This was the first game developed by Squaresoft, as the first part of the Death Trap trilogy, followed by Will: The Death Trap II and Alpha. The Death Trap was the first game written and designed by what would become its most famous game designer, Hironobu Sakaguchi. It was also programmed by Hiromichi Tanaka, who would later be the designer and writer for Alpha, the third and final part of the trilogy.
It is an adventure game with basic Japanese text input and graphics that represent locations, people, and objects. There are different routes the player could take at some points in the game, adding some replay value.
The game went on to sell over 500,000 copies, more than any other computer game released up until that time. Its success paved the way for a hit sequel, Will: The Death Trap II, in 1985.
The game's plot is set during the 1980's (and has some similarities to the later Metal Gear series). In the game, the Cold War has become tense, and many countries have begun to prepare for a global-scale war, working on new weapons. One such country is the mysterious "B country" in Eastern Africa, which in an attempt to create biological weapons kidnaps the famous scientist Dr. Gitanes. An agent named Benson is sent to B country in order to rescue the doctor and avert the new threat to world peace.
- Long before Final Fantasy IX, Hironobu Sakaguchi had already used the name ジタン (Jitan), the Japanese name of Zidane Tribal, in The Death Trap. ジタン is romanized "Gitanes" in The Death Trap and "Zidane" in Final Fantasy IX, but it is the same word in Japanese.