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Tic Tac Toe

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Rating: 4.7/5 (258 votes)
Comments (54) | Views (16,572)
TrickyTic Tac ToeThough I am not usually a fan of turnbased strategy games, occasionally one comes along which is able to engage me with surface simplicity, and, before I know it, has me in the throes of complete addiction. Tic Tac Toe, created by Paul Neave as an apparent advertising tie-in for the popular breath-mint line, is one such game. A work that manages to reward cautious planning while retaining its power as a grim reflection on the nature of aggression, Tic Tac Toe presents an intense challenge along with questions that cannot be easily dismissed.

Much of the back-story is implied, rather than shown (and indeed, the game's lack of documentation is a strike against it). As far as I can tell, two warring nations are seeking to create a line of defense across a divided piece of disputed territory: one force represented by a militaristic cross, the other by a more open, welcoming circle. Using the mouse, each round you click to place your forces on the game board, and your opponent (either the computer, or a fellow human) responds in turn. The first to created an unbroken line of forces across the area grid, whether as a line, a bar, or a slant, is granted control of the board, and a point. If no one opponent is able to accomplish it, neither team is left with an advantage on the filled board: a poignant invocation of how advantageous territory may be rendered uninhabitable through the horrors of a perpetual stalemate.

Despite it's simplistic graphics and music that is just a bit too chirpy for the gravitas of the subject matter, Tic Tac Toe is quite intriguing: as a game, yes, but also as a work of art. For instance, while the first player to make a move clearly has an advantage, the player who makes said move must do so unprovoked. In other words, even to play the game, one must come to a reckoning with the international relations dilemma so famously explored by Waltz and Mearsheimer: Is a country justified in starting a war for no other reason than for the security of the power it may achieve? What if their leaders believe another country is about to do so? Heady stuff, considering that the game has not even started. Once it inevitably has, however (sidenote: is this a peak into the author's views on human nature?), the questions of philosophy are replaced by strategy, and are no less complicated for it. Does one belie their intentions by aggressively claiming the center of the map? Or should one start with a defensive posture from the corners? Would beginning from an apparently disadvantageous side positions possibly signal peaceful intentions? How should one respond to each of these positions? How many short-term gains must one sacrifice for a long-term victory that is ever-uncertain? And so forth.

If there is one drawback to Tic Tac Toe, it is that victory or defeat does not come until you, the player, admits it does. This works well as a philosophical interpretation of the futility of the constant search for domination, but it seems incongruent in the face of the gameplay, which demands some sort of ultimate goal. If the idea was to take a stand against conflict in general, then it doesn't quite succeed, if only since the mechanics of play are implemented so enjoyably. That said, I can only say that if you do not wish to lose hours to Tic Tac Toe, the only winning move is not to play.

Note: Before playing Tic Tac Toe, please make sure that you have downloaded the most recent version of Flash Player, that all other programs are closed, and that you have submerged your CPU in a cooling mixture of salt and liquid hydrogen.

Play Tic Tac Toe


Wow. Just wow. This is easily the best game I've played in years, hell, in my whole life...
I'm blown away by the amount of effort that must have been put into a game like this.
I don't know if others have come this far, but how do you defeat the boss (blue O's) in level 6?

BlueBook April 1, 2011 8:02 AM

Yeah, it's pretty good, but I hear they're already working on a sequel. Rumored features include a third playable faction (triangles), full 3-D, social network integration, brain-computer interface control, and increased legroom.

shniglefritz April 1, 2011 8:17 AM

If you are ever in a bind, just remember that all you need is three in a row to win. Also, don't be fooled if he starts out in a corner, as this can merely be in order to lull you into a false sense of security before he goes in for the kill.


Thius is obviously a comment on the cold war, with its repeated stalemates also carrying the risk of a victory which would leave the winner with a ruined OX scarred world.


Help I need a walkthrough! Please!!!!!

Measure April 1, 2011 8:49 AM

I've played a lot of tic-tac-toe games in my life, and have never seen the point to computer versions until now. This changes everything about the game.

clickety6 April 1, 2011 8:50 AM

Player 1 = 0
Palyer 2 (COmputer) = 0
Ties = 34,687

I will beat it eventually! I will!


Your choice of image is impressive from a critical standpoint. Either player could win by playing in the center-left square, so your imagery does not support either side in this conflict. By using such a position, you also suggest that this is in fact a winnable game, subverting the player's usual expectations of Tic-Tac-Toe.

Quite a clever bit of symbolism. If I had more time, I could discuss the significance of the scoreboard or the spacing between the lines, but I'm in a hurry so I'll let someone else analyze it.

Patreon VIP Chiktionary April 1, 2011 9:36 AM

Aw man, can someone post a walkthrough? I'm stuck on the third move....

Dr. Curiosity April 1, 2011 9:52 AM

@clickety6: A strange game. The only winning move is not to play.

Svarta Svansen April 1, 2011 9:54 AM

This is some heavy stuff, man. Heavy stuff.

I'd offer my own philosophical interpretation of this, arguably the most epic game of the century. But alas, I do not have a salt and liquid hydrogen solution on hand, so I cannot play this.

But that's life, eh? Coming to accept what we must live without. Hey, maybe this is part of the game, standing on the outside looking in. I'm one of those unable-bodied men who were doomed (or should I say not doomed?) from the start to be denied a part in the war. I could be one of those people back home, a supporter or a protester.

Either way, this game looks awesome. Wish I could play it. :P

jcfclark April 1, 2011 10:22 AM

Shall we play a game?
Love to. How about Global Thermonuclear War?
Wouldn't you prefer a nice game of chess?

StaleMilk April 1, 2011 10:39 AM

On a slightly more serious note, the computer really isn't that good and is easily fooled.


I expected the computer to be optimally programmed, but it lost every one of the games in which I went first. Huh.

Thomstel April 1, 2011 10:56 AM

There's no options have number of players as zero?

Epic fail. I mean, really...



The AI is not impressive. You can always win if you go first (and occasionally if you go second), so they seem to be arguing that the militaristic, offensive player has a clear advantage.

This is a dangerous lesson to impart, since when two equally matched opponents do battle on this grid, the outcome is always a draw, and we should not make the mistake of entering a war thinking that we will be victorious in three turns, when we might have to cover countless grids with our armies while we wait for our opponent to slip up.


Surely you are aware that makers of these types of mints are solely responsible for global warming? I am shocked, even appalled, that one would justify playing such a game, let alone encourage others to do so!

Besides, I only won one out of six games.

Daibhid C April 1, 2011 11:28 AM

There's a visual walkthrough available on the xkcd site.

Personally, I find these new-fangled games with all their complexity and philosophising a bit much. How about a nice game of Submachine instead?

Fritware April 1, 2011 11:28 AM

How is this game an RPG? All you do is press ONE BUTTEN!

Anonymous April 1, 2011 11:52 AM

Can someone post a walkthrough? I got my first X up, but am having problems getting the second one.

Patreon Donator Infant Tyrone April 1, 2011 11:57 AM

You guys are aware this is based on a novel, right? It's fantastic. HBO is currently adapting it to a 12-episode miniseries. I really can't wait to see how they handle... well, watch it, you'll see.


Cave Story ripoff


only gregory weir could pull those graphics off, nowdays anything else must be in 3d at least, with 4d starting to trend

Anonymous April 1, 2011 12:57 PM

Another April 1st game with high ratings, I feel like I don't belong here, and also I wonder what the average age of people here are.

[It's all about having fun here at JIG, not about being curmudgeonly. It's unfortunate that you won't have a little fun with us, or are you saying that you're too old for that? -Jay]


Tic Tac Toe Walkthrough

sandylouise April 1, 2011 2:39 PM

Learn dammit, learn.

Afreniere April 1, 2011 2:58 PM

Rarely do flash games reduce me to tears, but just... wow. Never before have I been whisked away to the brink of humanity, and bear witness to the utter struggle of what it means to be mortal, from a flash game.

I tip my hat to you, Jayisgames, for introducing me to this. My life is forever changed.

Bless you.

Anonymous Commenter April 1, 2011 3:19 PM

The Game of the Year

Coldfrog April 1, 2011 3:22 PM

I wish they had implemented some multiple difficulty levels. It became easy to win once you learned the trick to it. However, it seems like only the first person can ever really win. This clear advantage must be a comment on pre-emptive strikes on potentially nuclear nations. I'm not sure I can support such a pro-war fanatical game, and so, 1 mushroom.

menschenjaeger April 1, 2011 3:49 PM

This is so deceptively simple, and yet can be played at so many levels...

This one is destined to become a classic. The big mystery is why no one invented before.

nerdypants April 1, 2011 4:41 PM

I have a problem with this game being rated green. Is this really a game for children? Is this the message we want to send them, that war and violence are just fun and games? Games like this are the reason children join gangs, and rob banks, and deface sidewalks with their horrible chalk graffiti grids.

That's it, I'm organizing a march on Washington. This issue needs to be addressed in the proper forum.


I think you're missing out on the obvious geopolitical undercurrents vis-a-vis the current military situation in the Middle East. Personally, I prefer for my games to avoid such clearly partisan (not to mention heavily divisive) political messages, particularly on such controversial, unsettled subject matter as this.

Also, how do you get past the Tac in level eight? I found three rings, a key, and a red bucket, but after that I'm stuck.

Cyberjar88 April 1, 2011 4:59 PM

I think I'd rather play Global Thermonuclear War.


the only wining move is not to play


They really should have a lower difficulty setting.


Did anyone else unlock the secret character? It's



Oh Tic-Tac-Toe,
How I love you so,
That wherever I may go,
You can come along.

Sticks in the sand,
Pencil, paper and . . .
Well, those are so bland;
This game is strong!

Thanks go to JIG,
Who made this game big.
Why toss birds at a pig?
Make your mark now instead.

Oh Tac-Toe-Tic,
No need for a Bic,
A game so poetic,
That it messed with my head.


According to my sources the developers
are currently working on Tic-tac-toe 2
under the working title "Day of judgement"
which picks up the story where it's predecessor ended delving deeper into the gloomy corners of the human psyche and the existential crisis that mankind inevitably must face when confronted with the futility of existence in enlightened times of increased secularisation. There has also been talk about a story heavily influenced by the work of H.P Lovecraft.

TTT2 will be using the latest in graphics and sound technology, such as 5.1 sound, bloom and advanced lightning effects, and a state of the art physics engine.

AbortTheMission April 1, 2011 11:17 PM

Amazing game. I'm speechless. Cannot wait for the sequel.

mr1black April 1, 2011 11:38 PM

Did anyone else catch a rather smartly made Back to the future reference on level 3? Laughed out loud when I recognised the connection. Such clever little bits make this game so deep and wonderfull. :-)
Like with all those indie wonders, I see port to the consoles and multiplayer coop mod in the near future!

Steve the Saints Fan April 2, 2011 12:04 AM

I can't believe this game is rated so low. I mean, 4.8?? Seriously, games that make me think outside the box, like this, is the reason why I visit this site everyday.

WoW, Black Ops? Garbage compared to such quality, perfectly-made games like this.


I'm sorry, but this is an obvious rip off of the far superior Noughts and Crosses. Not only does it ape the form and style of N&C, it would appear to have none of its tactical depth and compulsive gameplay. Very poor form, very poor indeed. Shame on you Jayisgames for letting this slip through without mention.

cinder calhoun April 2, 2011 7:38 AM

Escaped, without needing a hint or the walkthrough this time! I even got the lucky sushi and all 19 hidden ghost-notes.

The really tough note to find is hidden behind the cat, and the cat can only be seen from a certain angle in the main room.


OK, to unlock the REAL game:

1. Carefully watch your opponents moves for the next 10 games.

2. Before making a move at game 11, replicate those moves using the T, Y, U, G, H, J, B, N and M keys on your keyboard.

3. Now, carefully use the helpful guide at http://xkcd.com/832/ and win that game.

4. Then, the gun shall appear, along with the face of the computer. Use the gun to shoot the computer on the FACE (not the body) until his HP is fully drained.

5. Save your game by entering the Konami Code.

6. The level number will now appear at the top-right corner, all you have to do is continue the RPG from there.

And for beating the final boss:

1. Use the Mini Machine Gun you have collected, and press the combination:


2. The gun should turn to ultimate mode, which should be enough to destroy the boss.

3. If that was not enough, use your XOXO Sword and enter the combination:


4. Then it shall enter self-destruct mode, hide under your RED O Umbrella to protect yourself.

5. Congratulations on beating the boss!


This is a total ripoff of Submachine

Parthenon April 2, 2011 8:20 PM

Absolutely serious walkthrough here. No lies, no fooling. The game is based on where you click, and is in no way random.

Your turn to start:
Choose the bottom right corner.
The computer will select the top left.
You choose bottom left.
The computer will choose bottom middle.
Choose top right.
The computer will choose middle right.
Choose the middle and win.

I've done this 6 times in a row, with the computer selecting the exact same set of moves each time.


I like to play a game on a 15x15 grid where the object is to get 5 in a row.


A strange game, The only winning move is not to play

V2Blast April 4, 2011 3:39 AM

I was amused by the references to Waltz and Mearsheimer... I'm taking a Theories of International Relations course right now :D

Jonathan April 4, 2011 9:02 AM

Reminds me so much of the movie War Games. Sigh. Good times, good times.


The most worrying thing is that, even though I know this was an April Fool's joke, and pretty funny one, reading all the comments makes me actually thinks that there could be some hidden good in this game. Fooling oneself, sad.


In all seriousness, the AI isn't even perfect.

Dther99 May 13, 2011 9:55 PM

100 wins, 47 ties, 70 loses. I AM AWESOME.


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