You know what’s cooler than playing modern games on an Xbox series console? Use Microsoft’s current hardware to emulate Windows 98 and play retro games on it. Thanks to a combination of RetroArch (a program that some Xbox users can also use to play PlayStation 2 games), a plugin for it called DOSBox Pure, and a copy of Windows 98, Digital Foundry has shown that this is possible. A video released on Saturday shows games like Turok, Roller coaster tycoonand Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun everything runs on an Xbox Series X. Digital Foundry even ran traditional apps like Microsoft Paint and Word 97 on Xbox (for the real Clippy experience).
Setting it all up is not easy. First you’ll need to get RetroArch working on your Xbox, which you can either do after activating Developer Mode, which costs $19, or go through a somewhat complicated sideloading process. Be warned: Archades Games, the channel behind the No Dev Mode tutorial, advises that using the latter method carries a small (but real) risk of getting your Xbox Live account banned.
After setting up RetroArch on your Xbox, you can easily activate the DOSBox Pure core. Of course, that’s not the end of the journey. You still need to install Windows 98 on top of DOS using a (legally purchased, right?) disk image for the operating system. That alone is not an easy task. Then you need to transfer pictures of your retro games to Xbox.
After you got through all this Digital Foundry reports that the experience is quite impressive. Games seem to run well on both the S and X series (obviously the extra power of the latter improves the experience slightly), although the software rendering seems to work better than the 3dfx emulation, based on DFs tests. There is one big caveat though: Digital Foundry reports that while DOSBox Pure recognizes a keyboard connected to the Xbox without problems, it was unable to accommodate the mouse. That meant they had to use an Xbox controller to move the cursor around the screen.
Of course, for those who just want to run Windows 98 games, there are probably better options. You can install RetroArch and DOSBox Pure on a regular Windows, Mac, or Linux machine that doesn’t have the specter (albeit faint) of an Xbox Live ban hanging over you while you play. Also, you can use a real mouse. However, I will admit that installing Windows 98 on a regular old computer won’t get you the same style points as installing it on an Xbox.
PS: If the thought of installing Windows 98 from DOS is too intimidating, you’re in luck. The 90’s and early 2000’s seem to be re-entering the nostalgia cycle, so we’ve seen a lot of games from that era get remasters. In RTS games? You can buy HD versions of Age of Empires and Command & Conquer: Red Alert from Steam (or check out OpenRA). The same applies quake, monkey island, half-life (about the Black Chalkboard project) and many, many more games. What a time to be alive.