Playing Xbox 360 games on the Steam Deck is great. That is, when it works. We’ve seen a lot of 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 how to play Xbox 360 games on Steam Deck.
- 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
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 Discovery 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, we’ve got a guide for transferring files over to the Steam Deck from a PC.
Once it’s finished downloading, head into the “Downloads” folder in the Dolphin file explorer and unzip it. Next, move the contents of the zip file to somewhere easy to remember where it can live forever.
We already have EmuDeck installed so we moved it to the “Emulation” folder it created, though you’re free to whack it anywhere that makes sense to you.
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.”
Left-click on the file to bring up a menu and select “Add to Steam.” The Steam icon should pop up then a few seconds later, after it’s disappeared, head into the main Steam app. Again, this is still in Desktop mode.
Head into “Library” and in the upper-left of the screen should be a search box. In it, type “Xenia” and you should see the file we just added.
Note: It may be named something odd like “xenia.canary.desktop.exe.” Don’t worry if it is, we’ll be sorting all that out shortly.
Step 4: Configure Xenia in Steam
As of right now, the Canary version of Xenia won’t work right, so let’s fix it.
This first part isn’t needed for everyone but as a SteamOS beta user, it may help, and is worth doing. Left-click “Xenia_Canary” from the left of the screen (or whatever Steam has named it) and head into “Properties.”
In the “Shortcut” section, underneath “Target” and “Start in,” click on “Browse” and navigate through your folders until you find the “xenia_canary.exe” file from early and click twice on it. This basically helps the Steam Deck work out how to find the file and often can be the difference between something working and not.
On the left side of the window, click on the “Compatibility” tab to bring up some new options. Click on “Force the use of a specific Steam Play compatibility tool” and a new drop-down menu should appear below it. Click on that, and select “Proton 7.0-4” from the list.
If you want to customize Xenia, now’s the time to do it. We suggest going back into “Shortcut” and changing the name to simply “Xenia” and 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 so it’s not just a big old black box.
Step 5: How to Play Xbox 360 Games on Steam Deck
At this point, Xenia should be able to boot without much hassle. It still won’t work properly, but we’ve managed to get it booting which is the important thing.
To make it play nice with the Linux environment it finds itself in, we’re going to change some of the code.
Close the window we opened and right-click on Xenia from the left. A big green play button should 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 us.
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.” Double-click it to open it.
You’re going to be confronted with a list of daunting code. Don’t panic. This is much easier to navigate than it looks.
Select “File” from along 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.
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, so don’t bother trying.
Step 6: How to Add Xbox 360 Games to Steam ROM Manager (Optional)
Not everyone needs to do this but if you’ve got EmuDeck installed on Steam Deck and love how Steam ROM manager makes bootable files for use in gaming mode that look like real games, you’re going to want to.
Close Steam and boot Steam ROM Manager. After it loads, click on the “Parsers” header on the left. Scroll down until you see the Xenia option: Microsoft Xbox 360 – Xenia. Now click on that.
As you may know, this doesn’t work. However, we can make it work because we’re well smart. Click on that and a host of options should be on the right side. Scroll down until you find the header titled “Executable.” Underneath should be a browse button with a path to the left of it.
Click “Browse” and navigate to where the “xenia_canary.exe” file is located from earlier. Double-click it 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 “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.
One thing to note, if you’ve got a decompiled game, like the Xbox Live Arcade remake of Goldeneye 007, you’ll need to rename the file “Default.xex” to the game’s name.xex.
If you don’t, Steam ROM Manager will title the game Default Dan, and yes, it’s very funny when that happens.
How Is Xbox 360 Performance on Steam Deck?
Honestly? It’s 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 of 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 reverseable 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.