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The Xbox Series S and Series X can now run retro emulators through RetroArch, and performance is excellent

The Xbox Series S is an emulation powerhouse. (Image via Microsoft and Retro Arch w/ edits)
The Xbox Series S is an emulation powerhouse. (Image via Microsoft and Retro Arch w/ edits)
Retro gamers have managed to get the popular emulator frontend Retro Arch installed on the Xbox Series S and Series X consoles. Not surprisingly, performance is excellent, but considering the frontend's limitations of previous consoles, the retro gaming capabilities of Microsoft's new gaming machines are impressive.
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The Xbox Series S is by far the weakest console of the current generation, but there’s a new trick up its sleeve that may entice some gamers, particularly those interested in emulating retro consoles.

Thanks to the console’s Developer Mode, some intrepid coders have gotten the popular emulator frontend Retro Arch to run on the console. After setting the Xbox Series S into Developer Mode, users can install the Unified Windows Platform (UWP) version of Retro Arch through the console’s web browser. Once Retro Arch is installed, it’s a simple matter to configure controls and add ROMs. 

YouTuber Modern Vintage Gamer tested several emulators on his Xbox Series S via Retro Arch. Highlights include the Dolphin emulator (for Nintendo GameCube and Wii games), the Beetle emulator (for Sega Saturn games), the Reicast emulator (for Sega Dreamcast games), and more. The Xbox Series S runs several notoriously difficult-to-emulate games like Star Wars: Rogue Squadron 2 (GameCube), Panzer Dragoon Zwei (Sega Saturn), and Skies of Arcadia (Sega Dreamcast) fluidly. There are some hiccups (like GoldenEye 007 for the Nintendo 64), but it seems that most titles run at a steady framerate without issue.

There are some major caveats. First and foremost, getting an Xbox Series S into Developer Mode isn’t straightforward. Users must register their console with Microsoft and pay a one-time fee of US$20. Additionally, a console in Developer Mode cannot play retail Xbox games. While it is fairly easy to switch the console back and forth between its Developer and Retail Modes, both modes cannot be active at the same time. As such, gamers that want to play retro games through emulation and current-gen titles will have to regularly flip their console between the modes, which is cumbersome. 

What are your thoughts on the emulation capabilities of the Xbox Series S and Series X? Let us know in the comments. 

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Sam Medley
Sam Medley - Senior Tech Writer - 1122 articles published on Notebookcheck since 2016
I've been a computer geek my entire life. After graduating college with a degree in Mathematics, I worked in finance and banking a few years before taking a job as a database administrator. I started working with Notebookcheck in October of 2016 and have enjoyed writing news and reviews. I've also written for other outlets including UltrabookReview and GeeksWorldWide, focusing on consumer guidance and video gaming. My areas of interest include the business side of technology, retro gaming, Linux, and innovative gadgets. When I'm not writing on electronics or tinkering with a device, I'm either outside with my family, enjoying a decade-old video game, or playing drums or piano.
contact me via: @samuel_medley
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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2020 11 > The Xbox Series S and Series X can now run retro emulators through RetroArch, and performance is excellent
Sam Medley, 2020-11-25 (Update: 2020-11-25)