Unlike standard Tic-Tac-Toe, the 3D variety, played in a 4×4×4 cube, is a serious game. It is not necessarily a well-balanced game, giving the first player a huge advantage, but it is easy to lose against a well-designed AI. While it is theoretically possible to play it on paper, if you draw four 4×4 squares side by side, I rather think that it originated as a computer game. As such, the first instance I know about is 1978 in David H. Ahl’s BASIC Computer Games.
The first instance on PC that I know is 3D Tic-Tac-Toe, a 1982 GWBASIC program by Reza Beheshti from Annandale, Virginia. It runs in graphic mode and offers two difficulty levels. This is the only DOS implementation I have come across. All the others are for Windows.
In fact, one of the first Windows 1.0 games not written by a Microsoft employee was 3-D TicTacToe by Guy Quedens, Southern Pines, North Carolina. The screenshot was taken on 2.0, but it’s really designed for 1.0, where it can easily share the screen with another program. It occasionally comments on the human player’s skill in pop-up messages.
In 1989, Andy Lawrie, who did not share his address, wrote Oxo. The choice of name might indicate that he was British (compare OXO on EDSAC), but that is just a guess. So far I could find only version 2.0 for Windows 3.0, thus this is the screenshot you get. This style of display makes playing more difficult. I don’t think I have ever beaten this program.
Robert Donner and Curt Johnson wrote a 3-D TicTacToe (such was the original name) that was included in the first volume of the Microsoft Entertainment Pack for Windows as TicTactics. It is quite easy to beat. The screenshot was taken under Windows 3.0.
Finally there is 3-D Tic Tac Toe by Chris Aldrich of the University of New Hampshire Robotics Laboratory. He refers to his game also by its file name, WinTTT. This game, too comments on the player’s skill, but somewhat more elegantly in the main window. The screenshot was again taken under Windows 3.0, the game suffers a bit from the palette change in 3.1, which turned its playing field into an ugly dark mustard color.
Found and added another one: Qúbix by Ignacio Pérez Gil. It probably goes back to 1997 or 1998, when the author started coding in Visual Basic, v3 is from 2000. It occasionally gives comments in the title bar, saying
¡Estás frito! one turn before it can place a double threat, and
when the attempt is thwarted or the player wins.
This is the first one for 32-bit Windows that I’ve found and added. It is simply called 3D Tic-Tac-Toe and was written by Mathew Dredge as an assignment and can play both standard 2D and 3D Tic-Tac-Toe. Since the help file has a 1994 time stamp, it may well go back to that year, which would make it an NT game. That it doesn’t run under XP is an indicator for this as well. The screenshot above was taken on a 32k desktop, where it looks nicer because the colors of the playing field aren’t dithered.
This, again, is simply called 3D Tic-Tac-Toe. It uses common icons as tokens, which results in a rather large playing fields, so it needs a 800×600 desktop. It has a custom window without a title bar, not a common thing among Windows 3.x games.
At the moment, both the oldest and the newest game in this category are DOS games. If the time stamp on the executable is correct, then 3DX is from 1998. It uses high resolution EGA (10h), I have resized the screenshot above to represent the actual screen dimensions. You can view an untampered-with screenshot at the download location, and more here.
[This is my 50th post here BTW.]