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How to play Payday 3 solo and heist without other players

If you fancy forming a gang of one, here’s everything you need to know about playing Payday 3 solo on PS5, PS4, Xbox, Game Pass, and PC so you can heist alone.

Payday 3 solo: Three players with weapons at the ready, two of them crouched behind with red crosses on them.

Can you play Payday 3 solo? Payday 3 is here at long last on PS5, Xbox, and PC. Despite co-op play being the heart of this heist FPS series, sometimes working with others isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. So, you may be interested in playing Payday 3 solo and taking on some heists without your friends or random players getting in the way.

Maybe you’re frustrated with clueless crew members fumbling the bag. Maybe you’re the clueless crew member and need to practice the delicate art of the heist with some of the best Payday 3 weapons. Or maybe you just want a little time alone. No matter your reason for wanting to play alone, we’ve got the answers on how to play Payday 3 solo so you can experience what could become one of the best FPS games.

How to play Payday 3 solo

To play Payday 3 solo, select a heist mission and change the lobby type to invite only. If you don’t invite players manually, you will then load into a heist solo with AI bots for backup.

That’s right, you can play Payday 3 solo. The game can be enjoyed as a single-player experience with AI taking the place of other player characters. You can’t enter one of the Payday 3 heists without either AI team members or other players, however, as the game is designed around having other characters completing objectives. The bots can undeniably be annoying at times, but they are necessary if you don’t want to play with other players.

Payday 3 solo: The heist lobby screen showing the player changing the lobby type to invite only to play solo.

While the lobby type will default to a public setting, attempting to matchmake with other players, you’ll have to option to search just with friends, or to make your lobby invite only. While you could also play solo by loading into a friends only lobby, you could see one of your friends joining and interrupting your solo experience. That’s why we recommend using the invite only setting instead, as no one – including friends – can join the lobby unless you specifically invite them.

Payday 3 solo: A player in an empty lobby screen.

Once you’re in the lobby screen selecting your loadout, simply avoid inviting anyone and ready up. You will then load into a match by your lonesome, barring the three AI allies you’ll have. These will largely follow your lead, so be prepared to do much of the heavy lifting yourself if you want to play Payday 3 solo.

Payday 3 solo: Gameplay of a player looking at the AI allies in a solo match.

There’s a slight catch to playing solo though. Even when playing Payday 3 alone, you’ll have to remain online. Developers claim that the necessity of an internet connection is due to the game running in Unreal Engine, as well as the inclusion of cross-play and cross-progression. This will be disappointing news for many, particularly for Steam Deck gamers hoping to antagonize police officers while on the go. You can see the confirmation below.

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At launch, Payday 2 had some hiccups with its crew AI implementation which posed problems for solo players. Lone heisters would have two NPC crew members accompanying them instead of three. Both crew members would wield a basic assault rifle with limited modifications.

However, the ‘Henchman’ update in 2017 allowed you to have a full crew of three bots alongside you. It also allowed you to customize the weapons, abilities, boost, and masks of your artificially intelligent crew to have a more bespoke experience. This update set a good precedent for the bots in Payday 3, which are largely good allies to have by your side, though not preferable to real players.

If you want to see what Payday 3 solo gameplay looks like exactly, take a look at the video below by ‘ON1C’:

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Can you play every mission in Payday 3 alone?

You can play every Payday 3 mission alone thanks to the inclusion of AI teammates, though some with be harder than others.

There are eight missions in Payday 3 at release, with the Season Pass bringing four additional missions to the game. As it stands, there’s been no indication that any of these additional maps are strictly multiplayer. Given the precedent set by Payday 3’s launch and its predecessor, you can reasonably infer that all future missions can be played with AI teammates as well, as this has previously been the case.

Payday 3 Solo: A person can be seen holding a hostage

Anecdotally, some missions in Payday 3 (like 2) are harder than others when playing single-player. For example, bots can sometimes struggle to complete objectives alongside you. This can make for a grueling experience when completing jobs with lots of swag to move or complex objectives to complete. Players have found that they have to babysit their AI bots, throwing them bags to move and ordering them around, otherwise they’re not contributing all that much besides firepower. AI crew members also tend to underperform in stealth heists.

A well-coordinated gang of humans is always preferable to bots, but their history in the series suggests they do a good job overall, and you will be able to play each one with bots. Despite their execution, the inclusion of bots is great for those looking to be a lone wolf, as bots are better than no allies whatsoever when you’ve got SWAT breathing down your neck.

Payday 3 Solo: A player can be seen

Should You Play Payday 3 Solo?

The third installment of the Payday franchise delivers a string of exciting missions that appear as key points in the game’s overarching narrative. In Payday 3’s story, Dallas, Hoxton, Wolf, and Chains of the Payday Gang return after a short-lived attempt at early retirement. An unnamed threat draws the crew to New York and back into their life of crime. Playing single-player could give you a valuable opportunity to explore the narrative of Payday 3 at your own pace, or approach the missions how you’d like.

That said, the unique enjoyment you can get from playing with others is undeniable and part of what makes co-op games like Payday 3 so popular. In fact, Payday 3 could become one of the best co-op games if it gets continued support like its predecessor.

Additionally, the bot issues we mentioned above could be a major sticking point for you in Payday 3. So, it is best to give it a try and then see if solo play is for you. After all, it will be more cumbersome, if not significantly more difficult than playing with a coordinated team of players. Given you can always matchmake on any difficulty, it might be that you’d rather play with others on normal difficulty instead.

That covers everything when it comes to playing Payday 3 solo. If you do plan to play with friends, take a look at our guide on Payday 3 crossplay. To get to grips with your heister’s loadout, why not check out our Payday 3 skills guide for the top skills to pick?