2048 Game Strategy - How to Always Win at 2048

2048 is as addictive as Flappy Bird with just enough brain power needed to keep things feeling intellectual. This guide will help you win!

In 2048, you combine like-numbered tiles numbered with powers of two until you get a tile with the value of 2048.

Gameplay consists of swiping the tiles up, right, down and left, and any tiles that match in the direction and adjacent spot will combine in the direction swiped. 2048 is a strategy game similar to Threes! The starting board looks like this:

The game is deceptively simple as the basic mechanics are just moving tiles around, but underneath it is a complex and strategic puzzle game. 

While it is fun to play, winning is even better. If you want to win the 2048 game, you need a strategy. The strategy described below is just one option and it works very well. Employing these tactics will help you win and allow you to get further even when the random nature of the game works against you.

This 2048 game strategy can be broken down into a few key elements:

  1. Use only two directions (as much as possible)
  2. Never move your tiles up
  3. Keep your tiles tidy
  4. Focus on your goal
  5. Aggressively combine downward and horizontally as needed

I go into detail into these processes below, and include some nifty tips to push your game even further.

Use only two directions (as much as possible)

The tiles can be moved in 4 directions. They are up, right, down and left. You can move your tiles down and left with essentially no risk. This will keep the tiles in the lower left of the screen.

You should then save moving your tiles right to accomplish specific goals such as combing tiles so that they can then be moved down. It’s not that you can’t move your tiles to the right, it just leads to a few issues such as trapping a tile on the left side. Try to make sure you have your bottom row full before moving to the right. I cover trapped tiles issues below.

Never move your tiles up!

You should avoid moving your tiles up at all costs. Moving your tiles up when you do not absolutely have to will cause endless headaches. Sometimes you have to, but if you have any other move, take it!

Keep your tiles tidy

Keeping your tiles to the lower left is not the only element. You should also avoid having your highest tiles to the bottom left. This means you should not have a board like this:


The 128 to the lower left will cause problems. If that tile is 32 or less it is an easy fix, and this is sometimes unavoidable. Tiles out of place like this (64 and above) will cause major issues.

The board below is much more tidy. The 2 that is to the left is not trapped because tiles can be dropped on it and the tiles to the right are fairly low value (32 or less):

The biggest problem is when you have tiles out of sync or in two equal piles that are far away from each other like in the image below. Tiles on opposite sides of another tile are nearly impossible to get back together without luck. Avoid this at all costs using the next tip!

Focus on your goal: 2048

This tip sounds a bit vague, but make sure you take stock of the board periodically. Sometimes you will get caught up in the action of combining the tiles and you will lose the forest for the trees. You are trying to get the 2048 tile.

The image above contains an instance where most likely the two sets of 128 were combined without looking at the whole board and realizing that those two tiles need to be together or they are problematic. If you focus on the value you need to increase a tile to then you will get a better outcome.

Combine aggressively downward

If you have your tiles tidy as above then you should combine aggressively downward then tidy your tiles back up. This tip is hard to explain unless you’ve been playing a bit. Start up a game then keep this one in mind. It will help. Trust me.

Other tips

  • Once you have the hang of 2048, getting a 16 or 32 tile pretty much anywhere is trivial so don’t sweat it if you need one of those to get out of a bind.
  • Stranding a tile to the left of higher numbered tiles is bad, but fixable. That is unless you put another higher numbered tile on top of it. If you have a relatively full board and you trap a 2 in the lower left, then move higher tiles over it then it can be very difficult to fix. Be aware of the board and don't do this.
  • Occasionally you will have to move right and a 2 or 4 may appear to the left of your highest tile (since it should your lower left). If this happens, do everything you can to raise that tile up to the value of your highest tile. This can be really hard if it is a very high tile. If it is the 1024 then you need to raise it, but focus on moving the 1024. If it is a tile lower than 256 then you can usually fix it.
  • If you have to move your tiles up, then everything after that is damage control. It will occasionally but very rarely work in your favor.

The Payoff

If all of this strategy pays off then you get the 2048 tile and you win the game. Congrats!


For another good explanation of these rules check out this Stackexchange article: http://gaming.stackexchange.com/a/161793/76007


Stephen is the founder of GameSkinny.com and GuildLaunch.com. A life-long gamer who enjoys RTSs, MMOs, RPGs, City Builders, 4x games and FPSs on easy mode. He also enjoys introducing his children to the wonderful world of gaming.

Published Feb. 26th 2020

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