The game begins when a villager approaches the player and requests it. Upon agreeing, the screen will then fade and reappear at the Town Hall or Plaza, where two or three villagers and the player will be present. The rules and time limit will be declared at this time. When all villagers have been found a random item will be rewarded, similar to a delivery task. A countdown at the top of the screen measures the time limit.
In Wild World, a visitor has to be there to play Hide-and-Seek, and has to have a timer in order to play.
Hiding places include trees, buildings or signposts. Villagers never hide inside buildings. Villagers often stand near the side of the object and are usually easily spotted (unless they happen to blend in with their hiding spot due to their appearance). Once spoken to they will express their surprise and the remaining villagers must be located.
- The Wii U game Nintendo Land features a similar multiplayer mini-game.
- If a villager is hiding behind a tree and the player cuts down the tree the villager will express shock and start panicking until the player speaks to them.
- Villagers can be seen looking around for the player, similar to real life, with their hands to their mouths.