E3, the video-game industry’s big trade show, is next week, and you’ll be hearing a lot about all the new software coming between now and Christmas. But there’s a bit of a lull until Aug. 12, when “Madden NFL 09″ unofficially marks the beginning of the fall game season. July is a good time to catch up on some of the games you may have missed. Here are the best of the year so far:
1. “Grand Theft Auto IV” (Rockstar, for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3): The latest episode of “GTA” has its flaws, particularly in the storytelling department. But living a life of crime has never been more fun, thanks to much tighter gameplay and an exquisitely detailed vision of a decaying metropolis.
2. “Lost Odyssey” (Microsoft, for the Xbox 360): The epic tale of immortal mercenary Kaim is a delight for fans of classic role-playing games.
3. “The World Ends With You” (Square Enix, for the Nintendo DS): This adventure set in modern Tokyo is the most innovative RPG in years.
4. “Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots” (Konami, for the PS3): It may be more of a movie than a game, but it’s a dazzling finale for one of gaming’s most fascinating sagas.
5. “Professor Layton and the Curious Village” (Nintendo, for the DS): Charming characters wrestle with clever puzzles in this beautifully written and illustrated gem.
And the worst? So many terrible games have been rushed out for Nintendo’s Wii that it’s hard to pick on just one. I’ll go with Konami’s “Target: Terror,” which combines repetitive gameplay, hideous graphics and laughable acting in a package that’s so bad it’s almost … well, no, it’s just awful.