Xbox Series X/S Can Run PlayStation 2 Games

The Xbox Series X/S' ability to emulate PlayStation 2 games may be unofficial, but it raises interesting questions about the PS5's backward compatibility program.

Xbox Series X

You probably know that one of the biggest selling points of the Xbox Series X/S is Microsoft’s extensive backward compatibility program, but we bet you didn’t know that the consoles’ backward compatibility abilities are so extensive that they’re capable of playing more classic PlayStation games than even the PlayStation 5.

According to the YouTube channel Modern Vintage Gamer (and other software researchers), the Xbox Series X/S’ can relatively easily be turned into some of the most powerful and appealing video game emulators in the world.

How is that possible? The video above has the full details, but the basic idea is that the Xbox’s built-in developer mode can be used as a backdoor for certain emulation software. You’ll need to pay a fee to access the mode, navigate a sometimes tricky installation process, and (we should be very clear about this) potentially violate several laws and warranties based on your individual actions, but it is possible to emulate the Dreamcast, PlayStation, Gamecube, and other retro consoles on the Xbox Series X/S.

That’s already an impressive (if certainly unintended) function, but what’s really got people excited is the revelation that the Xbox Series X/S also serves as a shockingly powerful PlayStation 2 emulator.

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The fact that the PlayStation 2 features one of the best console libraries ever should be enough to get you excited by even the possibility of playing PS2 games on a modern console, but what makes this particular reveal so impressive is the fact that even optimistic analysts thought it would be months before PS2 games would be playable on the Xbox Series X/S via these backdoor methods. As you can see in the video above, though, it’s technically possible to play PS2 games on Xbox right now.

We say “technically possible” because the necessary software is in the early stages of development. The PS2 emulation software the Xbox Series X/S is capable of running is barely functional and was just reasonably deemed acceptable for more public testing. That being the case, many PS2 games will not run well on the Xbox Series X/S and some will not run at all.

This issue is further complicated by the fact that this method of emulation is not only unofficial (and, we should remind you, potentially illegal and generally inadvisable for many users) but that it doesn’t really utilize the full power of these next-gen consoles. Early tests indicate that these emulators can’t properly utilize the Xbox Series X/S SSD and other next-gen features. That means that even when an emulated game runs fairly well on the Xbox, it won’t run nearly as well as the list of titles officially supported by Microsoft’s next-gen console.

That being said, the fact you can play retro PlayStation games on the Xbox Series X/S via even an unofficial emulator does raise some interesting questions about the PS5’s comparatively limited backward compatibility functionality.

While we haven’t heard a full, official statement regarding the PS5’s lack of native backward compatibility functionality beyond its support of most PS4 games, Sony has addressed this issue before. For instance, PlayStation’s Jim Ryan told Time Magazine in 2017 that “we’ve dabbled with backward compatibility” but they felt it’s “one of those features that is much requested, but not actually used much.” We also know that Sony previously removed much of the PS3’s backward compatibility support as part of a cost-cutting measure and that the PS4 featured no native backward compatibility support whatsoever. There are also reports that the PlayStation Classic failed to meet sales expectations as well as fan expectations.

Yet, here’s the Xbox Series X/S using basic emulation software via off-the-books methods to offer the function that many PlayStation fans are asking for: the ability to simply play classic PlayStation games. Said games may not always run well on the Xbox Series X/S, but at a time when Nintendo can release glorified emulations of classic Super Mario games at full price and actually be applauded for the scraps, it really makes you wonder whether the technical hurdles that supposedly hinder at least some kind of multi-gen backward compatibility support in next-gen consoles are really significant enough for that feature to not be considered standard.

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So while the Xbox Series X/S’ ability to play retro PlayStation games may be little more than a curiosity, it’s also an interesting jumping-off point for the larger discussion of just how it is that the Xbox does more to officially and unofficially support retro games than the other two major console manufacturers.