It's been known for many years that director Scott Dickerson and writer C. Robert Cargill originally wished to include Nightmare as the villain for the Doctor Strange sequel, but it supposedly never made it into any existing script. The scribe for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Michael Waldron, heard of these rumors of Nightmare being the original villain, but he admitted that when he joined, "it was a Multiverse story."
However, it appears that early concept art and set designs show that it was initially planned for at least one scene showing Nightmare messing with the Sorcerer Supreme. It would also have directly linked to another deleted scene involving Strange's deceased sister.
Strange Haunted by Nightmares
Ryan De Silva released new concept art that shows the Doctor Strange villain, Nightmare, in something called the "Dream Codex." It depicts Nightmare in medieval armor riding a horse.
The second depicts Nightmare with oni-like horns, samurai armor, and wielding a sword, along with what appears to be an early iteration of the Book of Vishanti.
Most interestingly are set designs released by Oliver Carroll showing a frozen lake, presumably the same one that Strange's sister, Donna Strange, drowned in.
It even shows Doctor Strange facing off against Nightmare, who is again on a horse and adorning armor like a dark knight.
It appears that either this would have been a brief appearance from Nightmare haunting Strange with one of his greatest regrets or he was originally intended to be the ultimate villain of the sequel and not Wanda.
Fans Finally Get a Taste of Fear
It was uncertain whether pre-production for Scott Dickerson's Doctor Strange sequel made it far enough to include Nightmare. Still, these pieces of concept art show that at least one scene would have included Strange's iconic adversary from the comics. In Carroll's set designs, it's obvious Nightmare would have brought Strange to the frozen lake where his sister drowned as a way of tormenting the sorcerer with his past.
As for Nightmare himself, it seemed consistent that he would be depicted riding a horse in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which he doesn't in the comics. It's likely due to the symbolic meaning some people put into horses appearing in dreams and nightmares.
Whether Nightmare would have been the true villain all along or simply a minion being ordered around or controlled by another antagonist, it's bittersweet to see that fans missed seeing the two face off. But just because Nightmare was cut doesn't mean fans won't ever see him in the MCU.
While the post-credit scene from Multiverse of Madness implied that Strange and Clea would be dealing with an Incursion, it doesn't mean that the threequel couldn't still involve Nightmare, especially now that they've established how Strange's sister died. So perhaps there are plans to save this sequence for the capper of Doctor Strange's trilogy.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is now streaming on Disney+.