Cancelled Retro Studios Sheikah Game: Pre-Production Artwork

It’s now pretty much out in the open that Retro Studio was once upon a time developing their own Zelda game for the Wii. This title was due to have a storyline and game world heavily based on the Sheikah tribe who were first given a deep backstory in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. We know that the game would have had Sheikah influence from the early pre-production concept art that was released by an artist who worked on the game. This artwork was released or leaked in 2020. The game’s ultimate fate was cancellation. The project began in 2005 and was canceled in 2008. However, more info on the game has appeared since the early concept art was released. The YouTube channel Didyouknowgaming has produced a couple of video features on the canceled game. The style seemed to be very dark, and some of the creatures could be described as edgy, and some even as grotesque. Not that is a bad thing, it’s art after all. There’s also artwork from the game which is more based on light elements, although still with a serious tone (rather than whimsical as in some Zelda games). 

This Retro Studios Zelda game would have been the first Zelda to have been developed outside of Japan. The series has been created in-house by Nintendo for every mainline release, except for a few games (mainly handheld releases) developed by Capcom. The pre-production artwork looks impressive, and the game obviously had so much potential. The few artists and developers that have spoken about the game say that gameplay issues meant that development never really got off the ground. The concept was that during combat, a simple timed movement of the Wii remote would initiate an attack, similarly to a turn based role playing game with active combat elements. There are no gameplay videos of the combat or artwork showing how it would have functioned. It seems that this core gameplay mechanic was never perfected, and just didn’t seem fun enough. For this reason the game was eventually cancelled. We may never know if the game world itself had grown and developed into something intriguing by the time of cancellation, or whether the concept art that was released is just from one artist’s imagination.

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This is one of the concept art images. It shows what might be a huge boss enemy.


Around 2020, when the artist who worked on the game, and created the concept art, ‘leaked’ the art onto the Internet, there was talk that the game was going to be set after the ‘bad ending’ of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. This is the timeline after Link fails to defeat Ganondorf, and the world falls into darkness (for a while). However, I’m not sure how reliable this information can be, or if it’s just people making assumptions. I say this because the Retro Studios Sheikah game was in development around 2006; a long time before Hyrule Hystoria was published, and even four years before Skyward Sword released. To think that Retro knew the official timeline before it was officially announced might be not be realistic. This is just my opinion though. Nintendo is known to hold their cards tightly to their chest when it comes to their secrets, and no Zelda game had been solely developed by a Western studio at this point. 

Other story elements for the game that have been proposed are that the game was to tell the origin story of the Master Sword (a major weapon/item in the Zelda series). In the end, this story was told with Zelda: Skyward Sword, which originally released on the Wii in 2011. The artwork below is all from the original artwork that was posted online by a concept artist working on the Sheikah game at Retro Studios. As you can see below, the themes are dark and the setting looks almost post-apocalyptic, although there’s organic elements littered throughout. 

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This concept art image shows what might be a settlement. It looks like it’s inspired by real world fauna and flora.


Much of the concept art that we have depicts creatures and environments in a similar style to The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. The artwork from the developer who was working on the game, seems to have originally leaked on the platform Artstation, and there’s no official confirmation of when the game was meant to have been in development, but those who have spoken about it infer that 2005-2007 is a possible window. The whole thing is a bit mysterious. This is around the time that Twilight Princess released (as it was a launch title for the Wii in 2006). It would make sense that this game could have been inspired by Twilight Princess given the similar art. However, since 2020 the game’s developers have said that Nintendo of Japan had no knowledge of the pre-production artwork, it’s unlikely that Nintendo would have been sharing details of development with Retro Studios.

Artwork – Environments

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Much of the artwork that was uploaded to Artstation was of environments. The concept art above seems to depict a settlement built on an island. It has been described as ‘horn town’ You can see a bridge on the left presumably leading to the entrance of the village, and there are numerous horn like structures in various places on the island. Just to the left of the drawing are some lit torches which back up the idea that this is some kind of settlement or village. The art is realistic, and looks dark. It looks like a location that could have been in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess.

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In this image, a Sheikah emblem is seen on the character, who looks like they are made of light particles, in the distance. Maybe this is some kind of shrine, sheltering a sage or sages. The other character, dressed in black, seems to be wielding a blade, and could possibly be an antagonist, or some kind of sage. It looks like tentacles are emerging from the character’s lower body. The cave where the scene is set is cathedral-like, and the whole scene reminds me of a scenario that could have occurred in Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity considering the similarities between the character in the dark robe and Astor. The two games cannot be linked though, considering the huge time difference between when this Sheikah game was in development, and the release of Age of Calamity.

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This drawing looks to be another settlement. The large structure left of center seems to be some kind of fortified city, or castle. The grassland that surrounds it is littered with piled stones, implying the presence of humanoid creatures. There is a soft light in the foreground. This makes you wonder what kind of race of creatures populates this area. Zelda is known for its diverse range of creatures, and maybe this game would have added some new races. Alternatively, Hylians (the humanoid Zelda race) may inhabit this structure.

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This piece of concept art depicts what has become known as the ‘Dark Valoo’ race. This hulking red water species was developed specifically for this game, and takes inspiration from the dragon Valoo from The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. As the game was never released, we’ll never know how this race would have behaved or interacted with the protagonist. In this drawing we can also see what we can assume to be the player character in the bottom right corner. He looks like a traditional Sheikah in the vein of Ocarina of Time and can be seen carrying a blade on his left arm. 

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This concept art clearly depicts a male Sheikah, and possibly the playable character. The game was meant to focus on the last male Sheikah during the Gerudo’s 100 year birth to Ganondorf. The Gerudo and Sheikah could have possibly played a big role in this game. However, there is no Gerudo artwork, although there is a lot of Sheikah artwork. The character looks like one of the ‘shadow folk’ in terms of the colors he wears and his stance. The Sheikah emblem is emblazoned on his chest.


The Retro Studios Sheikah game could have been a Zelda spin-off that had loads of potential. Pre-production design is where ideas and dreams of what a game can be like are explored and this might be why the concept art above looks so ambitious. DidYouKnowGaming did some really impressive digging into the true story behind this game, and uncovered that the game’s development was more ambitious than just one artist doing some drawings in his spare time. The game might have been even pitched to Nintendo at some point, but the gameplay just wasn’t the same quality as what Nintendo expected and development didn’t go any further. 

Sheik is a cool character and iconic of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Making spin offs of Ocarina of Time has the potential to be a commercial success, since the original game is critically acclaimed, and even now there could be a spin-off in development at some studio somewhere. Zelda: A Link Between Worlds could be described as a reimagining of Zelda: A Link to The Past so we know Nintendo has form in exploring past game worlds. The Sheikah race, have also been key in many recent Zelda games including Breath of the Wild so if Nintendo were to pick any Zelda race to build a game from, the Sheikah would be high on the list. Who knows, maybe we’ll get that Sheikah stealth game on the successor to the Switch.

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