Playing Xbox 360 games on the Steam Deck is great. That is, when it works. So far I’ve seen some solid success with a few games, but there are still some of the heavy hitters that refuse to even boot.
You could always see about replacing the operating system to get better compatibility, but not everyone wants to ditch the brilliance that is SteamOS. If that sounds like you, and you want to get the Xenia emulator working within SteamOS, read on to find out I got Xbox 360 games running on the Steam Deck.
In This Article
- Step 1: Boot into Desktop Mode
- Step 2: Download the Xenia Canary Build
- Step 3: Add the Xenia Canary Build to Steam
- Step 4: Configure Xenia in Steam
- Step 5: How to Play Xbox 360 Games on Steam Deck
- Step 6: How to Add Xbox 360 Games to Steam ROM Manager (Optional)
- How Is Xbox 360 Performance on Steam Deck?
- Alternatives to Xenia on Steam Deck
- Where to Get Xbox 360 Games
- How to Get Better Performance in Xenia
Step 1: Boot into Desktop Mode
Let’s kick things off with something nice and simple: Boot into Desktop Mode.
By default, the Steam Deck will be in Gaming Mode. To exit, hold down the power button until a menu pops up. Once this does, navigate down to Switch to Desktop and click it.
After a few seconds the Steam Deck should boot into the Linux desktop mode and we’re good to move on.
Step 2: Download the Xenia Canary Build
Next, head over to the Xenia Canary build page on Github and download the latest file named “xenia_canary.zip.”
Personally, the easiest way to get this file on the Steam Deck is to use either Firefox or Chrome on the Steam Deck (both can be found in the Discover store in Desktop Mode) and download the file directly to the Deck.
If you’d prefer to download it on a computer and transfer it over, I’ve got a guide for transferring files over to the Steam Deck from a PC. It’s all really painless as well.
Once it’s finished downloading, head into the Downloads folder in the Dolphin file explorer (the blue folder icon). You should see the file we just downloaded. Use the left trigger to click on it then select Extract, followed by Extract Archive Here. This will extract the contents of the file to its own folder.
I’ve already installed EmuDeck on the Steam Deck, so this is the point where I’d move it to the Emulation folder so I know where it is. If you don’t have EmuDeck installed, just move the new, extracted folder to somewhere you’ll remember.
Step 3: Add the Xenia Canary Build to Steam
Once you’ve moved the files to somewhere safe, head inside and look for the file named “xenia_canary.exe.”
Use the left trigger to click on the file to bring up the submenu then select Add to Steam.
A box will now pop up. If you don’t see Xenia in the list, hit Browse (1.) then locate the file (it’ll be in the folder you extracted). After clicking on the twice, hit Add Progam (2.) to add it as a non-Steam game.
Step 4: Configure Xenia in Steam
As of right now, the Canary version of Xenia isn’t able to boot, so let’s fix it.
Open up Steam and click on Library (1.). In the search box (2.) type “Xenia” and hit enter. In the list underneath you should spot the name of the file we just added (3.). From here use the left trigger to click on Xenia and from the submenu and select Properties (4.).
Click on Compatibility (1.) and tick the box to the right. Doing so will reveal a drop-down box (2.), and now we can select the latest version of Proton.
Bonus tip: If a version of Proton isn’t working, I found switching back to Proton 8.0 may fix your troubles.
If you want to customize Xenia, now’s the time to do it. One thing I recommend is going back into the Shortcut tab above Compatibility and changing the name to simply Xenia. It looks much nicer back in Gaming Mode.
If you really want to spruce things up so it looks nice in Gaming Mode, head on over to SteamGridDB and download some pre-made artwork. And yes, there are even some custom Xenia artwork options.
Step 5: How to Play Xbox 360 Games on Steam Deck
At this point, Xenia should be able to boot without much hassle but it won’t run games properly. So, as you guessed, the next part is to make it work on the Steam Deck.
To make it play nice with the Linux environment it finds itself in, we’re going to change some of the code.
But before we do that, we need Xenia to create some files. Begin by closing the Properties window. A big green play button should now be staring you in the face. Click that and wait a few moments for Xenia to open up.
Once it opens, close it. It’ll make sense soon, trust me.
Leave the Steam window open as we’ll need it again shortly. Open up the Dolphin file explorer and head back to where you placed the contents of the Xenia zip file.
Because we booted Xenia once, there should now be an extra file in there named “xenia.config.toml.” Click it twice with the right trigger to open it.
You’re going to be confronted with a long list of daunting code. Don’t panic. This is much easier to navigate than it looks.
Click File from the menu at the top and click on the search function. A box should now open along the bottom of the window. In that box, type “GPU”.
Using the down arrow to the right of the box, keep pressing it until you come across the line of code that reads:
- GPU = “any”
All we need to do is change that “any” to “vulkan”. This is done by highlighting “any” and pressing the Steam button plus the X button to bring up the virtual keyboard. When it pops up, only replace the three letters of “any” with “vulkan”. Keep the quotation marks as that’s part of the code here and be sure to keep the case the same (it’s a lowercase v in Vulkan).
When that’s all done, head to File and select Save As and overwrite the “xenia.config.toml” file. After saving is complete, close the file and head back to Steam.
The next time you boot Xenia everything should be good to go. One thing to note, if you’ve got a game in an ISO format, just click on the ISO from within Xenia (File then Open) to boot it. If you’ve got a decompiled game, you’re looking for the main “xex” file to boot it up.
Also, zip files don’t work and likely need extracting beforehand.
Step 6: How to Add Xbox 360 Games to Steam ROM Manager (Optional)
If you don’t use Steam ROM Manager to add ROMs to Steam, which in turn adds them to Gaming Mode, you’re now safe to go off and play. If, however, you want to use Xenia with Steam ROM Manager, keep reading.
Open up the main Steam ROM Manager app and tell it to close Steam. If you installed Steam ROM Manager through EmuDeck, we’ll now need to change a setting to let us tinker.
Once Sream ROM Manager opens, click on Settings (pictured above) and select the classic look.
Scroll down the furthest left column until you see Microsoft Xbox 360 – Xenia. Click on the toggle to the right to activate it.
As you may know, this doesn’t currently work, but we can make it work with a simple path change.
Look to the right side of the window. Scroll down slightly until you can see the Executable box.
Click the Browse button to the right and navigate to where the xenia_canary.exe file is located. Click that file twice to select it then hit Save (located to the bottom-left of the screen).
Move any Xbox 360 game files you’ve ripped to the main ROMs folder (under Xbox 360) found in the EmuDeck Emulation folder, and when you build the game list by clicking Preview from the top-left area of Steam ROM manager, your Xbox 360 games should now be visible.
Also, and this is important, since I wrote this guide the way things work has changed slightly. If your game that’s been added through Steam ROM Manager isn’t booting, try changing the Proton version (outlined in Step 4) of the game itself to the same version as Xenia Canary. This should fix that issue and allow the game to boot.
How Is Xbox 360 Performance on Steam Deck?
Honestly? It’s still pretty dire. Some games will run without any issues whatsoever, others either don’t boot or suffer from too many problems to make the experience playable.
If you’ve got a game in mind, it’s worth checking out the Xenia compatibility GitHub first. In our testing, the Goldeneye remake plays brilliantly, but games like Fable 2 can’t get past the main menu and Mortal Kombat refuses to boot.
We also tested out the main Xenia master build on Steam Deck and that actually performed worse than the experimental Canary build. Feel free to install the main Xenia build as the process is exactly the same as the Canary build. Just, you know, it probably won’t solve the issues you’re having.
Alternatives to Xenia on Steam Deck
If you’re after the best compatibility for Xbox 360 games on Steam Deck, your best bet is to install Windows 10 or Windows 11 on the Steam Deck. It’s not nearly as painful as you might expect and as Xenia is a Windows app, it performs much better with Windows as the main operating system. The whole process is completely reversible as well, so if you find you don’t like Windows, you can reinstall SteamOS if you want.
Other than that, there aren’t any other Xbox 360 emulators of note. Your options really are either to install Windows and lose everything great about SteamOS or make do with our workaround for getting Xenia installed on Steam Deck.
Alternatively, if there are any other retro games you want to get up and running on Steam Deck, be sure to check out our guide to what the Steam Deck can emulate.
Where to Get Xbox 360 Games
The best, and most legal way, to get Xbox 360 games is to rip them yourself. Much like with PS2 emulation, however, be sure to check your local laws before you do anything.
Xenia actually has a guide to dumping your discs and the process is simple. You’ll need an Xbox 360 and a program called Velocity, but it’s essentially a case of running Velocity, dumping your game to the Xbox 360 hard drive, then transferring it over.
How to Get Better Performance in Xenia
If you want better performance for certain games it may well be worth trying custom game patches.
Now, one quick warning, because of the nature of Xenia, this may or may not work. It didn’t work for me on Steam Deck but some people on the Steam Deck Reddit have had success.
Here’s how to install custom game patches:
- Download the Game Patches Zip from the GitHub website.
- Extract the files and copy the patches folder to the Xenia folder.
- Alternatively, create a “patches” folder inside the Xenia folder then copy and paste across the patches you need.
- Open the patch file with Kate (the Notepad-like app).
- Find what you want to activate (like 60 FPS hacks) and change the word “false” to “true”.
- Enter the Xenia.toml file mentioned earlier in this guide and perform a search for “patch”.
- Make sure “patches” is set to “true” not “false” and Xenia should activate any patch files in the patches folder.
As I say, I haven’t had any success with this on Steam Deck, but on the Windows-based ROG Ally, I was able to get games like Red Dead Redemption running at 60 frames per second.