjoys instead of just ranting to his friends.
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