Why Modded Xbox Consoles Make the Best Retro Emulator Rigs

Although many people have either sold, stored, or shelved their original Xbox system, it still remains one of the best options for housing your emulators. If you didn’t already know, it’s completely possible to turn a modded Xbox system into a fully equipped retro emulator machine. 

Now, you might say, “Hey dude, I can just play ROMs from my PC.” You’re completely right to say that, but using a softmodded original Xbox is still the best choice for a lot of reasons. I’m going to tell you why.

Just one little thing: I’m talking about emulators in this article. I’m not here to debate the ethics of emulators, ROMs and all that.  That’s for another article. 

What is a Modded Xbox?

It’s a tad ironic that this is the game you use

A modded Xbox, the original system at least, is a version of the console that has its software updated and/or its hardware altered in such a way that the user gains greater control over the system’s capabilities. As a result, users can add emulators, file managers, programs, and more.

That’s the fancy definition. Basically, you can perform what is called a soft mod on the original Xbox system that gives you access to a new system dashboard. 

Once that is installed, you can make the modded Xbox your retro emulation playground. These systems are perfect for emulating most systems and games from the NES era all the way to the  original Xbox generation. I’m not saying you should do this, only that it’s possible given the console’s capabilities.

The fun does not end there, either. You can get music, apps, and all other kinds of craziness on the console once it’s modded. 

The original Xbox modding community is alive, well, and filled with wisdom to help you have an incredible time. 

The Original Xbox System is Inexpensive 

In all its chunky glory

The original Xbox launched ways back in 2001 and eventually sold about 24 million units. That means it’s relatively common and it’s also old. In fact, it’s three game generations back. 

That works out in your favor since that means the console is still widely available (perhaps in your closet or displayed on a shelf right now) and it’s cheap to buy. 

Right now, you can go online or scope out a brick-and-mortar game store or pawn shop, and get your hands on the base system for about $50 bucks. The price has gone up a little as of late, though. 

Bottom line: the system is pretty cheap for something that will radically alter your media consumption. 

The Modding Process is Simple 

It’s all worth it

You can’t just plug in the system and “hack it” without knowing how. Well, you probably could if you were tech savvy. I’m gonna assume you’re like me, though. 

The more difficult way starts out with finding the right instructions online. Believe me, there are more than a few great guides for softmodding available with a quick Google search.

Next, you have to buy one of a few specific video games, like Splinter Cell, MechAssault, and Tony Hawk Pro Skater 4. Your best bet would be to get Splinter Cell because it works the best for the softmod process. These save files of these games are required for the exploit to work. 

You will also need a thumb drive to store and transfer data. Having a PC with a DVD drive and a few DVD-R media discs is also necessary. Combined, you will have the opportunity to download and install everything you need on your system. It sounds more complicated than it is, but there is a simpler way.

The easier way starts out by finding a premade softmod kit that comes with a preloaded thumb drive device, a copy of Splinter Cell, and a walkthrough of the process for around $30. This lets you bypass all the nonsense and get to the point. 

So for about $80 in, you can get a fully unlocked Xbox. Then you determine what you want to put on the system.

For people that aren’t afraid of an investment, I’d also consider getting:

  • HDMI compatibility wire (for them new-fangled flatscreen TVs)
  • A new controller 
  • More hard drive storage space for the softmodded original xbox

From my perspective, spending less on this system, hookups, and softmod kit than I would on a new system or two games is worth the investment. 

The Modded Xbox Can Hold an Extensive Game Library

All these and so much more

Back to the original question of why a softmodded original Xbox is the retro emulator— it can hold so much!

If you were to turn this into an emulator powerhouse machine, you can easily store the entire library of games from the NES, SNES, and N64 eras on the system, as long as you can find supported emulators and ROMs (insert lazy legal disclaimer). 

You’ll have access to the best SNES RPGs and your favorite Sega Genesis sports games available on the same system, each accessible with just a few clicks on your controller. You could even try rare games that you’ve never played before, like Ehrgeiz or Lunar. 

Also, the modding community is still active and working to make the original Xbox the best emulator console possible, so you can find plenty of updated resources. 

The Xbox Emulator Setup Lets You Keep It Retro… 

Keep your emulation old school

An added benefit that you get from creating a softmodded Xbox is that you get to use an old console to make it happen. A lot of collectors display their favorite systems on stylish shelves with cool LEDs, but they never touch the frickin’ systems

That’s the thing I love the most about the idea of using an original Xbox as a retro gaming emulator. Not only can you play on your TV instead of a computer screen (as the gaming gods intended), but you get to continue using a cool-looking system that would probably just gather dust in a collection for another ten years.

You will use a system that is on the brink of being considered retro to play games that are both old and great. 

…And Maybe Help the Planet

Do you know what happens to old systems that aren’t loved anymore? They either sit on a shelf somewhere or they get tossed in the trash. Cut down on the e-waste and let these systems live a second life. Captain Planet will definitely thank you. 

Final Thoughts


To sum it up, using a modded Xbox for your retro emulator needs is inexpensive, simple, cool-looking, and a perfect all-in-one media solution. 

So grab an Xbox, softmod that thing, load it up with games and have some fun. When you’re not using it, lend it to your  parents to play their old favorites or use it to educate the younger generation about what good games were like back in your day. 


2 responses to “Why Modded Xbox Consoles Make the Best Retro Emulator Rigs”

  1. […] Still, I know I missed some very good games that I would still boot up and play from a completely legal disc and certainly not by using an emulator. […]

  2. […] This action-RPG is interesting, nice to look at, and hard to come by. The reason that a lot of people never heard of this game is that it never got a release in the U.S. on the SNES. The only way to play this for a while has been to load it up on emulators.  […]

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