Independent game developer Ryukishi07 of 07th Expansion wanted to make a visual novel that stuck with people after they played it. For inspiration, he looked to one of the industry's pioneers, Key Visual Arts. Studying their games, he noticed that they all followed a basic structure. The games began with comedy and introduction of the characters and the basic concepts of the world; then the player got to know the characters; then something tragic happened to make the player cry just as they'd gotten to care about the cast, accompanied by revelations of the true nature of the world and what had really been going on the whole time; then the story culminated with a miracle to Earn Your Happy Ending. Ryukishi decided that he wanted to make a game like that, too... but he didn't want to make his audience cry like Key did.He wanted to scare them.So began When They Cry. This is a Series Franchise of linear sound novels, anime, console games, and manga by 07th Expansion, a doujin group that became famous with the series' first installment, Higurashi: When They Cry. When They Cry is broken up into a series of supernatural murder mysteries, which are further broken up into individual games, each covering one story arc. These arcs are marked by time starting over from a certain point with the dead members of the cast brought back to life for mysterious reasons.The series is mapped out like this:
When They Cry 1 & 2: Higurashi When They Cry
When They Cry: Higurashi: When They Cry (Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, "When The Cicadas Cry"). Hinamizawa, a small village in The Eighties is plagued by a curse in which, every year, one villager is found murdered and another is never seen again. Keiichi Maebara, the new kid in town, begins to uncover the secrets of the village and is driven further into fear and paranoia as he watches his new friends succumb to madness. This year, it looks as if the whole village is marked for death...
Onikakushi-hen (鬼隠し編, "Spirited Away by the Demon chapter"). The "Keiichi arc". Keiichi moves into Hinamizawa and suspects Rena and Mion of involvement with the murders after he finds that they've been lying to him about the village's past.
Watanagashi-hen (綿流し編, "Cotton-Drifting chaper"). The "Mion arc". Mion's twin sister Shion comes to town under mysterious circumstances, and the theory that the murders are committed by demonic possession becomes likely.
Taraimawashi-hen (盥回し編, "Rotation chapter"). A PS2-exclusive version of the game combining Watanagashi-hen with Onikakushi-hen. It is designed to show what happens if Keiichi doesn't get involved in the mysteries of Hinamizawa.
Tatarigoroshi-hen (祟殺し編, "Curse Killing chapter"). The "Satoko arc". Satoko's abusive uncle makes everyone's life miserable when he comes to Hinamizawa, but Keiichi discovers something even worse in the shrine.
Himatsubushi-hen (暇潰し編, "Time Killing chapter"). The "Akasaka Arc". A flashback arc. Police investigator Mamoru Akasaka relates the events of a kidnapping five years ago in Hinamizawa, and the mysterious actions of Rika Furude.
Onisarashi-hen (鬼曝し編, "Demon Exposing chapter"). A manga-only chapter. In a timeline where the Great Hinamizawa Disaster occurred, a young girl named Natsumi's life is still ruined despite moving away from Hinamizawa before the massacre.
Someutsushi-hen (染伝し編, "Stain Following chapter"). An adaptation of Onisarashi-hen to the DS system. A new character, a police officer named Tomoe Minai, is introduced. Features a different ending to that of Onisarashi-hen.
Kagebōshi-hen (影紡し編, "Silhouette chapter"). The retelling of Someutsushi-hen from Minai's point of view in the same style as Watanagashi-hen was retold. Features yet another ending different to that of Onisarashi and Someutsushi.
When They Cry 2: Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Kai (When The Cicadas Cry: Solutions). A direct continuation of the previous, which answers the many questions raised by it. Although some of these arcs appear in the first season of The Anime of the Game, they are considered part of Kai in the games themselves. Keiichi is replaced by Rika as the main character, but as with Himatsubushi-hen, some arcs are told by other characters.
Tsukiotoshi-hen (憑落し編, "Exorcism chapter"). A PS2-exclusive arc that resembles Tatarigoroshi-hen in that Satoko's uncle Teppei is the main threat. Keiichi still takes matters into his own hands, but this time, he is accompanied by Shion and Rena, and all of them start to hallucinate afterward.
Meakashi-hen (目明し編, "Eye Opening chapter"). The "Shion arc". Shion relates her life story and why she is the way she is, culminating in a retelling of what really happened during Watanagashi-hen (although note that while this arc serves as a POV Sequel to Watanagashi-hen, they are technically different—just nearly identical—timelines).
Utsutsukowashi-hen (現壊し編, "Reality Breaking chapter"). A manga-only chapter, and a prequel to Meakashi-hen. When Shion is sent Off to boarding school, she investigates the murder of a teacher. Cancelled.
Tsumihoroboshi-hen (罪滅し編, "Atonement chapter"). The "Rena arc". Rena becomes incredibly paranoid and feels forced to kill, threaten and hide away in order to save the people she loves, but for the first time, others are able to get through to the victim of paranoia. This also reveals the truth about the events of Onikakushi-hen. This arc acts as the end of the first season of the anime.
"Reunion" (サイカイ). An anime-only episode, set years after Tsumihoroboshi-hen. This raises many new theories about the Hinamizawa Disaster, only one of which is correct. Similar to a certain TIP in the Visual Novel.
Yoigoshi-hen (宵越し編, "Overnight chapter"). A manga-only Alternate Universe to Tsumihoroboshi-hen. Twenty-three years later, a new group—including a woman claiming to be Mion Sonozaki—meets in Hinamizawa. This Chapter is appears in a third Higurashi DS-port game, with a new character added.
Tokihogushi-hen (解々し編, "Untangling Chapter"). A DS-Port Prequel chapter that involves with Tomoe Minai in a case of Rena Ryugu 1982, one year prior to the event of the story.
Yakusamashi-hen (厄醒し編, "Disaster Awakening chapter"). An anime-only arc personally requested by the game's creator to fill in the plot holes left by the first season. Along with new character Hanyu, Rika hints at her true nature and why she is at the center of the mystery, and Satoko attempts to solve it on her own.
Minagoroshi-hen (皆殺し編, "Massacre chapter"). The "Rika Arc". Rika and Keiichi band together with the rest of the club, all having realized everything about the time loop and what they had done in the past. They do their best to get past the one hurdle that Rika has deemed impossible to beat—Satoko's abusive uncle Teppei—but are stopped by the real murderer, who is revealed after having been hiding all this time.
Matsuribayashi-hen (祭囃し編, "Festival Music chapter"). The "Hanyu Arc". The real murderer's heartbreaking motivations are revealed. The club, plus Hanyu, the police and other adults of authority, mobilizes to save Hinamizawa once and for all.
Miotsukushi-hen (澪尽し編, "Canal Drying chapter"). A PS2-exclusive Alternate Universe ending arc in which Rika and Keiichi stand alone instead of with the others, as the Hate Plague goes into overdrive and the events of Watanagashi-hen, Tatarigoroshi-hen and Tsumihoroboshi-hen hit them all at once. Several deviations occur from the Matsuribayashi-hen ending.
A DS-Port render of Miotsukushi-hen adds the conclusion of Tomoe Minai's story, that continues from Tokihogushi-hen.
Kokoroiyashi-hen (心癒し編, "Heart Healing chapter"). A manga-only chapter. The club goes on vacation and attempts to heal after the horrors they've seen and participated in.
Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Rei. Extra arcs that may or may not be canon. In the anime, this is a bonus OVA.
Saikoroshi-hen (賽殺し編, "Dice Killing chapter"). The epilogue. Rika falls into a coma and wakes up in a Wonderful Life scenario, only instead of wishing herself out, she's wished out the Dysfunction Junction of the cast. What didn't kill them, though, once removed, appears to have made them horrible, miserable, selfish people.
Kotohogushi-hen (言祝し編, "Congratulating Chapter"). The DS-Port original chapter that revolves around Hanyuu's past life in Onigafuchi, along with her husband, Riku Furude, and their child, Ouka.
Batsukoishi-hen (罰恋し編, "Penalty Loving"), also known as Otsukaresama-kai. A gag story set in the after-school club. This was once included as part of Kai, but was considered too lighthearted and silly. In the anime, this arc is replaced with Hajisarashi-hen.
Hirukowashi-hen (昼壊し編, "Daybreak chapter"), also known as Higurashi Daybreak. A fanmade fighting game that ascended to canon. Rika finds a pair of magatama that will make anyone fall in love, the whole town begins to squabble over them, and Rena accidentally swallows one.
Higurashi: When They Cry light novels. Similar to Rei, these are bonus arcs that stand in a group rather than fitting into 1 or Kai.
Nekogoroshi-hen (猫殺し編, "Cat Killing chapter"). Mion relates the story of a murdered friend. This was also made into a bonus OVA between the release of the first and second seasons.
Kuradashi-hen (蔵出し編, "Delivery chapter"). Everything that couldn't be fit into the games, manga, adaptations or TIPS is all right here.
Hajisarashi-hen (羞晒し編, "Shame Exposing chapter"). Keiichi obtains a charmed swimsuit that is said to turn the wearer into a Chick Magnet. While at a public pool the girls learn that it will actually turn him into a narcissist, and a race against time begins to relieve him of his trunks before he completely loses interest in the opposite sex forever! Naturally, Hilarity Ensues.
Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Kira. More extra arcs that are probably not canon. An anime OVA that contains Batsukoishi-hen and three all-new episodes. Notable for being much more lighthearted and silly than the other even Rei and containing very high amounts of fanservice.
Ayakashisenshi-hen (妖戦し編, "Demon Battling chapter"). Rika and Satoko find themselves in another alternate reality where Rika is a Magical Girl. Unfortunately, everyone are slowly becoming brainwashed minions of "Tokyo Magika".
Musubienishi-hen (結縁し編, "Affinity chapter"). Keiichi gets caught in a Love Triangle with Mion, Rena and Shion.
Yumeutsushi-hen (夢現し編, "Dream Appearing chapter"). A young Rika ends up being transported to the present day and the club tries to find a way to send her back.
When They Cry 3 & 4: Umineko: When They Cry
When They Cry 3: Umineko: When They Cry (Umineko no Naku Koro ni, "When The Seagulls Cry"). Unlike Higurashi, Umineko features a cast of eighteen people on the island of Rokkenjima, and the time loops only last two days, increasing the sense of urgency. An old man living in a mansion is near death, and all the relatives have convened to discuss his will. Battler Ushiromiya, one of these relatives, insists that the legends of a cruel and insane witch are only stories, and is determined to find the real cause of the murders. Higurashi and Umineko are mostly unrelated, save for one character which seems to tie the two verses together.
Legend of the golden witch. The "Beatrice Arc." Like Onikakushi-hen, this is an introduction to the setting and to the legend of the witch Beatrice. A sorority of witches, each with her own motivations, begins to give Battler cryptic clues. Natsuhi is the prominent adult character of the arc.
Turn of the golden witch. The "Cousins Arc." The family is revealed to have a dark history related to black magic, and the relationships between George and Shannon, Jessica and Kanon, and Rosa and Maria are greatly focused on. Rosa is a central character to this arc's events.
Banquet of the golden witch. The "Eva Arc." A handful of new characters are introduced, and the pasts of Eva and Beatrice are expanded upon. Eva is the most prominent adult of the arc.
Alliance of the golden witch. The "Ange Arc." The future of 1998 is explored as the sole survivor of the Ushiromiya family, Ange, explores the nature of magic and witches.
Rondo of the Witch and Reasoning. PS3 remake of the first four games by Alchemist. Keeping the original BGM, using the voice actors from the anime, and completely redoing art.
When They Cry 4: Umineko no Naku Koro ni Chiru (When The Seagulls Cry: Breakdown). A direct continuation of the above, this delves deeper into the mysteries surrounding the family, where rather than outright answers, only subtle hints are given at first.
End of the golden witch. The "Natsuhi Arc." The game continues with somewhat new players, and the scope of the game changes when someone shipwrecks on the island before the murders. Natsuhi's past is explained and she is a featured character in the game's plotline.
Dawn of the golden witch. The "Shannon and Kanon Arc." A new game master takes up the helm and gives us a tale with some unexpected twists, focusing on the two cousin-servant couples and hinting at many of the game's biggest mysteries, complete with a return to 1998.
Requiem of the golden witch. The "Lion and Yasu Arc." Yet another new game master presents her personal perception of the "truth" of the game. The story is split between an alternate, "perfect" world where the tragedy does not happen (which focuses instead on Kinzo and Beatrice's backstories) and the game master's culprit theory proper. Features two new perspective characters, Willard H. Wright and Lion Ushiromiya.
Twilight of the golden witch. The "Battler Arc." The final arc, in which Battler and Beatrice create a special last game in order to help Ange reach the truth. Features the return of virtually the whole Cast Herd, the first appearance of six-year-old Ange, yet another new text color, and Multiple Endings.
Nocturne of the Truth and Illusions. Gives the Chiru arcs the same PS3 treatment that Rondo gave the first four arcs.
Umineko no Naku Koro ni Tsubasa (When The Seagulls Cry: Wings). A fandisc containing extra short stories (TIPS), released alongside Twilight.
Umineko no Naku Koro ni Hane (When the Seagulls Cry: Feathers). A fandisc containing two TIPS that were not in Tsubasa, released alongside Ougon Musoukyoku Cross
Ougon Musoukyoku (Golden Fantasia). A PC fighting game featuring the Umineko cast similar to the aforementioned Higurashi Daybreak and games like Melty Blood. Released at the 2010 winter Comiket.
An Xbox 360 port, Ougon Musoukyoku X, featuring Jessica, George, and Rosa as additional characters.
A third expansion, Ougon Musoukyoku CROSS, was released December 31, 2011, which, in addition to the characters added in X, also adds in three new characters (Erika, Dlanor and a culprit version of Battler), plus three other characters (Will, Bernkastel, Lambdadelta) which were unlocked with another expansion in Spring 2012.
Alongside Nocturne of Truth and Illusions and Ougon Musoukyoku CROSS is a booklet entitled Our Confession, which confirms the answers to several of the riddles presented in the main story proper.
Arc - The repetitions. The main games and anime are divided into "Question Arcs" and "Answer Arcs", each of the latter corresponding to one of the former but using different perspectives to solve various mysteries.
In Umineko, the arcs are stated by Word Of God to not be considered "Answer Arcs" and the Fan Nickname "Core Arcs" has quickly spread.
Bad Future - Himatsubushi-hen, Yoigoshi-hen, and Onisarashi-hen and its spinoffs, as well as simply the endings for most of the other arcs for Higurashi. Ange's part in Umineko shows a future where only her aunt Eva came back alive from Rokkenjima and pretty much ruined Ange's life.
Cash Cow Franchise - Higurashi alone is still churning out merchandise, from console ports to a new anime series, even though the series ended a couple of years ago. This seems to be less the case with Umineko, since there aren't nearly as many additional arcs and the anime is unlikely to get a second season due to low sales.
Deconstructor Fleet - Umineko purposefully subverts a lot of tropes that were played straight in Higurashi.
Determinator - Just about every last main character and at least one of the villains.
Doing in the Wizard - Played with; in Higurashi, Oyashiro-sama does exist, but has no involvement in the murders. In Umineko, the game is to break "the illusion of the witch" and explain the murders with one or several human culprits. As for the Witches and the Meta-World, whether or not they actually exist is pretty much left for the reader to decide.
Earn Your Happy Ending - Ryukishi07 is fond of putting his characters through the wringer. This just makes it all the more worth it when the happy ending is finally achieved. While this is played straight in Higurashi, not everyone gets their happy ending in Umineko, making it more bittersweet.
Similarly, Chiru in relation to the Umineko Question Arcs, although by a lesser degree since these arcs are meant to provide hints rather than give outright answers. Requiem of the Golden Witch is the closest thing Umineko has to an actual answer arc.
Mood Whiplash - Higurashi's arcs always begin cute and light-hearted and end… less cute and less light-hearted. Umineko follows a similar pattern in the first four arcs, but much less so in Chiru.
Multiple Endings - In Umineko, you are given the choice between a "trick" ending and a "magic" ending at the very end. In Higurashi, this may be the case if you consider Matsuribayashi (the original ending) and Miotsukushi (the PS2 ending) to be equally valid.
The Multiverse - The sea of Fragments. Each Fragment represents an alternate reality, and there are quadrillions of them. The Groundhog Day Loops in both series actually use this.
Nice Hat: Rena from Higurashi and Kanon from Umineko both have nice berets. And nice cleavers. Virgilia also has a magnificent hat.
Off Model - The anime started off looking awful in the first season of Higurashi, but Art Evolution has slowly taken place; Higurashi Kai and Rei have very pretty character work, and Umineko has settled into a happy medium between the characters and the backgrounds. The Umineko anime has had a few severely off-model scenes, but seems to be more consistent generally.
One of Us - Ryukishi, shown notably in Umineko. Early in the second Episode, Jessica dresses up as Marisa Kirisame and sings "Tsurupettan" - a song made by Touhou fans - with her classmates at a school festival (although Ryukishi and ZUN, the man behind Touhou, actually do know each other in real life). Later, when he found out about Witch Hunt translating his novel, rather than send a Cease-and-Desist, he instead thanked and congratulated them and then named an in-story group after them.
Painting the Medium - In Umineko, anything said in "Red text" is true. Don't ask me how the concept of red text makes any sense to people speaking out loud, but that's how even they refer to it. Blue text also eventually gets a special rule attached to it.
In the anime, when red or blue text is being used it appears in front of the person speaking.
Parent with New Paramour: Rena's father with Rina, and Rudolf with Kyrie. The latter doesn't quite go as badly as the former unless you think that Kyrie unleashed the Rokkenjima massacre, that is…
Story to Gameplay Ratio - The original computer games' is 1:0. They're more or less...well, novels; the only trait that could merit calling these "games" is the fact that they happen to be software. The video game console ports and installments for Higurashi add the slightest bit of gameplay to decide what path you're stuck on for that reading and in the second and third games in the DS remakes, determine your ending in some arcs. Umineko doesn't get any gameplay added to it in its remakes, and the only choices the player can make are in EP8 during the puzzle minigame and towards the end, which determines one of two endings to the series.
Switched at Birth - In Umineko Rudolf somehow swiched the children of his wife Asumu (who was stillborn) and of his mistress and current wife Kyrie (who gave birth to Battler), making it look like Battler was Asumu's child. In Higurashi, it's not exactly a case of switch at birth, but rather of a Twin Switch gone wrong Shion took the place of her sister for a special event and received the Oni tatoo by mistake, forcing her to become Mion for the rest of her life.
Troll: Lots of them at that. Umineko is nick named "Trolls trolling trolls trolling trolls".
Trolling Creator: And the fans love him for it. Then again, his trolling is closer to Mion's brand of "trolling" (good spirited screwing with people for harmless amusement).
Tsundere - Several, yet none of them are really conventional examples. Mion in Higurashi and Jessica in Umineko are both relatively balanced between their "tsun" and their "dere". Rosa can't decide whether she loves her daughter or wishes she was never born. Lambdadelta is this towards Bernkastel in a rather… creepy sort of way. And then there is Beatrice, who mistreats this trope as much as she mistreats Battler.
Unreliable Narrator - Used and sort of inverted. Anything the main character sees with his own eyes, (as in, is narrated in first person) is the gospel truth. Anything presented with red text is the gospel truth. Anything that does not fall into one of those two categories may or may not be true, and in fact may not even be such than the statement "That scene really happened that way" is true or false.
The above is Umineko only, in Higurashi this is used a lot in the question arcs, simply put, in any of the first 3 novels, from the point where it begins to get weird or scary, it means the main character is hallucinating, being fooled, or anything of the like.
The golden rule for the games is pretty much don't trust anything you see/read/hear until you go through the answer arc (Higurashi) or until something is confirmed that you can trust it (Umineko)
Higurashi has Rika's "mii" (the sound a kitten makes) and "nipaa" (a Japanese onomatopoeia for smiling), as well as Hanyuu's "hau au au" whenever she gets scared or upset.
Umineko has Maria's "uu-". This isn't just a random noise, however, since Maria believes that it's a spell for happiness. It's also deconstructed, since the sound of it irritates Rosa to the point that she'll hit Maria for saying it too much, and it's one of the reasons why other children bully her.
Villain-Based Franchise Kinda sorta… Rika wasn't a villain in Higurashi, and it's unclear whether Frederical Bernkastel and Umineko's Bernkastel are one and the same.
The Watcher - Actually, the same character in both (… maybe) - (Frederica) Bernkastel.
Whodunnit To Me: The whole plot of Higurashi is about Rika finding out who kills her in every single world; in Umineko, the final riddle Beatrice gives to Battler in Alliance of the Golden Witch is to find out who kills him even though he is the last person alive on the island.