Higurashi When They Cry takes place during June 1983, at a fictional rural village called Hinamizawa, which has a population of approximately 2000. The main character, Keiichi Maebara, moves to Hinamizawa and befriends his new classmates Rena Ryugu, Mion Sonozaki, Rika Furude, and Satoko Hojo. Keiichi joins their after-school club activities, which consist mostly of card and board games (and punishment games for the loser, usually him.) Hinamizawa appears to be a normal, peaceful, rural village to Keiichi. However, the tranquility abruptly ends after the annual Watanagashi Festival, a celebration to commemorate and give thanks to the local god, Oyashiro-sama. Keiichi learns that every year for the past four years, one person has been murdered and another has gone missing on the day of the Watanagashi Festival. Keiichi himself soon becomes drawn into the strange events surrounding the Watanagashi Festival and Oyashiro-sama.
Keiichi takes on the try out to join the Hinamizawa School Club lead by Sonozaki Sion. Club rule number one - You play to win! Club rule number two - In order to win, you must put in every effort into the game! Soon, Keiichi realizes how serious they were... the hard way.