For most gamers the highlight of this week’s Xbox 20th Anniversary Celebration stream was the surprise reveal that Halo Infinite multiplayer would be available to play that day. For me, that was just a bit-part announcement compared to the real game-changing news.
76 additional games have been added to the Xbox backward compatibility program. Among the list are excellent Xbox 360 titles like Max Payne 3, F.E.A.R and, one of my personal favorite games of all time, Skate 2. Confirmation that the entire Skate trilogy is now playable on Xbox Series X had me physically fist-pumping with excitement.
I managed to snag an Xbox Series X restock back in February after a couple of weeks of searching, and since then I’ve used it almost exclusively as an Xbox 360 emulation machine. In fact, over the last nine months, I’ve played exactly two current-gen games on the system: Psychonauts 2 and Aliens: Fireteam Elite.
Granted, part of the reason for this is that the PS5 is my primary system (yes, I'm lucky to have both), so I play the vast majority of recent releases there, but I don’t regret my $499 investment in an Xbox Series X. Being able to play games across four generations of Xbox on a single machine has justified my investment alone.
Xbox Series X: So many Xbox classics to play
Since the Xbox backward compatibility program launched in 2015, originally as a feature for the then current-gen Xbox One, Microsoft has made 695 previous-gen games playable on the most recent Xbox (632 Xbox 360 titles, 63 original Xbox games). Not to mention every single Xbox One title has been playable on Xbox Series X since launch.
Among the list of backward compatible titles are some of the best games of the seventh generation of consoles. Including Fallout New Vegas, Left 4 Dead, The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, Grand Theft Auto IV, and many (many) more classic games. Just listing all the available titles worth playing (or replaying) would take up this entire article.
The smaller but still excellent selection of original Xbox games shouldn’t be overlooked either. Being able to easily access almost 20 years old games such as Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic, Max Payne 2 and TimeSplitters 2 on a modern console is nothing to sniff at.
When I first booted up my Xbox Series X my original plan was to check out the impressive Game Pass service, but instead, I quickly found myself downloading the original Dead Space so I could revisit the Ishimura and battle hordes of nightmarish creatures like it was 2008 all over again. Having easy access to these familiar favorites is an irresistible draw.
Xbox Series X makes the best even better
Another feature of the backward compatibility function that should not be overlooked is how the Xbox Series X gives many of these games a much-needed performance boost. The first time I booted up Skate 3 and cruised around Port Carverton in glorious 60 fps I felt like my entire $499 outlay had been justified.
Unfortunately, the whole roster of nearly 700 games hasn’t been boosted but a solid handful has been. Plus, during the aforementioned Xbox Anniversary stream, another couple of dozen were added to the list. Among the games boosted this week is beloved 2008 RPG Fallout 3 which definitely needed a framerate increased as on 360 it was prone to chugging even at 30 fps.
Microsoft deserves huge credit for not only enabling previous-gen games to be playable on the Xbox Series X (and the Xbox One family of consoles) but also actively working to make them play better than ever on its newest machine. This stands in stark contrast to Sony who’s made zero backward compatibility efforts with the PS4 and made little more than the minimum amount with the PS5.
The true all-in-one Xbox
During the disastrous announcement showcase of the Xbox One way back in 2013, Microsoft pitched the console as in the “all in one Xbox” (hence the name). They were referring to the console being designed as an entertainment hub, but to me, the Xbox Series X has achieved the real “all in one” console dream
It’s not done this by providing a load of additional streaming and media applications, which in fairness the console does offer, but by enabling users to play games from across four generations of Xbox on a single machine. That’s one hell of a selling point. Especially when your biggest competition doesn’t offer anything even close.
Previously when I wanted to blast the limbs off Necromorphs or shred my favorite skating spots in New San Vanelona I had to reach into the darkest depths of my closet and dust off my rapidly deteriorating PS3.
Now I just switch on my Xbox Series X and I can be playing some of my favorite games of the past two decades with boosted framerates and quicker loading times. That alone has completely justified the weeks of frustration I endured chasing down an Xbox Series X restock.