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Is backwards compatibility the Xbox One X’s best feature?

by Eric Frederiksen | November 7, 2017November 7, 2017 11:00 am PST

Listen, I’m really excited about the Xbox One X. It’s a beast of a system with a very bright future. But the thing I never expected was that the system’s most exciting feature would be its backwards compatibility. While that feature isn’t exclusive to the Xbox One X by any means, the X is doing new things for it that make it a fascinating feature that belongs on the marquee right next to “most powerful console.”

When the Xbox One released back in 2013, Microsoft messed up. Horribly. The company has been trying to make up for it ever since. Like a BFF that broke a pinky swear, the company has been going out of its way to make up for a console launch that missed the mark about as far as a new system could.

The company has been simultaneously doubling down on hardcore gamers with items such as the Elite controller and the One X, while doing consumer-friendly stuff like Xbox Play Anywhere and Minecraft‘s Better Together cross-platform update.

One of the biggest among those is backwards compatibility. At first, it felt like a courtesy feature. But now the list of backward-compatible Xbox 360 games has ballooned to over 400, and Microsoft recently added original Xbox games to the list, starting with 13 titles. Awesome Xbox games like Crimson Skies and Ninja Gaiden Black are now playable without hauling that aircraft carrier of a system out of storage like I did last week. But Microsoft didn’t stop there.

Now, some of these games are starting to see enhancements specific to Microsoft’s beefy new console. Not only do games already just run better on the system, a small batch of Xbox 360 games – seven already – have seen Xbox One X-specific enhancements. Halo 3 has HDR compatibility, while Fallout 3 has been given the 4K resolution treatment.

Even the thirteen-year-old Xbox game Ninja Gaiden Black received a 500MB patch this week, and the game runs at native 4K. An original Xbox game is running on the Xbox One X and taking advantage of its extra power.

Games that were long dead and gone are getting new life from Microsoft and publishers, and being added one after another, a week at a time. Our dashboards are filled not just with Xbox One games, but overflowing with Xbox 360 titles we’d forgotten about. Some of our old favorites are fresh once again.

Sure, it’s neat that Forza Motorsport 7 looks great on Xbox One X. But Microsoft is ensuring that we don’t have to start over anymore. We don’t have to keep aging, deteriorating hardware around. Not only that, but these titles are aging gracefully and getting respect from their publishers.

Instead of being a sad reminder of how ugly gamers were, we can see how Skate 3 doesn’t look half-bad despite its age. Instead of remembering how great Ninja Gaiden Black was when you were in the zone, we can actually see in living color how brutally difficult it was and wonder how we ever made it past the first boss.

Not every game is going to age like fine wine, but it’s surprising how many games are doing just that.

This is good for the games, good for the consumers, and good for the publishers. What was once a money-sink is now a win for all parties.


Eric Frederiksen

Eric Frederiksen has been a gamer since someone made the mistake of letting him play their Nintendo many years ago, pushing him to beg for his own,...

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