SOLVED - RmInitAdapter failed! to load 530.41.03 (or any nvidia modules other than 450.236.01) Linux via ESXi 7.0u3 Passthrough PCI GTX 1650

Looks like I was able to answer my own question. I hope this helps someone in the future.

The solution
You need to use open NVIDIA drivers. To do this, pick the version you want to use from the NVIDIA website, then to install it properly, run the following:

sudo ./NVIDIA-Linux-x86_64-525.116.04.run -m=kernel-open
sudo update-initramfs -u
sudo reboot

The critical part is the -m=kernel-open part.

I used 525.116.04 but I have confidence it will work for ANY supported version.

I’m also going to include my purge all NVIDIA drivers script here for anyone who wants to ensure they do this with a clean install on Ubuntu:

purge-nvidia.sh (run this BEFORE any new driver install)

sudo nvidia-uninstall
sudo apt purge -y '^nvidia-*' '^libnvidia-*'
sudo rm -r /var/lib/dkms/nvidia
sudo apt -y autoremove
sudo update-initramfs -c -k `uname -r`
sudo update-grub2
read -p "Press any key to reboot... " -n1 -s
sudo reboot

My now working nvidia-smi

fetch@fetch:~$ nvidia-smi
Sun May 14 10:14:10 2023
+-----------------------------------------------------------------------------+
| NVIDIA-SMI 525.116.04   Driver Version: 525.116.04   CUDA Version: 12.0     |
|-------------------------------+----------------------+----------------------+
| GPU  Name        Persistence-M| Bus-Id        Disp.A | Volatile Uncorr. ECC |
| Fan  Temp  Perf  Pwr:Usage/Cap|         Memory-Usage | GPU-Util  Compute M. |
|                               |                      |               MIG M. |
|===============================+======================+======================|
|   0  NVIDIA GeForce ...  Off  | 00000000:0B:00.0 Off |                  N/A |
| 52%   52C    P2    N/A /  75W |    582MiB /  4096MiB |      5%      Default |
|                               |                      |                  N/A |
+-------------------------------+----------------------+----------------------+

+-----------------------------------------------------------------------------+
| Processes:                                                                  |
|  GPU   GI   CI        PID   Type   Process name                  GPU Memory |
|        ID   ID                                                   Usage      |
|=============================================================================|
|    0   N/A  N/A      4911      C   ...diaserver/Plex Transcoder      578MiB |
+-----------------------------------------------------------------------------+
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