Nvidia's fabled Nintendo 3DS prototype has been leaked — Rare Gaming Dump reveals the MG20

Leaked files for the "MG20" 3DS prototype made by Nvidia prior to the final DMP 3DS and full Nvidia adoption on Switch.
Leaked files for the "MG20" 3DS prototype made by Nvidia prior to the final DMP 3DS and full Nvidia adoption on Switch. (Image credit: Rare Gaming Dump on YouTube)

Based on data gained from the Nintendo "Gigaleak" that spilled in 2018, YouTuber Rare Gaming Dump has effectively proven the existence of a previously only rumored Nvidia prototype of what would eventually become the Nintendo 3DS. This is particularly noteworthy because it dates Nintendo and Nvidia's collaboration to before the birth of Nvidia's Tegra mobile hardware, and the Nintendo Switch that would eventually be powered by Tegra X1.

According to the leaks, this Nvidia 3DS prototype was called the MG20, which we'll be calling the Nvidia MG20 for the rest of this article for the sake of simplicity. While the final version of the Nintendo 3DS would instead use a chip provided by the Japanese company DMP, leaked files point toward the Nvidia MG20 having had a working prototype by the end of 2006, which was well before the 2011 launch of the Nintendo 3DS.

Below, we've embedded the full video from Rare Gaming Dump. We'll go into some more detailed thoughts afterward, before wrapping things up. 

So, while we know the Nvidia MG20 was in the hands of developers at Nintendo as of late 2006, we also know that the Nintendo DSi was released to the public in 2008. The DSi was a small upgrade to the original Nintendo DS and not a true successor like the Nintendo 3DS would eventually be, so it's speculated that the DSi (at the time) was meant to be a holdover until the Nvidia-powered 3DS...or that the DSi and its success is what led Nintendo to push back the MG20 and eventual 3DS launch all the way until 2011.

Besides being a very early 3DS prototype, the Nvidia MG20 has some interesting things going on. Since it predates Tegra, for example, its GPU is most likely based on Nvidia's early mobile phone graphics solutions of the era — Nvidia GoForce, which was most famously used in the classic Motorola Razr flip phones.

Come 2009, Nvidia finally launched its first Nvidia Tegra family chip, the Tegra APX 2500. RGD looked at the LinkedIn page of the project lead for that CPU and claimed that the same project lead also worked on the Nvidia MG20. This means that Nvidia's 3DS prototype isn't just a piece of Nintendo's history— it's an integral piece of Nvidia's, too, as a direct predecessor to its modern Tegra SoCs.

For more interesting historical details regarding Nvidia's 3DS prototype, the original video from RGD is highly recommended for its attention to detail. For now, we just thought it would be appropriate to share the history lesson.