Virtual Observatories (VOs) are online hubs of scientific knowledge. They encompass a collection of platforms dedicated to the storage and dissemination of astronomical data, from simple data archives to e-research platforms offering advanced tools for data exploration and analysis. Whilst the more mature platforms within VOs primarily serve the observational community, there are also services fulfilling a similar role for theoretical data. Scientific visualization can be an effective tool for analysis and exploration of datasets made accessible through web platforms for theoretical data, which often contain spatial dimensions and properties inherently suitable for visualization via e.g. mock imaging in 2d or volume rendering in 3d. We analyze the current state of 3d visualization for big theoretical astronomical datasets through scientific web portals and virtual observatory services. We discuss some of the challenges for interactive 3d visualization and how it can augment the workflow of users in a virtual observatory context. Finally we showcase a lightweight client-server visualization tool for particle-based datasets allowing quantitative visualization via data filtering, highlighting two example use cases within the Theoretical Astrophysical Observatory.